Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nothing is happening in Cuba

The Miami Herald runs a non-story story, or maybe we can call it a story about why there’s no story. The essential point is that for the past month, everyone has been looking for clues about Fidel’s status, about Raúl’s role, and about political transition in Cuba. Speculation has run rampant, and there are more experts on Cuba than you can shake a stick at. So ultimately what has happened?


I won’t even go into detail about all the usual suspects they round up to talk about the nothingness.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

AMLO's options

Check out Bloggings by Boz for a good analysis about how AMLO can accomplish some of the goals of his movement while abandoning his current strategies. I agree that his most difficult and most immediate task is to end the street protests—he’s painted himself into a corner with all his talk of a parallel government, and so he has to figure out how to convince his followers that this is not simply a concession to the powers that he has labeled as irredeemably corrupt.

At this point, I might feel more sympathy for AMLO if not for the fact that in recent years Mexico has been undergoing a process of real democratization. The PRI’s grip on power was pried loose, elections (though obviously still imperfect) have been the cleanest in history, the military remains out of politics, and Congress is no longer a rubber stamp. The country does face daunting problems, but democratization has been taking place. Creating a parallel government in the streets—and this will inevitably lead to conflict--will be a step backward. As I’ve written, AMLO has been getting blasted in the U.S. press, and I hope he is able to prove it all wrong.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The Latino Health Paradox

The L.A. Times has a story on a fascinating topic--the “Latino health paradox.” We have a tendency to assume that immigrants are poor and unhealthy, and therefore flood our E.R.s. But study after study (including my own work on Charlotte) has found that Latino immigrants are healthier than the rest of the population, and that in particular Latino women have fewer low weight babies and fewer premature babies.

My dad has done research on this as well (another is Rubén Rumbaut at U.C. Irvine). In fact, work on this topic has been done for so long that I remember as a teenger, making extra money by coding health questionnaires for my dad. One important conclusion is that once people are here in the U.S. for a while, they gradually lose those good health indicators. A traditional Mexican diet is much healthier than ours, but once here, people have more access to fast food and other cheap sources of empty calories and refined sugar. Interestingly, women who live in Latino enclaves tend to remain healthier, because they retain those healthier lifestyles. Then the children and grandchildren of those immigrants are far more likely to drink, take drugs, smoke, and get fat.

Maybe that just means they’re assimilating.


Monday, August 28, 2006

The Mexican election saga

From Reuters: Mexico's Federal Electoral Tribunal has tossed out most of AMLO's charges of electoral fraud. It fell short of declaring Calderón the winner (by law it must declare a winner by September 6) but that is a done deal now. The PRD has already said that Calderón would have to govern "under siege." Soon enough, we will see what that means in practice.



Only the extreme weaknesses of the NL are keeping the Padres’ hopes alive. Yesterday, Jake Peavy got creamed by the Rockies, and is now 7-13 for the year with a 4.51 ERA. What's going on, Jake?

Plus, our lineup has some serious holes. I am still not sure why we signed Manny Alexander, who is hitting .143 (and his lifetime average is a mere .231). We couldn’t do better than that? And we keep playing Mark Bellhorn, who is also under the Mendoza Line.

Despite our 66-64 record (and a horrible 33-36 at home) we’re only 2 games behind the Dodgers and 0.5 behind the Reds for the wild card. So who will ultimately limp into the playoffs and then likely lose to the Mets?

One other baseball note--Padres Rundown has great analysis of the minor leagues. Right now it seems to be slim pickings.


Sunday, August 27, 2006

Illegal immigration and U.S. policy

The Charlotte Observer is running another series on illegal immigration, and the first installment focuses on remittances. I read the beginning with some disbelief:

To curb illegal immigration, the federal government has posted soldiers on the Mexican border, arrested workers at job sites, and talked about making it a felony to enter the U.S. without permission.

But it puts greater hope in a relatively unknown and unlikely strategy: increasing the amount of money immigrants send back to Mexico.

The Bush administration says the billions sent south each year can be used to build the Mexican economy, thereby reducing immigration. For the past five years, the government has worked with Mexico and money senders to reduce the cost of remittances, and increase the volume.

The problem with this argument is that it is based entirely on a speech given in September 2001 (before 9/11) by Presidents Bush and Fox, in which they expressed the goal of improving Mexico’s economy so that people would feel less compulsion to leave, and that remittances could be a part of the solution.

It is dangerous to build an analysis on a five year old speech (and pre-9/11 to boot) given at a photo-op. With no justification or evidence, the article explicitly states that this old speech is evidence that remittances are more important to the Bush administration than any type of immigration enforcement. Most statements the administration makes regarding remittances focus on their role in economic development, without linking them to immigration. For example, in 2004 the White House released a fact sheet on the issue, which does not mention reduction of immigration:

These hard-earned funds go directly to families and communities where they are used for improving the quality of life of the citizens of the hemisphere -- paying for school books, purchasing medicine, or starting a business.

