It was unclear whether he spoke in hope, disgust or resignation.
But he wasn’t the only one suggesting that deals had been done to ease American companies back into Cuba, once Fidel Castro was dead.
This was back in 1999. And before his brother’s economic reforms.
Later I returned to the Malecon for a swim, gingerly treading over the razor sharp rocks for five minutes before lowering myself in. A wave swept me right back inside five seconds, the rocks giving me a good shredding as it did so. I decided to regain dry land.
If capitalism ever does surge back to its former playground, it’ll find willing and able participants.
I found Cubans on Communist Cuba excellent entrepreneurs - always willing to offer a service, in return for hard currency… Directions, better accommodation, lobsters, a lift to see the Guantanamo naval base from the other side (I got an invite to see the base from the US side later. But BBC bosses didn’t seem to think it was interesting enough. Gitmo turned into a prison camp at the time I would have been there).
I parleyed a ‘taxi’ journey into the chance to drive a beautifully maintained Plymouth 57.
It handled like a drunken whale.
The noticeable thing about the vast majority of the people offering me these services was : how relatively well-off they appeared. Unless you’re at the top of the Party, I guess, no one else is wealthy… But it was the middle classes who were keen to accumulate. Doctors, lawyers and shop-keepers talked about getting a colour TV, a double-cassette player and so on.
Perhaps that’s no surprise.
I talked to a tour guide who spoke glowingly of her visit as a teenager to West Germany. And her hatred of having to ask permission to move town, and then having to sign in with the police. Freedom of movement was her dream. And the freedom to think.
“Sometimes I wish I hadn’t been to West Germany,” she said. “I saw things I could never have here”.
I hope the rapprochement with the United States might be the start of some of her dreams being realised. And I hope they bring her contentment.