June 21, 2012 4:21 pm

Cubans baffled as Fidel turns to Haiku

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Fidel Castro©AP

The famously verbose Fidel Castro has begun writing 150 to 250-character notes in the cryptic style of the haiku poem, leaving many readers scratching their heads, wringing their hands or even wondering if the Cuban revolutionary leader has gone mad.

“I’ve read them, but honestly don’t understand the majority. I’m left waiting for something more,” said one businessman, Pedro Martinez.

The change in the normally logorrhoeic 85-year-old’s communication style has been abrupt. At the end of May, he published a disquisition in state media on events that took place in 1957 when he was a guerrilla leader in the Cuban Sierra. Another essay-length “reflection” followed on June 9 about President Barack Obama’s use of drones.

Then, on June 10, Mr Castro wrote his first Twitter-like “capsule” of wisdom, entitled “What are the FC?” These, he explained, “comprise a method with which I try to transmit the modest understandings I have acquired during long years, and which I consider useful for Cuban officials responsible for the production of foodstuffs that are essential to our people’s lives.”

“Perhaps he really meant food for thought,” said one Havana office worker who gave her name as Marilin. A European diplomat remarked: “I think Fidel’s run out of ink.”

Mr Castro’s latest offering appeared on Tuesday. “I respect all religions even though I do not profess them. Human beings, from the most ignorant to the wisest, seek explanations for their existence,” he wrote. “Science continuously tries to explain the laws that govern the universe. At this moment, you can see it is expanding, a process that began approximately 13.7bn years ago.”

Gretel Calatayud, a state worker in the central province of Camagüey, said she preferred Mr Castro’s lengthier reflections, even if she often had no time to finish them.

“Now time is not the problem; I don’t understand what he wants to say,” she said.

Rob Sequin, the publisher of HavanaJournal.com, quipped that the former Cuban president “wants to surpass Ashton Kutcher for Twitter followers” – a reference to the US actor who in 2009 became the first tweeter with more than 1m followers.

However, others see more ominous motives, including an attempt by Mr Castro to undermine Cuba’s tentative moves towards a more market-orientated economy – a reform process led by his younger brother Raul, the current national president.

“Raul has been updating the country’s economy to a more market-friendly model in hopes of remaining relevant,” said one foreign businessman. “Fidel is updating his style for the same reason, and that has some people worried any success might undermine his brother’s.”

In three of his short notes, Mr Castro has lauded Che Guevara (who believed in socialism’s creation of a “New Man”), praised the former East German leader Erich Honecker (no reformer) and disparaged the former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping (the father of market socialism).

“He has decided it’s time to join the reform debate that is raging behind the scenes, and that’s not good,” said a local economist.

Mr Castro – who has also commented on who should head the Cuban Olympic Committee and that farmers should grow mulberry trees – is known for craving the limelight. His new style appears to achieve that, despite the bizarre subjects.

On Monday, he wrote about yogis, who “do things with the human body beyond our imagination. They are there, before our eyes, through images that arrive instantaneously from enormous distances, through Voyage to the Unknown.”

This is the name of a Cuban Sunday television show about strange but true phenomena.

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