Tuesday, August 01, 2006

but no cigar

Fidel Castro, the permanent paterfamilias of Cuba, is 80 years old and in the hospital with intestinal distress. The military strongman has, for the first time ever, handed the reins of power over to another. Of course, he kept to the pseudo-monarchic traditions we have come to expect from North Korea, lending him to his slightly less elderly brother Raul(age 75). This has given much thought both in Washington and Havana as to Cuba after Castro, or the Castros, as the case may be. Whatever successor government, I hope the US punditocracy will be severely chastened this fucking time before 'our soldiers will be greeted with sugarcane parades' and 'cigars will pay for the entire reconstruction costs' drips out of their vodka-lubricated mouths. Not much is known about Raul, other than his general stay-the-course philosophy of governence and the contrast in charisma with his brother.
The US undoubtably will be pushed to 'do something' whether it means more meaningless threats or hosing down someone suitably pro-American in cash. This 'do something' is always a cure looking for a disease, and will be propounded at length by the president's brother, Florida governor Jeb Bush and his supporters in the Miami Cuban exile community. All would-be Chalabis are thinking about what they are going to do with grandpa's plantation it seems. But because we refuse any dialogue with Cuba, that egg is never going to be uncracked. I think rapprochment and dialogue with Cuba have been needed for decades. One Wal-Mart or even IKEA would be a far more formidable capitalist propaganda weapon than years of pirate radio transmissions.Hugo Chavez, the President of Venezuela, will see this as a regional challenge, pouring massive support into the Cuban economy. Expect to see concerns about the security of facilities in Gitmo, especially from twitchy Congressional hawks. Likely you will see a cold war between Venezuela and the US with attendant saber-rattling and cause for Hugo to deploy his musing suggestion to stop the spigot on Citgo. Meaning 20% of US oil is effectively unavailable, adding another dollar or two to its domestic price at best. Democracy will come at the behest of the Cuban people, and not by anyone in Miami, Caracas, or even the Castro family.

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