The Miami Herald
September 28, 1999
For Castro, pact with writer is no deal

 El Nuevo Herald

 Colombian writer Gabriel Garcia Marquez agreed last year to carry messages
 from Fidel Castro to Washington in exchange for some private accounts of the
 Cuban president's life, including details of a conversation Castro had with Pope
 John Paul II during the pontiff's visit to Cuba in January of that year.

 Garcia Marquez did his part. But upon his return to Havana from Washington, he
 was told by Castro:

 ``Oh, I'll tell you later. In any case, it's not important the way you think.''

 Garcia Marquez shrugged and is still waiting for an answer.

 That episode is part of a profile of Garcia Marquez written by Jon Lee Anderson in
 the Sept. 27 issue of The New Yorker.


 In a 14-page article, Anderson describes the 1982 Nobel laureate as an
 extraordinarily sensitive man who has become a vital link in the peace process in
 Colombia, a country that admires him and misses him when he is abroad.

 ``His prestige [in Latin America] is such that he has the trust of both governments
 and revolutionaries,'' Anderson wrote.

 The article also is a portrait of a writer obsessed with the nearness to power and
 the powerful.

 ``Latin American presidents all want to be his friend, but he also wants to be
 theirs,'' said a friend of Garcia Marquez who asked not to be identified. ``As long
 as I've known him, he's always had this desire to be around power.''

 This fascination has allowed the writer to be close to Castro. Gabo -- as he is
 known in Colombia -- reportedly said that through his intervention, ``more than
 2,000 people'' were allowed to leave Cuba.

 ``I sometimes go to Miami, although not often, and I have stayed at the homes of
 people I've helped get out,'' Garcia Marquez told Anderson. His hosts include
 some ``really prominent gusanos'' -- worms, the word Castro uses to describe the
 Miami exiles -- ``and they call up their friends and we have big parties. Their kids
 ask me to sign books for them.''


 According to Garcia Marquez, he was with Castro at Havana's Plaza de la
 Revolucion in January 1998, during the Pope's visit. He said he had a feeling that,
 despite the outward harmony, Castro and the Pope had a ``private disagreement.''

 Garcia Marquez reportedly told Castro that he wouldn't write an article he planned
 to do about the Pope's visit until Castro ``confessed'' whatever it was that he and
 the Pope had disagreed on.

 Castro agreed to Garcia Marquez's request but under one condition: that the
 writer carry some messages from him to the U.S. government. Once the task was
 completed, however, Castro ``waved me off,'' Garcia Marquez said.

 The writer said he has concluded that Castro will take that secret and others to
 his grave.

 ``And you know why?'' Garcia Marquez said. ``Because Fidel isn't like the rest of
 us. He thinks he has all the time in the world. Death just isn't part of his plans.''

                     Copyright 1999 Miami Herald