- The Secret Fidel Castro: Deconstructing the Symbol
The book's title awakens the fear of superficiality and sensationalism, a fear regrettably borne out by this study that succeeds neither at establishing what exactly "the symbol" is or at any feats of analytical deconstruction. Nor does the volume reveal anything "secret."
Since Castro defies conventional analysis and fools everyone, the volume argues, he has never been understood either by biographers (pace Georgie Anne Geyer, perhaps) or by historians. Part I aims to "deconstruct," but the methodology is simply to amass the familiar: street rumors (from Havana and Miami), anecdotes (from biographies and memoirs), and a string of conspiracy [End Page 165] theories. Rejecting notions of "charisma," the book nonetheless takes us through an account of Castro's powers of fascination and virtual clairvoyance. In the process, several old chestnuts are reheated (often repeatedly), but never with proof beyond suggestion, circumstantial evidence, and hearsay: Castro's implication in Kennedy's assassination, the childhood roots of both his alleged madness (in brain damage), and his hatred of the United States (in Roosevelt's neglect of his letter), his status as "professional gangster" (112), his personal guilt in several murders, his repressed homosexuality, and his corruption from the outset. Indeed, the allegations become bizarre: Castro's eagerness for nuclear confrontation both in 1962 and now, his desire to attack and take over the United States, his murder not just of Che and Camilo (familiar enough accusations) but also of Jorge Mas Canosa, Virgilio Piñera, and Allende's daughters. The author even implicates Castro (in a long afterword) in the attack on the World Trade Center.
Part II supposedly answers Theodore Draper's question: "Who is Fidel Castro? What is he?" with the simple rejoinder, "he is a monster, and he is evil" (309), but takes us there by various routes. Disproving his "Communism" (and criticizing the Miami exiles for perpetuating that notion), he argues a case for Castro as a fascist, but largely through association, symptomatic comparison and, seemingly, the logic that, since Castro is a liar, we should believe the opposite. He even suggests that Che's foco theory was a "thinly disguised fascist scheme" (291). He argues that Castroism is a religious cult, again through its symptoms rather than structural or doctrinal analysis, and, although arguing the tenable case for associations with santería, again relies on anecdotal and suggestive evidence. However, in relation to religion, a clear theme emerges: the Catholic Church is repeatedly criticized for supporting rather than opposing Castro, and in the process readers are usefully reminded to go beyond the rhetoric of opposition and to contemplate the consequences of uncritical cooperation. The Jesuits become the real villains of the piece for creating, shaping, encouraging, and protecting Castro (and, incidentally, he suggests, in eliminating Pope John Paul I).
The book's form is problematic. Apart from the suspect methodology (to amass anecdotes and innuendos until some might have a chance at passing for fact), its structural flaws weaken it considerably: it tends to be repetitive (sometimes the same story will appear three times), contradictory and rambling in its delivery. However, the main flaw lies in its deliberate and open partiality. Although at times the author dips into "scientific" method (e.g., his supposed use of intelligence-gathering methods and his "documentary" equation of Castro's psychosis and the Columbine killers), the terminology used is often that of diatribe (e.g., the repeated references to "tyrant" and "evil," and to "the Castroist gutter elite" (303), with even serious observers being dismissed as "Castro-friendly"), to the extent that, although he often equally targets the [End Page 166] exiles and Washington, the book is difficult to take seriously as adding to our understanding or knowledge.