Dear Mr Roosevelt, please send me $10: The letter from a young Castro to the President

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The Independent US

The letter from the 12-year-old boy is friendly in tone if somewhat casual in style, given that it was addressed to an American president.

The letter from the 12-year-old boy is friendly in tone if somewhat casual in style, given that it was addressed to an American president.

"Mr good friend Roosevelt," begins the handwritten note in fractured English. "I don't know very [sic] English, but I know as much as to write to you. I like to hear radio and I am very happy because I heard in it that you will be president for a new [period]."

The letter asks President Franklin Roosevelt to slip a $10 bill into any reply because the boy has never seen one. The youngster ends by signing his name with a flourish: "Castro, Fidel Castro."

The letter from the boy who would go on to lead the Cuban revolution, seize power in 1959 and rule the Caribbean nation as a Communist dictatorship for 45 years, so far, is among a hoard of correspondence included in a forthcoming exhibition in Washington.

Organised by the US National Archives and Records Administration, the exhibition features letters written to American presidents by children.

Other letters include a note from a young girl - also to Mr Roosevelt - suggesting troops be drafted alphabetically so her father, whose surname began with W, might escape going to war. Another boy wrote to Ronald Reagan, asking for federal aid to help clear up his bedroom. Many of the children got replies, the young Castro among them. Years later, he said he had a reply from a US diplomat and was proud when the letter was posted on his school bulletin board for a week.

In what may have been a fortunate twist given his later role as a revolutionary bastion against all things American, the young boy's hands were not sullied by a $10 bill: FDR's "New Deal" apparently did not stretch to sending envelopes stuffed with cash to the President's youthful correspondents.

In Castro's letter to FDR, he gave his address as the Colegio de Delores, a private Catholic school in Santiago where he was a student. Five years later, he would enrol at the University of Havana, graduating in 1950 with a law degree.

Three years after that, Castro led an attack on the Moncada army barracks in an attempt to overthrow dictator Fulgencio Batista.

It failed but brought Castro national prominence and a 15-year jail sentence. Though he received an amnesty,, Castro went into exile in Mexico where he and others - including Che Guevara - drew up their plans to return to Cuba and take control. There are no early signs of these revolutionary tendencies in his letter to FDR, there is an appreciation of the differences between him and the American leader.

"I don't know English but I know very much Spanish and I suppose you don't know very Spanish but you know very English because you are American but I am not American."

In the postscript to his letter, he says: "If you want iron to make your ships I will show you the biggest [mines] of iron in [the Mayarai district, where Castro was born and grew up]."

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