Dear Sir,

I was interested to read your article about Walton Brown paying tribute to Fidel Castro. I admit to being somewhat baffled at the adulation given to Castro by Mr. Brown.

Has Mr. Brown ever wondered why it is that there is not a queue of people (would be immigrants) attempting to enter Cuba?

The island has a warm and pleasant climate with beautiful beaches and fertile land, somewhat like Bermuda. You would think that many people would love to live there. Instead there is a steady flow of Cubans going the other way, trying to escape the island. Cubans are so desperate to flee the oppression, despair and dire poverty that Castro and his Communism have brought to Cuba that they are prepared to risk the lives of themselves and their families by crossing 90 miles of shark infested waters on makeshift rafts made of rubber tyres, planks of wood and corrugated iron.

Some never make it, they drown, die of thirst, shark attacks or they get returned by the Florida coastguard. Some arrive safely to the Florida coast. The U.S. happens to be the nearest country to which they can flee.

But it is not so much America that they are aiming to escape to but any country where they can lift themselves out of dire poverty, where qualifications and hard-work are rewarded with a better livelihood but most of all where they can be free to live, work and worship as they please without Secret Police watching their every move.

I hope that when Mr. Brown went to Havana in 2001 he stuffed his suitcases full of items that ordinary Cubans desperately need, for example soap, shampoo, toothpaste, Aspirin, Ibuprofen, pens, cooking oil, high-protein foods to name but a few.

Or did he, as I suspect many visitors and tourists to Cuba do, only see the inside of the best hotels (reserved for foreigners only, I might add) like the Hotel Central in Havana, go around the Cuban Cigar factory and go to the Salsa Palace for an evening's entertainment but never see the real Cuba with its lack of just about everything that makes life pleasant and easier.

Let no-one be fooled. Photo-picture-books and postcards of Cubans show them with happy smiling faces, full of life and vivacity. That is their character, a delightful mix of Spanish and Caribbean traits. But when they turn their faces away from the camera, they are etched with care, hardship, sadness and hopelessness. That is their state.

So it baffles me that anyone would ascribe praise to Fidel Castro after the oppression, injustices and lack of liberty that he has inflicted on his people in the name of an ideology. At best I can only assume it is a result of ignorance, which for a 'political analyst' (the description your paper gave Mr. Walton Brown) is extremely surprising.

I understand from people who met him and lived to tell the tale that Saddam Hussein was also very charismatic and charming - when he wanted to be.

Yvette Albrecht

Smiths