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Castro, me and the mystery of the half empty plane

On 18 April 1985 I had an interview in Havana with Fidel Castro. As General Manager of Reuters, I had come to Havana to inaugurate the Reuter Monitor, the computerised foreign exchange service. The meeting, at which I was accompanied by my wife and the Reuter Havana correspondent, Colin McSeveny, started at midnight. I broke protocol after five-and-a-half hours by saying my wife and I had to leave to fly to Kingston, Jamaica en route to San Francisco. Castro was visibly annoyed and was

reluctant to let us go. “You must come back again for a proper meeting, not a short one like this,” he said, and tried to fix a date.

After we reached the airport the Foreign Ministry official who was looking after us expressed his great regret that my wife would not be able to leave because the plane had been overbooked and had only one seat. She went back to the swimming pool at the house which they had put at our disposal to await a plane due to leave the next day.

When I boarded my plane I was staggered to find it was half empty.

I was greatly relieved when I arrived in San Francisco after the visit to Kingston, to find that my wife had caught a plane the following day and had checked into the hotel. ■