- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 3, 2006

In its search for answers about the health of Fidel Castro and the silence of his brother, Raul, the American media is getting an object lesson in totalitarianism: Ask a Communist apparatchik even an innocuous political question and you will get lots of indignation and no verifiable answers. That’s what National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” got Wednesday when it interviewed Cuban National Assembly President Ricardo Alarcon, one of Cuba’s top three or four of Communist bosses.

“Where is Raul Castro right now and when will the people of Cuba hear from him?” asked NPR’s Michele Norris.

Mr. Alarcon, sounding irritated: “He is in Havana. Where is Mr. Cheney now?”

Ms. Norris: “You’re asking about Vice President Dick Cheney?”

Mr. Alarcon: “Yes. Where is —”

Ms. Norris: “Well, I think if — if power was handed provisionally to Vice President Cheney the American people would expect to hear from him in short order. So — I’m wondering when the people of Cuba will hear from Raul Castro —”

Mr. Alarcon: “You know why — you know why — because nobody is threatening the U.S. Nobody is saying the U.S. should not have that person as president — as vice president — that’s the difference.”

Ms. Norris: “The — the simple — the simple question that I asked, though, is when will the Cuban public hear from Raul Castro — when do you expect that to happen?”

Mr. Alarcon, slight chuckle: “Well, is our business. It depends on his time, the — well, we don’t operate on the basis of entertaining American media.”

Ms. Norris: “Well, I — the question was in regard not just to plans to speak to reporters, but when the people of Cuba will actually hear from him?”

Mr. Alarcon: “When he so wishes!” Then the interview ended.

The earlier portions weren’t much more informative. Asked about Raul’s possible succession, Mr. Alarcon said, “We are not a primitive tribe” and Raul Castro is an elected leader. Fidel Castro never spoke about a transfer of power with him, Mr. Alarcon said. At least a word about Fidel’s specific ailment, perhaps? “He is better than I in those areas, so I really don’t know.” Fidel Castro would be back in a few weeks and, for the time being, “he is perfectly back, mentally speaking” and even made a few decisions Monday evening. Mr. Alarcon knows, he said. He saw him then.

Meanwhile in Havana, the Ministry of Truth was updating entries in the book of Newspeak.

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