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Fidel Castro stretches for a commentary topic -- yoga

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN
June 20, 2012 -- Updated 1529 GMT (2329 HKT)
Ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro, seen here on April 19, 2011, has been largely out of view in the last few months.
Ex-Cuban leader Fidel Castro, seen here on April 19, 2011, has been largely out of view in the last few months.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Since his illness, Castro has written regular "Reflection" newspaper commentaries
  • His topics have ranged from former leaders to plants
  • Tuesday's topic: Yoga
  • "Yoga does things with the human body that defy the imagination," Castro wrote

Havana, Cuba (CNN) -- Fidel Castro has never been accused of wanting for opinions, but the former Cuban leader's Tuesday commentary stumped many of his fellow citizens.

The subject was not the bloodshed in Syria or the economic crisis in Europe, but yoga.

Yoga?

"Yoga does things with the human body that defy the imagination," Castro wrote in a front-page editorial in the island's state-run Granma newspaper.

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The 35-word ode to the Eastern art of meditation and stretching was the latest "Reflection from Comrade Fidel," a newspaper column dedicated to Castro's musings that has appeared regularly since he stepped down from power in 2006 due to a mystery illness.

Castro's praising of yoga, which according to Granma, occurred at 2:40 p.m. on Monday, did not include whether Castro himself was a practitioner.

The column was atypically short for the famously verbose former head of state.

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Since his illness, Castro's "Reflection" opinion pieces often have filled whole pages in the newspaper -- not a difficult task for a world leader who in his heyday spoke for hours without notes on a variety of subjects.

But in recent weeks, Castro's published opinions resemble microburst streams of consciousness more akin to a Twitter message than a formal treatise.

"He thought of himself as a wise man and, doubtless, he was. But he made a small mistake," Castro wrote Friday about an apparent long-ago rift with former Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.

"Cuba has to be punished," Castro wrote that Deng said. "Our country never even pronounced his name."

Deng died in 1997 and it is not clear what punishment Castro referred to.

Another "Reflection" praised former East German leader Erich Honecker, who Castro wrote was the "most revolutionary German I have known."

"I had the privilege of observing his conduct," Castro continued in the brief column. "When he was paying bitterly for the debt contracted by the man who sold his soul to the devil for a few shots of vodka."

"The man" selling his soul for vodka was not identified, sparking a debate among Cubans, some thinking Castro meant former Russian President Boris Yeltsin, a reputed lover of the beverage.

Others argued he meant former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, whose reforms helped lead to the end of the Soviet empire and to vital economic aid from the USSR to Cuba.

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For his Monday "Reflection," Castro switched topics from politics to farming, authoring a one-sentence endorsement of the moringa olefeira and mulberry plants for their nutritional benefits.

The brief and sometimes cryptic "Reflections" have also stirred debate in Miami, where Castro's health is an oft-discussed topic among the city's large Cuban-American community.

Castro has not been seen publicly since March,when video was shown of him meeting with Pope Benedict XVI during the pontiff's visit to Cuba. In the video, Castro appeared frail and had to be assisted while he walked.

"It may be that he is not coherent enough to write longer 'Reflections,'" said professor Jaime Suchlicki of the University of Miami. "But it's clear even if Fidel Castro is no longer in the limelight, he is not ready to stop talking just yet."

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