Castro's fixation with Obama's chief

Cuba's former president has some odd theories about Rahm Emanuel
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The Independent US

Cigars, fine rum and communist revolution are not the only things that make Fidel Castro tick. In an eccentric newspaper article, the Cuban leader has admitted to a curious fascination with Barack Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel.

Mr Castro, who has not been seen in public since he handed the presidency to his brother, Raul, in 2006, propped himself up on his sick-bed this week to write a lengthy editorial about the origins of the US politico's surname.

"What a strange surname!" he writes. "It appears Spanish, easy to pronounce, but it's not. Never in my life have I heard or read about any student or compatriot with that name, among tens of thousands." Published in Granma, the official mouthpiece of Cuba's communist party, the article suggests, somewhat bizarrely, that President Obama's sharp-elbowed "fixer" owes his name to the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

"Where does it come from? I wondered. Over and over, the name came to mind of the brilliant German thinker, Immanuel Kant, who together with Aristotle and Plato, formed a trio of philosophers that have most influenced human thinking. Doubtless he was not very far, as I discovered later, from the philosophy of the man closest to the current president of the United States."

The news will come as a surprise to Mr Emanuel, whose surname is fairly common in Jewish circles. Most scholars believe it derives from the Hebrew word, meaning "God is with us", which features in the popular Christmas carol "O come, O come, Emanuel".

Mr Castro's newspaper article goes on to suggest that the 82-year-old dictator has been closely investigating Mr Emanuel's family background. His mother, Martha Emanuel, was a human rights advocate jailed three times for her professional activities.

"It led me to remember the years of isolation in prison that I experienced after my almost-successful attempt to take over Cuba's second-largest military fortress on July 26, 1953 and to seize thousands of weapons with a select group of 120 combatants willing to fight against the Batista dictatorship imposed on Cuba by the United States."

Mr Castro writes regular pieces for Granma. Usually, they concentrate on pressing world affairs, and this week's article does eventually reach at least one conclusion: the US economic stimulus package is not going to work.

"Obama, Emanuel and all of the brilliant politicians and economists who have come together would not suffice to solve the growing problems of US capitalist society," he writes.

Mr Emanuel, known in Washington as "Rahmbo" on account of his deeply partisan Democratic leanings, has often sent Republican opponents round the twist. A cynic might observe that his new-found prominence is allowing him to do the same to communists.

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