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Digital Subscriptions > Newsweek International > 9th December 2016 > INVENTING FIDEL


How The New York Times helped create the myth of Fidel Castro as a genial Latin American Robin Hood

YEARS BEFORE Fidel Castro, the defiant leader of revolutionary Cuba, died on November 25, his demise had been reported many times. The first was nearly 60 years ago, when the front pages of The New York Times and other newspapers flashed headlines about his death in a botched invasion of Cuba on December 2, 1956. The Cuban government, led by Fulgencio Batista, had spread the false story to stamp out a Castro-led insurrection, and for months the world believed that Castro, and his younger brother, Raúl, had met their inglorious end on a forlorn Cuban beach.

The truth of Castro’s unlikely survival wasn’t known until the following February, when an American newspaperman braved army roadblocks, often in disguise, to see the rebel in his mountain hideout in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra. It was just after dawn, with a weak winter sun slipping over the mountains and the forest dripping from overnight rain, when the thick brush parted and into the clearing strode a young and very much alive Castro. It was February 1957, and the American reporter was mesmerized.

“This was quite a man—a powerful six-footer, olive-skinned, full-faced, with a straggly beard,” wrote Herbert Matthews in his exclusive frontpage story in The New York Times. “The personality of the man is overpowering. It was easy to see that his men adored him and also to see why he has caught the imagination of the youth of Cuba all over the island. Here was an educated, dedicated fanatic, a man of ideals, of courage and of remarkable qualities of leadership.”

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THE ROBOT ECONOMY Next time you stop for gas at a self-serve pump, say hello to the robot in front of you. Its life story can tell you a lot about the robot economy roaring toward us like an EF5 tornado on the prairie. Yeah, your automated gas pump killed a lot of jobs over the years, but its biography might give you hope that the coming wave of automation driven by artificial intelligence (AI) will turn out better for almost all of us than a lot of people seem to think.