Castro's attempted image makeover

Yesterday I touched on Fidel Castro's apology for anti-gay measures that occurred under his rule -- including detaining gays in forced labor camps -- calling it a "great injustice." But this is not Castro's only clarification of late. The former Cuban leader seems hellbent on crafting his legacy in a more positive light. Why the re-emergence, and why the rehabiliation campaign, now?

As revealed in La Jornado Monday, Castro was "at death's door" in 2006. At the time,  speculation was rife that he had already died. Thus, it makes sense that Castro is pushing himself in the limelight -- faced with death, the old revolutionary wants to clean up his name while he has a chance. There's certainly also a chance that he has mellowed in his later years. As he's no longer facing the threat of assassination, his stress levels have also probably declined some.

Perhaps most interesting are the pictures of Jeffrey Goldberg -- yes, that Jeffrey Goldberg -- accompanying the old revolutionary on various stops throughout Cuba. How Goldberg -- rather than, you know, a journalist with a background in Cuban affairs -- came to be side-by-side with Castro is a total mystery. But I'm sure we can look for Goldberg to illuminate his trip in the near future -- though I imagine it'd garner a lot less interest than some of his other recent writings. (Council on Foreign Relations expert Julia E. Sweig was also on the trip.)

In addition to his comments on gay rights, Castro said during a press conference with Goldberg that he is by no means an anti-Semite:

I was never anti-Jewish and I share with him a deep hatred against Nazi-Fascism and the genocide perpetrated against the Jewish people by Hitler and his followers.

President Barack Obama has made tentative steps to end the hostility between Cuba and the United States, and Castro's words may be a recognition of that. While his brother is now president, it's obvious that Fidel's words carry great weight in the island nation. Maybe it's time for Obama to launch a more audacious foreign policy venture, one that may even bear some results: a direct meeting with Castro. Perhaps the old U.S. nemesis could aim to improve relations in his last years. More importantly, it'd prove that engagement is -- as it should be -- still a part of the Obama administration's strategy, and it would send another signal to the rest of the world that, if you are reasonable, the United States will deal with you.



RT @KremlinRussia_E

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev may be on Twitter, but he was not amused when Kirov's regional governor Nikita Belykh decided to post his thoughts during yesterday's State Council session. (Many thanks to the Wall Street Journal for translating the highlights.)

The bizarre story, which really could have only happened in today's Russia, began when Dmitry Zelenin, governor of Russia's Tver region, noted "State Council. 1 Minute to session." But it was Belykh's  furious pounding out 140-character messages that made things interesting. He first noted:

10-15 people at the State Council are sitting with iPads. They used to sit with laptops. Darned stenographers ;)

(He immediately followed his own tweet by asking if they were in fact "doing other things.")

As Medvedev spoke, Belykh posted the tweet that started the brouhaha:

I support your idea of presidential Lycees, Dmitry Anatolievich. Kress. Actually, that was my idea ;(

At this point, Belykh was publicly reprimanded by Medvedev, who had got wind of the governor's feelings: "Nikita Yurievich Belykh is posting something on his Twitter page right now, during the State Council session, as if he has nothing else to do." You'd imagine, at this point, that Belykh would stop Tweeting and pay sharp attention to the rest of the session. You'd also be wrong, as Belykh blamed Medvedev's adviser Arkady Dvorkovich for narking on him:

There you go ;(. Dvorkovich leaked my reports to the President. Such are the costs of the information society ;(

It's clear that Dvorkovich himself was paying more attention to his feed than his boss as he playfully chided Belykh:

At least the record was set straight :)

Other attendees got in on the act, claiming that Belykh's list of followers was destined to rise as a result of the exchange. After the meeting, Medvedev responded to Belykh on his own (Russian-language) feed:

Yes, those are the costs of the information society. The important thing is that they don't distract from work, right?

As a side note, Medvedev's English-language feed follows President Barack Obama, the White House, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and the Kremlin's Russian feed, but only Obama and the White House have returned the favor.