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Voices

Fidel Castro, columnist

Cuba’s chief opinionator goes online to talk about sports, politics, and capitalist evildoers

By Alex Beam
Globe Columnist / July 16, 2010

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Since he resigned as president of Cuba two years ago, longtime Cuban strongman Fidel Castro has taken on a much more challenging job: newspaper columnist. His long-ball rants don’t always appear in the state-controlled press; that’s why God invented the Internet. “Reflections of Comrade Fidel,’’ formerly named the “Reflections of the Commander in Chief,’’ can be reliably found on the website of Granma, an organ of Cuba’s Communist Party.

What are El Jefe’s favorite themes? Yanqui imperialism; Zionist adventurism; beisbol; and, oddly, the World Cup, for which Cuba did not qualify. (Worse still, the United States waxed Cuba twice in early-round, regional matchups.) In the middle of a lengthy tirade this month about US shenanigans in the Persian Gulf, the 83-year-old ex-dictator pivoted abruptly to World Cup analysis.

After suggesting that FIFA referees jobbed Brazil and Argentina out of victories, Fidel heaped mud on capitalist Uruguay, the only South American country to make the semifinals: “The vast majority of [soccer] lovers do not even know on which continent Uruguay is to be found,’’ he wrote. “A final between European countries would be the most lackluster and anti-historic since that sport came into the world.’’

Castro went out of his way to praise the new soccer ball “of variable geometry’’ that Adidas designed for the 2010 World Cup. His real expertise is baseball, which he played in both college and law school, and he saluted the savvy of American Major League Baseball for favoring traditional wooden bats instead of aluminum: “It really gives the game particular interest and also the enormous profits [of the] paid advertisements.’’

Last year, Castro brushed back the World Baseball Classic, eventually won by Japan, which he said was rigged to favor the United States. “He actually has a point about that,’’ commented Foreign Policy magazine blogger Joshua Keating. Another commentator, Jeff Siegel, thought Castro’s WBC analysis — Castro torched the Japanese manager for allowing his number two hitter to bunt with one out — was excellent. “He’s no Boswell,’’ Siegel wrote, alluding to baseball scribe Thomas of The Washington Post, not James of the “London Journal,’’ but “he understands the sport and even stretches the boundaries of socialist-inspired sports writing.’’

Other topics? The imminence of nuclear war, a dark foreboding he aired out on Cuban TV this week. Call me old-fashioned, but nuclear war seemed a lot closer in 1962, when Señor C. allowed Comrade Khrushchev to plant ICBMs on Cuban soil, than it does now. As might be expected, Castro was no fan of former president George W. Bush, whom he called “war-loving and odious.’’ Castro devoted an entire column to Bush’s biofuels policy, his “sinister idea of converting food into fuel,’’ which the Cuban predicted would trigger pestilence, famine, and worse.

At first, Castro welcomed the Obama regime, which made noises about improving the tense relations between the United States and Cuba. That hasn’t happened yet, and Castro now confidently predicts the downfall of the 11th American president to cross his path. “The extreme right hates him for being African-American and fights what the president does to improve the deteriorated image of that country,’’ Castro wrote last year. “I don’t have the slightest doubt that the racist right will do everything possible to wear him down, blocking his program to get him out of the game one way or another, at the least political cost.’’

Just when you begin to think that Castro is semi-normal, he embarks on an unforgettable rant. Case in point: his bizarre excursus on Rahm Emanuel’s name. “What a strange surname!’’ Fidel columnized last year. “It appears Spanish, easy to pronounce, but it’s not. Never in my life have I heard or read about any student or compatriot with that name, among tens of thousands.’’

Wait, there’s more: “Where does it come from? I wondered. Over and over, the name came to mind of the brilliant German thinker, Immanuel Kant, who together with Aristotle and Plato, formed a trio of philosophers that have most influenced human thinking. Doubtless he was not very far, as I discovered later, from the philosophy of the man closest to the current president of the United States, Barack Obama.’’

Whatever. Emanuel is a common Hebrew name meaning “God is with us.’’ You can look it up, Fidel.

Alex Beam is a Globe communist — sorry, columnist. His e-dress is beam@globe.com.