So does the administration hope that remittances have the effect of improving conditions in Mexico so that fewer people leave? Yes. Is this a central part of immigration policy? No.

The article does raise the important debate about the role remittances can play in sustainable development, though only quotes one anti-remittance scholar in Mexico to frame the debate, which is in fact a vigorous one and not so not nearly as one-sided as suggested.

I find it frustrating to read these types of articles, because the immigration debate is so complex already without distorting it further.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Iain Pears' The Dream of Scipio

When I switched blog templates a while ago, I had neglected to save the book links, but figured I would start new ones. Here is the first—the link to the book is on the lower right sidebar.

I just finished and really enjoyed Iain Pears’ The Dream of Scipio, which follows three different characters in three different time periods, all in the same part of Provence. The link is that each sees himself as fighting for the protection of civilization—one as the Roman Empire is under assault in the 5th century, the next in the time of the Black Death (14th century), and the last under German occupation in WWII. Each also struggles to convince those around him that his strategy for combating barbarism (and anti-Semitism, which is another theme) will be the most effective. Despite these very different scenes, I found the narrative very smooth.


Friday, August 25, 2006

Venezeula's Race for the UN Security Council

All of President Hugo Chávez’s globetrotting is paying off—he announced that China is backing Venezuela for the rotating UN Security Council position. In return, China will be helping to explore potential oil fields in Venezuela to continue meeting its demand at home.

Chávez is slowly but surely collecting important promises, even getting several countries at once (like Mercosur and Caricom). But all his traveling is garnering votes outside the region as well, such as Ghana, Zimbabwe, Mali, Syria and Russia.

The bottom line: there is no consensus candidate for Latin America, because the U.S. wants Guatemala (which has only a sprinkling of regional support, mostly from its Central American neighbors). This means the entire UN General Assembly must vote on it, and a 2/3 vote is required. If all countries vote (I do not know how common that is) then that total would be 90. The vote is in October.


Thursday, August 24, 2006


I was interviewed by Qué Pasa, the largest Spanish language newspaper in Charlotte, about my research on Lation immigration (sorry, it's only in Spanish). I was glad to have the opportunity to connect to the Latino community here.

In other news, Douglas Massey--a Princeton sociologist who has done an enormous amount of work on Mexican immigration--has a very good commentary at Cato Unbound. As he notes, so much of the immigration debate revolves around stereotypes.


The Zapatistas and Mexican elections

Michael from my Intro to Comparative Politics class emailed me a good question—with all the furor over the Mexican presidential election, where are Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas? Michael asked whether it seemed Marcos will become less popular for refusing to support AMLO’s campaign.

The main answer is that the Zapatistas don’t identify with AMLO or the PRD. Here is an English-language account from the Socialist point of view of how this attitude made many people uncomfortable, because the left was supposed to show solidarity. He led a tour, calling himself “Delegate Zero,” and his movement “The Other Campaign” as an alternative to the other candidates.

La Jornada interviewed Marcos soon after the election in July. His attitude was that AMLO won, but that there was little difference between any of the candidates, and the entire system (including all parties and the IFE) is corrupt.

In the presidential election, 49% in Chiapas voted, which was the third lowest of any Mexican state (Chihuahua and Guerrero were lower). The national average was 58.55 percent.

Now, of course, there is a new controversy in Chiapas in the gubernatorial election (see Fruits and Votes for analysis). Once again the Zapatistas appear to be absent. A winner won’t be declared until Sunday, but preliminary results show that only 44% of the population voted.

A reasonable conclusion, therefore, is that abstention in Chiapas mattered—clearly for the gubernatorial election, and to some degree (how much is difficult to discern) for the presidential. Marcos could therefore be a player, but that would mean entering mainstream politics, into the system that he has said for years is venal and corrupt.

So here’s the dilemma: stay pure, but marginalized, or become tainted and more influential. By rejecting AMLO, Marcos chose the former, and for those who believe that an AMLO/PRD victory could have effected real change, that decision may not be too popular.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bolivia's new ambassador

Evo Morales has named his ambassador to the U.S. Gustavo Guzmán is a respected journalist, but has no diplomatic experience. The article notes the other “unconventional” appointments President Morales has made, but given the fact that his movement swept out the old guard, by definition he has few allies experienced in government affairs. The choice of the new ambassador can also be viewed in a positive light, because—despite all the criticism aimed at him--he did not intentionally name someone hostile to the U.S. (which is, in fact, a tactic often favored by the U.S. goverment when it makes its own appointments for Latin America positions).


