Brian Latell, former top CIA analyst for Cuba and now a researcher at UM's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, says that Castro is a master at manipulating foreign reporters who are granted rare interviews. I'm planning a story on Latell, author of the book After Fidel: The Inside Story of Castro's Regime and Cuba's Next Leader.
From The Latell Report:
"Fidel is always absolutely in charge, controlling every detail and circumstance of the meetings. He is always sure to be in top form, rested and at ease, while typically summoning exhausted reporters late at night, after interminable and sometimes humiliating waits. Matthews was made to secretly travel the length of the island and then traverse rough terrain on foot for his exclusive meeting. Other reporters since then have also had to perform physical feats, a few ascending Pico Turquino, Cuba’s tallest, and then finally allowed to interview Castro at the summit.
"The standard routine has been for reporters to camp in their hotel rooms in Havana, sometimes for days on end, waiting to be called to Fidel’s inner sanctum. Many patiently wait in vain. But even most of them feel a certain gratitude because, unlike the vast majority of journalists who would gladly interview Castro, they at least were finalists in his game. His calculus is to promote intense competition among reporters seeking to interview him, often pitting them against each other.
"Since Matthews, Castro’s record in manipulating reporters to advance his interests has been nearly perfect. The Times reporter was “far from the only American whom Castro had twisted into knots,” de Palma writes. Some, wittingly or not, have been transformed during their long, late night sessions with Fidel, into fawning advocates. Once selected to be in his presence, many ask him easy questions, fail to press him or follow up, and typically endure interminable speeches without daring to interrupt. Generally, they accept and write uncritically from his perspective, often, like Matthews, providing Castro with invaluable publicity for whatever policy initiative he may be pushing at the time.
"The ultimate form this seduction has often assumed is that reporters come to believe they can perform an historic role in advancing a rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. In the past it was a favorite tactic of the Cuban leader to falsely raise such expectations in interviews with influential journalists who then would meet with high level American government officials offering their services as intermediaries with Fidel.
"Herbert Matthews was never able to acknowledge how exquisitely he had been converted by Fidel into a cheerleader, and many other foreign reporters since then have fallen into the same trap. For almost fifty years now Castro has never had reason to change the tactics that have worked so well for him with the international media. It is only now, as his health deteriorates and his energy wanes, that he has cut back severely on the meetings with reporters that for so many decades he delighted in scheduling and that so bountifully served his purposes."