The last time Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stepped on Cuban soil, Fidel Castro’s illness had been announced a few weeks prior, generating tons of speculation. In that September of 2006, the Iranian president was a witness to the awarding of the presidency of the Non-Aligned Nations to a head of state physically incapable of exercising it. Instead of the Maximum Leader, in the Palace of Conventions they heard the speech of his younger brother, while in the hallways and in front of the cameras official spokespeople predicted that the Commander in Chief would reappear very soon. But they lied. In the final photo of the event — taken on the lawn under a playful sun — the invited rulers are captured, but the primary host is missing. In the light of today, that was an image almost prescient because it marked the former guerrilla’s loss of leadership in international life.
Now, Ahmadinejad has returned for a new snapshot. This time it will be behind closed doors, perhaps without witnesses, and in the place where Fidel Castro convalesces and from where he writes his lengthy Reflections. Much has changes for both of them in the last five years. The first is in the midst of escalating tensions with Washington and has even threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz; the second is passing through the gradual fading of his image inside and outside the country, and has lost much of the ascendancy he once had.
The political impulse that came close to triggering — in 1962 at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis — the third world war, lives today in the Persian leader who could be a part of the next conflict. Both urgently need this new family photo. The one to prove that he is not isolated, as American diplomacy would like him to be seen, and the other because he needs to demonstrate that he is still alive, as opposed to what is rumored in the social networks. But it will be a portrait almost in sepia, because the color green which has been absent these last five years is an uncomfortable shade for both of them. It reminds Fidel Castro of the uniform from which an important part of his power emanated, while to Ahmadinejad it evokes young people protesting in the streets, the young woman Leda, and the summer of 2009.
*Translator’s note: The title of this post is a play on a line in poem by Garcia Lorca, “Verde, que te quiero verde.” The poem is titled Romance sonámbulo (in English, The Sleepwalker’s Romance).
11 January 2011