Even Fidel Has a (Political) Crush on Obama

The whole world appears to be fascinated by Barack Obama, and Fidel Castro is no exception. The former Cuban leader can’t seem to stop himself from talking about the first African-American president of the United States, writing almost obsessively about Obama’s policies, his youthfulness and his energy. In stark contrast to Castro’s appraisals of former US presidents (he referred to George W. Bush, for example, as a genocidal drunk), he seems to be quite taken by Barack.

Ever since leaving the office of the presidency to his brother Raul in February of 2008, the 83-year-old political icon has continued to share his thoughts with the public through his column “Reflections of Comrade Fidel,” which is published by all state-run media outlets. Not a week goes by in which Castro neglects to mention the American leader. Last Thursday, in an article that took up an entire newspaper page, Castro mused at length about all things Obama, from his recent trip to Asia to his chances at re-election. (Comrade Fidel, incidentally, does not predict a 2012 victory for Obama.)

Last month, Castro stated that he approved of the decision to give Obama the Nobel Peace Prize, but suggested, paraphrasing Michael Moore, that Obama now had to earn it. In September, Castro characterized Obama’s call to action against climate change as courageous.

In his near-constant Obama evaluations, Castro has described the American leader as valiant, intelligent, sincere, levelheaded and well-intentioned. Castro has praised Obama’s work ethic, marveled at the historical significance of his ascent and expressed great concern that he may be assassinated. “I really hate to have to criticize Obama,” Castro said in his column on Thursday. “In that country, there are far worse presidential options than him. And I understand that that job (the president of the United States), can be a really big headache.”

Not all is roses, however. Castro criticized Obama for his failure to “resist the temptation to coerce, threaten and even deceive others.” He also upbraided Obama for the continued existence of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp, and criticized him for an accord with Colombia that grants the American military greater access to seven bases in the country. But, in his reflections on Thursday, Castro summed up his appraisal of Obama by saying that although he’s not perfect, he’s far better than anything else the United States might have to offer.

Translation: Ryan Croken. Ryan Croken is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Z Magazine and ReligionDispatches.org. He can be reached at ryan.croken@gmail.com.