Just for the record, here are Gavin Esler's contribution to that interview with "journalist and author"/KGB-gold-receiving 'agent of influence' Richard Gott on the BBC News Channel this morning:
- Well, for more perspective on this now, I'm pleased to say we're joined by Richard Gott, who's travelled to and written about Cuba on many, many occasions. Richard, good to see you. Let's pick up on the revolutionary. I mean, you see those pictures and to the Left around the world this was the glamour of the revolution - the people who told the Americans to get lost.
- And because the regime was rotten. I mean, the regime that he replaced. We can get onto the problems that he had later, but the Batista regime was absolutely despicable, wasn't it?
- And at the start...I mean, the revolution did quite extraordinary things for ordinary people. I mean, in terms of healthcare one of the interesting facts is if you were...unbelievable perhaps to some people...if you were a child born in Cuba, post-Castro Cuba, you had a better chance of living than actually a child, statistically, in the United States because perinatal mortality, they attacked that and did a lot for children. So that was the good bit of the balance sheet.
- And Richard Gott is still with us. On that point, Richard. I have visited Cuba a few times and was told during the period where Fidel was at the heights of his powers, as one could say, that the most subversive things the Americans could do would be to normalise relations because the people feared that Cuban-Americans would come back home and say, 'Look, this is my house in Miami. This is my car. How are you doing, brother or cousin?' And that does have an effect on Cuba, doesn't it? It did change things?
- When Fidel Castro got older the regime became quite geriatric, didn't it, in some ways? And also very authoritarian. I mean, if you got AIDS you were locked up. It was called a sanatorium but, basically, it was a kind of prison. Dissent was crushed and so on. And that's the aspect of the regime that many people find the most distasteful. In other words it replicated - perhaps not as bad at Batista - what they'd overthrown.
- And in terms of where Cuba is now, however, how do you see the future? Because the Castro era is not over. Raul is still president. But it will be over eventually and there must be a younger generation who want change?
- Let me ask you what may be an impossible question: Was Fidel Castro actually ever a communist? I mean, people have said to me he's more an egotist. In other words, he was - as you say - the Governor General. He was called 'el lider maximo' - you know, 'top leader'. Was he really a communist or that really a convenient thing for him to do to get money from the Soviet Union?
- As a flag of convenience. Because there was a lot of money in it for him, to be crude!
- And just one final point, which is on the romantic Cuba - you know, Che Guevara, the early years. It was pretty much because he was putting two fingers up to the superpower that made him to some people on the European Left and elsewhere the hero?
Richard Gott said that Fidel Castro was really a "liberal democrat in the Cuban tradition". Gavin didn't laugh.
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