Fidel Castro, president of Cuba and continual thorn in the side of the United States government, has once again demonstrated his capacity to confound and mystify.

On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the shooting death of John Lennon, Castro has unveiled a life-sized statue of the Beatle in Havana’s El Vedado Park. The sculpture, by artist Jose Villa Soberon, is not in the grand and pompus style of socialist realism, but is actually quite low key. Lennon is depicted in full hippie garb: long hair, jeans, and wire-rimmed glasses. He is sitting crosslegged on a park bench with one arm on the armrest and the other on the back of the bench. Passersby can sit down right next to him, and it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a prime stop the tourist photo tour of Havana.

Ironically, back in the 1960s the music of the Beatles was banned in Cuba, branded as "decadent" by Castro’s government. But Lennon’s activism against the Vietnam War and for other progressive causes have made him a hero there, so presumably it’s okay to listen to the White Album in Cuba, provided you can afford a stereo. Or electricity.

Castro called Lennon a "revolutionary", presumably in the socialist sense of the word "revolution", the highest praise you could get in a communist nation. Aping the words of the song "Imagine", he said "I am a dreamer who has seen some of his dreams become reality." He claimed he wished he had met Lennon. Lennon never visited Cuba.

If anyone finds some good pictures of this statue, please link them here or let me know. In the meantime. for some small pictures, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/americas/newsid_1062000/1062993.stm

Update: On December 21, a thief stole the glasses off of the statue's face. The statue was guarded, but the guard had sought shelter during a rainstorm. The artist plans on replacing them.

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