Cuba's Fidel Castro tries to capture Asian readers

Other News Materials 11 March 2008 22:13 (UTC +04:00)

( Reuter )- Fidel Castro may have retired after 49 years as Cuba's leader, but he is still busy preparing editions of his memoirs, now aimed at Asian readers.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma said on Tuesday that editions in Hindi, Farsi and Sinhalese are underway, following publication of his memoirs in China last week.

"Many of the great challenges facing humanity will have no solution without the active and pivotal role of China," Castro wrote in the prologue to the Chinese edition, which was published in Mandarin.

The memoirs, written in question-and-answer style, give a definitive account of Castro's views on major events since he seized power in 1959, from the Cuban missile crisis to Cuba's military role in Africa and the fall of Soviet communism.

Castro, 81 and convalescing from an undisclosed intestinal illness that had sidelined him since July 2006, was formally replaced by his brother Raul Castro on February 24 in Cuba's first change of leader since their 1959 revolution.

Although he has not appeared in public for 19 months, he retains a public presence through a constant flow of articles and musings on world politics in Cuba's official media.

The writings of the "Comandante" are no longer banner headlines on Granma's front page. They appear inside on the second page entitled "Reflections by comrade Fidel."

His enemies among the Cuban exile community in the United States believe Castro is still pulling the strings of power from behind the scenes. The U.S. government says Cuba has merely changed one "dictator" for another it dubs "Fidel Lite."

Castro retains the powerful position of first secretary of the Communist Party, but most Cuba watchers agree it is Raul Castro, 76, who is effectively running the country and trying to fix the inefficient state-run economy he inherited.

Fidel Castro has only appeared in pictures looking frail and wearing pajamas in his secret convalescence quarters where he receives the occasional foreign dignitary.

His main ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said he found Castro "happy, splendid and full of ideas" during a visit on Saturday.

Castro's writings mostly appear to be aimed at setting the historical record on the leftist firebrand's long career.

"Fidel Castro: My Life - A Spoken Autobiography" was published in the United States in January. The book is based on 100 hours of interviews with Spanish journalist Ignacio Ramonet, editor of Le Monde Diplomatique.

The book has appeared in French, Portuguese, Italian, Greek, Turkish and Danish, and German, Czech and Korean editions are on their way, as well as a pocket edition in English, Granma said.

Castro said the interviews gather his "modest ideas" and there may be more to come. Last week, he said he plans to write his memoirs "if time allows me."