HAVANA TIMES, Jan 5 — In December, Fidel Castro entered in the Guinness Book of Records for having survived 638 attempts on his life by the White House, the Mafia, the CIA and exiles in Miami.
These attempts failed despite the hiring of the best paid assassins, the buying off of a few of Castro’s trusted people, smuggled-in guns and bazookas, cameras converted into pistols, invented poisons and contaminated gifts.
Nevertheless, what these armed-to-the-teeth experts failed to do was accomplished by the Miami media. The truth is that the Guinness Book should also record Castro as the person who has died the most often…in the press.
Back in the 90’s, at a dinner with a group of foreign correspondents, then-president Fidel Castro told us jokingly that journalists had announced his death so often that no one would believe it the day it actually happened.
A short time ago in Florida, a media issued a new report on his death, despite his reappearance at the beginning of the school year. The entire Cuba press corps showed up to get soaked watching him speak in the rain.
The sources that originate these rumors are close enough to him to give them credibility but sufficiently diffuse to never allow verification. These come from “high-ranking military leaders,” “family members of Cuban leaders” and “members of their medical staffs.”
However the prophecies of the anti-Castro exiles are rarely fulfilled, which doesn’t seem to bother them much. It’s as if they’re relying on their mental powers, the ability to turn wishes into reality using the power of thought alone.
We journalists are guided by established facts. We don’t publish rumors from Twitter but the results of investigations, though everything that has to do with the inner life of Cuba’s leaders — their health included — is a closely guarded state secret.
In principle, we ruled out the possibility that Fidel Castro died in early December because it’s very unlikely that his brother, the current president, would have allowed the end of the year festivities to carry on and that all of the island’s radio stations would have kept playing salsa music.
Nor could we think of a reason for hiding his death for a month. The social and political earthquake already occurred five years ago when his personal secretary surprised the nation by reading a statement from the Comandante in which he resigned from all of his official positions.
The one time when he was close
The funny thing is that on that occasion, when Fidel Castro really was on the verge of death, there had been no previous rumors. Apparently the sources that the Miami press have within the Cuban government were in Varadero on vacation that summer.
We journalists would spare ourselves from mistakes if we focused on reporting what was actually happening and left the predictions to Mayan astrologers. This is even more so since we have to write about a country as unpredictable as Cuba.
A green revolution turned out to be red, which the Americans were going to overthrow in a few months, until they saw Russian missiles sticking out from between the palm trees. The island was never able to produce more milk than Holland or prevent the “new man” from emigrating, but it survived the Soviet collapse.
This is a country of paradoxes. It’s a place where one Pope excommunicates the president and two other Popes visit the head of state as if nothing ever happened. It’s a place where Fidel was never going to retire, Raul would be incapable of holding onto power and where the fundamentalists would never tolerate reform.
To understand this nation is essential to accept that nothing here is what it seems. Wages aren’t income, the poor are not malnourished, teachers earns less than doormen and health care is the sector that generates the most money – despite it being free.
It’s a society where people don’t steal but “resuelve” (resolve problems), which isn’t the same, even if it seems identical to the layperson. It’s a very nationalist society; though they accept the leadership of foreign generals and commanders in their wars.
If it’s difficult to understand what goes on in this country, it’s even harder to predict the exact date of the death of one of its children. This is why the wisest and most professional approach seems to be reporting matters when we have official confirmation.
Sitting around waiting for the announcement of Castro’s death by the enemy — who repeats this over and over like spokespeople for a funeral home — is something that humanly lacks ethics, journalistically lacks credibility, and politically implies a public confession of one’s own failings.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.