When Fidel left office: a never-before-seen moment


Fidel Castro, signing a document on his sickbed authorizing a transfer of presidential power to his younger brother, Raúl. The photo was taken by Fidel’s official photographer and documentary filmmaker, Roberto Chile. It was publicized by a CBC journalist and his Colombian colleague for the first time in the world this week:

Images of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, hospitalized, signing the document with which he left the presidency: this is the journalistic material presented today by reporters Jean-Michel Leprince and his Colombian colleague, Martín Movilla, on CBC/Radio-Canada.

This material, of indubitable historical value, was obtained through official routes, after the completion of a report on the island over the figure of Fidel, and after negotiations that took three months, says Movilla.

“Our last interview was with Roberto Chile” [a renowned Cuban photographer and filmmaker], Movilla said. “Fidel’s former cameraman was also our guide in our attempts to gain access to the persons who spoke in the documentary. But neither I nor the rest of the team could have known what he was about to tell us in secret. Something which even the people of Cuba — the politicians and the citizens — didn’t know.

“Our cameraman, Martin Cloutier, was looking directly at Chile when he began to reveal his emotions. We knew he was going to cry. And it was in that moment when the unexpected happened: Chile said that he had filmed Fidel when he made the transfer of power, and left his office as president.

“Immediately after this revelation, Chile realized that he had just said something he was not supposed to say, but which he had to get off his chest, through his heart and his honesty.

“Three months of negotiations, exchanges of letters, secret meetings, talks and explanations of the journalistic value of these images were necessary, but we got the positive response we were hoping for.

“After new efforts, a reliable source told me: ‘It’s Fidel who will make the decision.’ Fidel Castro finally conceded, and the Cubans also understood that it was better to teach this difficult moment” than to leave it to the people of the world to imagine whatever things.

“Finally, in just two weeks, the pictures arrived. A Cuban diplomat brought them to Canada. The director and the editor, Christine Campestre and Hélène Morin, had to change the documentary at the last minute to allow people to see the exclusive images,” Movilla concluded.

Translation mine.

As you can see from the pictures, Fidel’s resignation (retirement, rather) as president came as a result of health problems. The hand holding the paper is noticeably swollen, and there’s a blood-flow monitor clipped to his fingertip. Whether Fidel feared he was going to die is not known, but it’s obvious that he was no longer feeling well enough to do the highly stressful job he’d been doing ever since 1959. Happily, he’s still alive to see another highly historic moment: a lifting of the US blockade and embargo against Cuba. And all without compromising a shred of Cuba’s dignity…or sovereignty.

¡Viva Cuba, todavía libre! ¡Viva Fidel! ¡Hasta la victoria siempre!

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