By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
MEXICO CITY, Aug. 28 -- Days after rumors of his death swept the Internet, Fidel Castro mused about the U.S. presidential election in an editorial published Tuesday in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
Castro wrote that there is "talk of a seemingly invincible ticket" pairing Democratic Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) and Barack Obama (Ill.). And he said candidates "are now immersed in the Florida adventure," a reference to the battle for votes in a state that is home to hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles.
Castro, who said he was writing to "increase the consciousness of the Cuban people," made no mention of Obama's remarks last week that he would roll back Bush administration policies that restrict the number of family visits Cuban Americans can make to the island and the amount of money that can be sent to relatives there. But Castro did mockingly write that Obama and Clinton "feel the sacred duty of demanding 'a democratic government in Cuba.' "
"They are not making policies; they are playing a game of cards on a Sunday afternoon," Castro wrote.
Castro, 81, has not appeared in public for more than 13 months after announcing he had undergone intestinal surgery in July 2006. The editorial Tuesday, one of dozens published in the past six months under his name, came out four days after rumors of his death, stoked by blogs, led to an outpouring of emotion on talk radio in Miami. Cuba's government denied the rumors.
Castro gave no hints about his health in the editorial, but he emphasized his longevity by delivering broadsides at several of the 10 U.S. presidents who have held office since he took power in 1959. He called Gerald R. Ford (R) "a symbolic president" and sarcastically described Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) as "illustrious," while dubbing him the "initiator" of "anti-Cuba terrorism."
Castro also criticized Bill Clinton (D) because the Helms-Burton Act, which stiffened the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, was passed while he was in office. But he said Clinton was "really kind when we informally crossed paths at a U.N. meeting. . . . Moreover, he was friendly, as well as intelligent."
Castro said Jimmy Carter (D) was the only U.S. head of state he had met who "was not an accomplice to terrorism against Cuba."