Jet lag is one thing, but the rapid transition from focusing intently on Middle East diplomacy to today's unexpected developments about Fidel Castro is more than a shock to the system. Two hours after getting home from accompanying Condoleezza Rice on her trip to the Mideast and Malaysia, I got the call about Castro and repacked to head toward Havana.
Until the Cuban government opens the doors to American television journalists, I'll be reporting from Miami about this most enduring, and mysterious, leader. How ill is he? U.S. officials aren't sure, but think he is still alive. Privately, they are urging activists in Miami to remain calm. In extraordinary footage of Castro at his last public rallies, shot by NBC's talented Roberto Leon last week, Castro looks drawn and frail, but was still able to appear at two rallies and speak for more than six hours. He also traveled to Argentina for an arduous summit on July 21.
I first met Castro in 1999, when I was covering the Elian Gonzalez story. A few years later, he told me his brother Raul would succeed him, saying, "I am about five years his senior, and Raul is very healthy, by the way, he is just 70. And he celebrated it by climbing the Torquina mountains, which is the highest peak in Cuba. He did so surrounded by his family. And he did it in a record time, and he's doing so well with his health. Undoubtedly, he is the comrade who has more authority after me and who is most experienced. Therefore, I think he has the capacity to succeed me."
Now the question is whether this is a short-term transition or a dress rehearsal for the real thing.