UPDATE: Fidel Castro has died, aged considerably, in Havana.
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz, the 17th President of Cuba, has lost his battle with thermodynamics.
In a divided world, Fidel ruled for all Cubans—whoever they voted for.
They say the President was more like a father to his people: fondly doling out a few dollars’ pocket money every year, telling them who they could and couldn’t date, being older than them, grounding them if they got lippy, coming home with his drink on and beating Che Guevara (who was like their mother) for over-microwaving his dinner.
At a time when all too many Cubans had lost actual parents to the terrors of the People’s Revolution, a strong paternal figure was just what the doctor ordered to heal a hurting nation.
But like any carer of the wounded, el Comandante bore a cross he could never share with the very population closest to his heart. Castro was haunted by workaholism most of his adult life. So all-consuming was his devotion to public service that he agreed to serve as President for decades (a sacrifice that must have seemed superhuman to his many one- and two-term American counterparts). Only in 2008 did Castro finally ask his ‘children’s’ permission to retire, knowing that if he waited for them to vote him out, he could be waiting forever.
Fidel was said to be as surprised as anyone when the next-best man for the Presidency on the entire island turned out to be his own kid brother, Raúl.
Having barely turned 72 when this greatness was thrust upon him, Raúl Castro symbolized the thinking, the energy and the aspirations of a new generation of Cubans. Happily, ‘Castro 18’ soon demonstrated a political genius far beyond his years, silencing the pessimists who’d written him off as a callow young playboy, along with their families.
The nation’s favorite son has died doing what Cubans loved most: regaling them with an anecdote about his youthful adventures. Fidel’s last words not only held a baseball stadium of ordinary Cubans captive for three hours straight this morning, but seemed to be on the verge of making a point.
About what, historians of rhetoric will still be debating a century from now. But if you put a gun to their head, say witnesses, Fidel was probably building up to the announcement of a new, socialist ornithology. An ornithology of the people.
In a divided world, Fidel ruled for all Cubans—no matter who they voted for.
Ironically, the former President’s penchant for dramatic, mid-word silences (with which he was known to keep audiences in suspense for 120 minutes or more) may have led to critical delays in diagnosing his death.
“At first we assumed, like everyone else: el Comandante is fine, he’s just pausing for effect,” explained Dr. René Vallejo, one of twelve personal physicians on duty at Fidel’s standing-room-only lecture in the Havana Goodtime Dome.
The interlude was beginning to trouble Vallejo, he says, when he had to leave on a compulsory meal break. When the doctor got back to the stadium a few hours later, breathless from sprinting, the 18,000-strong crowd was still waiting “in an atmosphere of pin-drop quiet” for Castro’s next syllable.
To interrupt the motionless, slumped-over Demosthenes at that point—just when his silence was nearing peak pregnancy—would have been unthinkable, felt Dr Vallejo.
“Then at last we saw the signs, in the amber gloaming: the signs of rigor mortis setting in,” he told reporters this evening. He has no recollection of the seconds that followed. Adrenalin and muscle memory kicked in, and suddenly he was up on stage, flanked by a phalanx of paramedics, nurses and specialists at the President Emeritus’ side.
But there was nothing they could do. The rigor mortis had gone too far.
The last living guerrilla was dead.
An epidemic of whooping and dancing—classic responses to bereavement in many cultures—spread outwards from Havana at the speed of sadness this afternoon. For the men, women and children of this island paradise, suicide will be the only escape from the lugubrious alarum of the vuvuzuela tonight as a million cheeks execute Latin America’s one-note answer to Danny Boy. But for every grief-stricken reveler on the street, another ten Cubans will spend a noisy night at home, drowning their sorrows in champagne. So great has been the national outpouring (so to speak) that it’s no longer possible to buy a bottle of the Batista-era sparkling wine anywhere in the country.
Party-owned television is announcing that the next 32 to 35 days of spontaneous popular solemnity will be overseen by a special Party Planning Committee.
Meanwhile, just an intercontinental ballistic stone’s throw away, the people of Miami, Florida are determined to party ’til dawn in sympathy with their cousins across the Gulf.
Cuba’s superpower neighbor, which is barely 90 miles away on a clear day, owes the ethnic vibrancy of such metropolises as Miami, Tampa and Union City to one man—Fidel Castro—more than anyone else combined.
Barack Obama—the mestizo politician being trotted out to speak for the US regime’s interests this week—eulogized the bearded, iconoclastic icon as “a man without whom the great Diaspora of Cuba’s best and brightest people would never have been possible. Or necessary.”
Even Donald Trump, an apex capitalist who holds the real power in Washington, agreed that Castro’s pre-dawn cremation would be “a moment for Cuban-Americans and American non-Cubans to come together—not to mourn his death, but to celebrate his death.”
Nothing we say can possibly make ordinary Cubans feel any better right now.
But as a token of our tiny respect and sympathy, Climate Nuremberg will use a black font this week.
SIC SEMPER FIDEL.
Note: Whenever Fidel gives a public speech, audience casualty figures are reported on the back page of Granma, Cuba’s newspaper of record; this evening’s edition is no exception.
Proceedings at the Havana Goodtime megadrome today were officially fatality-free. The death of two males (F. Castro, 90, and J. Sepúlveda, 43) to suspected heat stress was cancelled out when an unnamed woman went into labor during the legendary orator’s opening remarks, quietly giving birth to twins at 6:12 and 6:20 pm.