I had responsibility for Radio Marti into Cuba for six years during the cold war.
We broadcast a line of sight signal from a tethered aerostat balloon off Marathon Island in the Florida Keys into Cuba bringing honest news and information to an island dictatorship with no free press and no information beyond what Castro personally wanted his citizens to have.
The Left in Congress and in the Public Policy Think-Tank World, then still in the throes of their long homo-erotic love affair with Fidel Castro (and the mega- loser Che Guevara,) hated Radio Marti and worked hard to undermine it.
These were often the same people who talked frequently about human rights and press freedoms but never demanded them for the captive people of Cuba because they wouldn’t criticize Castro.
“No enemies on the left,” was their motto and that of their friends in the mainstream press, who were always fawning on Fidel.
Castro was only 32 when he came to power.
He has ended up as the world’s longest-serving leader, the media keeps reminding us. The man who outlasted nine US presidents. Although as Buckley Carlson pointed out to me those American leaders had to contend with the annoying inconvenience of being democratically elected.
Now, with his illness, it is the beginning of the end for Castro. Maybe even, it is the middle of the end.
In 2001 he fainted from heat exhaustion during one of his egomaniacal speeches.
In 2004, after another stem-winder, he stumbled and fell, shattering his left kneecap and breaking his right arm –horrifying his supporters but giving cynics welcome relief from his mind-numbing oratory.
Then Castro began suffering from public bouts of befuddlement and genuine incoherence.
He wet his pants, his hands now tremble, his eyes water, his feet shuffle like a cross country skier.
Within our government’s intelligence community, the CIA’s medical staff has diagnosed Castro has having Parkinson’s disease and maybe a touch of Alzheimers.
In June, however, it began to look as though plans for a “transition” were more developed than anyone had expected.
“Granma”, the official party newspaper, published an eight-page supplement entitled “Raoul Up Close”, a sycophantic eulogy of Raoul, Castro’s brother, the elderly Cuban defense minister.
Can you imagine naming your primary newspaper “Granma? The name came from the beat-up boat Castro used to launch his revolution from Mexico 50 years ago.
The Granma article described Raoul as “capable, responsible and brilliant”.
The more credible view among critics is that Raoul Castro is colorless, murderous and borderline stupid: a little man who can’t even grow a beard, enjoyed executing many people he and his older brother didn’t like by personally shooting them in the head, and has been controlled by his own wife, the tougher and smarter Vilma Espin, for the past 46 years.
Other members of the Castro clan have begun emerging from behind the veil of secrecy that has always surrounded them, in preparation for a more public role after the dictator has assumed room-temperature.
Among them is Dalia Soto del Valle, Castro’s second wife and the mother of five of his sons.
Castro’s obsession with Alexander the Great — a fascination shared by Saddam Hussein — explains the names of three of the boys: Alexis, a cameraman, Alexander, also a cameraman, and Alejandro, a computer programmer. Antonio is an orthopedic surgeon. The career of Angel, the youngest son, is not known and he appears to be unemployed.
Castro has another son, Fidelito, his oldest, from his first marriage to Mirta Diaz-Balart, who lives these days in Madrid.
(She is the aunt of the Florida congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart.)
Fidelito is a Soviet-educated physicist who ran Cuba’s atomic energy commission until the early 1990s, when he was sacked for “incompetence” by his father and held under house-arrest for three years.
These days the two appear to have made-up and Fidelito, who is close to 60, is now an adviser to his father.
I talked with Fidelito on the phone a couple of years ago.
I was having lunch with a fugitive American, a crooked lawyer who had been living in Cuba, staying, in fact, with Fidelito at one of his father’s hideaways.
He called Fidelito from our table at The Palm restaurant in Washington to say he was heading back to Cuba through Spain that night. For his own amusement he introduced me as having once run Radio Marti and then put me on the phone for a few minutes of awkward conversation.
Castro also has a daughter called Alina - born out of wedlock, she is now 51 years old.
She is unlikely to be playing any future role in revolutionary politics, however.
She fled Cuba in 1993 and runs an anti-Castro radio program in Miami called “Simply Alina”.
She has a daily field-day sniping at her father and making fun of his many pretensions.