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Latin America-China relations

It is signed, sealed and delivered—Chilean President Bachelet signed a free trade agreement with China, after both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate approved it. It will go into effect within 60 days.

Meanwhile, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is in Beijing, negotiating agreements for oil exploration and building a fiber-optic communications network with the help of the Chinese government.

There is no doubt that China’s economic influence in Latin America is growing. For a number of years, some have argued that this represents a security threat to the U.S., with the most prominent past example being all the rumors that the Chinese government was plotting to take over the Panama Canal.

I’m not convinced that the expansion of Chinese companies, trade deals, and investment translates into a security threat. Last semester, one of my students wrote a good paper on the topic, but my main critique was that he assumed that connection without adequately explaining it. At this point, it seems to be a natural result of economic growth in the region. I’m not even ready to see anything sinister in the Venezuela-China ties (unlike the Venezuela-Russia deals, which are wasting enormous amounts of money on weapons).


Monday, August 21, 2006

First Day of Class

Today is the first day of the semester. I want to encourage my students to check out the blog, feel free to lurk if you like, but also please comment or even email me anything Latin America-related (broadly speaking) if you run across something you find interesting.


Fidel and Adidas

In two previous posts, I had mentioned how odd it was to see Fidel Castro wearing Adidas. The NYT notes this, and talks to Adidas’ PR person, who notes that not only do they have a longstanding relationship with the Cuban Olympic team, but they also provide shoes to President Bush (I guess Adidas is fair and balanced).

I see parallels to Fidel wearing clothes produced by a huge capitalist multinational, and made by low-wage labor, to kids in the U.S. shopping at the mall wearing Che Guevara t-shirts. Maybe both cases suggest that even for Fidel Castro, the most important thing is to look cool…


Sunday, August 20, 2006

An FTA with Uruguay?

On the heels of my post about the contradictions of anti-U.S. rhetoric and expanded U.S. trade in Venezuela, From Uruguay discuss how the Frente Amplio government (which was supposedly part if the "leftist wave" in Latin America) is schizophrenic in its discussions about an FTA with the U.S. President Vasquez is in favor, but his cabinet is split, and it’s never quite clear whether negotiations are truly going forward.

Yet again, this highlights the fact that the “left” in Latin America is far more complex than portrayed, even within countries. I know I harp on this, but I can't help it.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Mexicans voting abroad

I was talking to my dad about Mexicans voting abroad, and realized I didn’t know what the results were—he tracked down a press account and official data, which actually has been out there a while. For the first time this year, Mexican citizens could vote for president. After years of debate, this change was passed by the Mexican government, which (like other Latin American governments, which have been making or debating the same change) wants to keep contact with their expatriates, who funnel remittances back home.

But thus far, Mexicans in the U.S. seem to remain disconnected from politics, as only 1 percent voted. Of those, 58 percent voted for Calderón—no tie here. From the article:

Many of Lopez Obrador's supporters were poor Mexicans who immigrated illegally to the United States looking for a better life.

This is logical, though I haven’t yet looked at the IFE data. However, as Matthew Shugart has pointed out, poor Mexicans also vote for the PRI, with lower middle classes often voting PRD. I wonder if this pattern changes for immigrants. Given the hassle of requesting an absentee ballot, going to an official polling location, etc. it is also reasonable to argue that more recent, and poorer, immigrants, will also be less likely to vote in the first place. Maybe even less than at home.


Friday, August 18, 2006

Planning for Pinochet

The Chilean army commander in chief, Oscar Izurieta, caused a stir in a television interview when he indicated (perhaps in response to the recent death of Alfredo Stroessner) that when Pinochet (now a nonagenarian) died he should receive a funeral with full honors. After the Minister of Defense and the presidential spokesman said it was inappropriate to bring it up, Izurieta backed down, and said he was only referring to what the army would do, not the government.

He also made the point that since Pinochet has not been convicted of anything, he should be presumed innocent. Although cloaked in very nice democratic language, that's rather tough to swallow for a man who was dictator for almost 17 years.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Willy Wonka and Paraguay

As has been widely noted, former Paraguayan dictator Alfredo Stroessner died, exiled in Brazil. The obits (such as the NYT) all note the tremendous repression and corruption during his many years in power.

The negative image of Paraguay even permeated popular culture here. My kids love watching the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. In it, everyone thinks the last golden ticket has been found, by someone in Paraguay. Then it turns out the Paraguayan had counterfeited it. In another slap, according to Wikipedia (always use at your own risk, but for a movie reference I don’t mind):

When the South American newscaster holds up the photo of the fifth Golden Ticket "winner" (who is a fake) it is a picture of Martin Bormann. The joke was that Bormann was Hitler's right-hand man who, in theory, escaped and wound up in Paraguay.



