It created what it aimed to destroy—a hostile, pro-Soviet, long-lived regime built around Fidel Castroby Isabel Hilton / December 28, 2016 / Leave a comment
It was the early 1990s. I was in Havana, on one of several frustrating reporting trips. Cuba then was an unrewarding place for a journalist to visit: the Party elite was all but impossible to meet, and if you succeeded, they spoke in the dead language of the Communist bureaucrat. The result was a notebook full of unusable political sloganising.
To call Cuba’s press operation unhelpful would be to pay it a compliment: accepting a minder was a condition of a journalist’s visa, but minders would vanish for days on end, wasting precious reporting time. Calls to them went unanswered or unreturned, the Cuban press was brain-crushingly uninformative, and blanket state surveillance served as a strong disincentive for ordinary Cubans to speak to foreign journalists.
It was before everybody had mobile phones, so waiting for the minder’s call back entailed long hours in stale hotel rooms. I filled some of those hours watching Fidel Castro on a fuzzy black-and-white TV set. He was reading what seemed to be the world’s longest shopping list.