Although the news of arrests of Colombian paramilitary leaders is certainly good, take a look at Plan Colombia and Beyond for a close look at Putumayo, in southern Colombia. The FARC and paramilitaries both remain active. Also disheartening is the general failure of crop substitution programs, which were intended to provide incentives not to grow coca.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Latino immigration to Charlotte

For anyone interested, I've posted a research summary of my work this past academic year on Latino immigration to Charlotte. It just has some of the highlights, as I work slowly but steadily on academic articles.


U.S.-Venezuelan trade

The NYT has an interesting look at U.S.-Venezuelan trade. Despite the anti-capitalist, anti-U.S. rhetoric, trade (even non-oil) has increased.

I found the following most remarkable:

With 10 offices and 1,000 employees in Venezuela, Halliburton recently won a contract to assist Petrozuata, a venture between Venezuela’s national oil company and ConocoPhillips, in extracting oil from fields in eastern Venezuela.

So the company that has become the symbol of the Bush administration is not only alive and well in Venezuela, but it is getting new contracts. Although oil companies have been hit in some ways (as has Microsoft), other multinationals like Mastercard, GM, and Ford are making good profits. It reminds me of the recent photos of Fidel Castro, lounging in an Adidas outfit.

Both the United States and capitalism generate fascinating love-hate relationships. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t live without ‘em.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

AMLO's apogee?

I’ve written about trying to figure out the perceptions and effects of AMLO’s protests. It is such a sensitive topic that it often seems difficult to consider objectively. Boz has some interesting numbers showing that although a majority of people in Mexico City believe fraud occurred and a recount should be made, over two-thirds think the protests should stop. (I haven’t seen nationwide numbers—this seems to be such a Mexico City-centric issue).

Meanwhile, Michelle points to conflict between the police and PRD supporters. Hardly the violence constantly predicted in the U.S. media, but still a potential sign of nerves fraying. Vivir Latino notes charges that AMLO opponents are infiltrating the protests in order to spark more conflict.

We continue to have protests blocking banks and government buildings (and previously some tollbooths as well). Ricardo summarizes AMLO’s plans, and how protests will consciously overlap with national celebrations hosted by the president.

I can’t help but get the feeling that AMLO has nowhere to go but down. I don’t see the depth of outcry as sufficient to sustain this scale of protests, and it is quite likely that people will increasingly get tired of them. I suppose, though, that such protests could remain a permanent fixture in Mexico City, very likely in diminished numbers. But at what cost for the PRD?


Monday, August 14, 2006

Another Fidel photo

Via Poliblog: a photo of Fidel (in hospital bed), Hugo, and Raúl, along with a not-very-good sketch of Fidel. It is a bit bizarre to see these three, the most hated Latin Americans for the U.S. government, goofing around with big grins.


Alfredo Stroessner

Alfredo Stroessner is in intensive care. The former dictator of Paraguay is 93 and lives in Brazil. I must admit I didn’t realize he was still alive.

When I teach courses on Latin America, I often get “Where are they now?” questions, and I think it would be interesting to look at where ousted dictators go, and why they end up in certain places. Stroessner was overthrown in 1989, at which time the new Paraguayan government requested that he be granted asylum in Brazil. Brazil gave him temporary asylum, which eventually became permanent. My guess is that the decision was made simply to avoid more instability, since Brazil shares a border.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

Remembering in Argentina

From Jeff's blog on Buenos Aires--two posts on how the disappeared have not disappeared from the public consciousness. There are posters with photos of people who were kidnapped, as well as another demanding justice for Julián the Turk, responsible for some of the more truly disgusting human rights abuses during the dictatorship.


Photos of Fidel

Via the Associated Press: a Cuban youth paper, Juventud Rebelde, has published photos of Fidel. Several things immediately struck me.

First, he is wearing an Adidas outfit. For a Communist, how weird is that?

Second, he has also clearly invested in Grecian Formula.

Third, if these photos are real, then he's looking pretty good.

Fourth, the state clearly plows a lot of money into this website, which is slick.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

New travel rules

Today we get to see the new travel rules in action. From my sister-in-law, who flew with kids yesterday, we learned that you can bring a peanut butter sandwich, but not PBJ. You can bring juice for kids, but then have to drink some to prove it is not an explosive. We have conflicting reports about whether you can buy a drink in the terminal and bring it on board, and that may depend on the specific person you deal with.

Before long, everyone will just be forced to board wearing only a loincloth.


Friday, August 11, 2006

Padre fan

This fan (my daughter Julia, at the game on Sunday) obviously isn't happy with the quality of play, though she did like the nachos. We managed to beat the Nationals in the 10th, but have lost every game since then. The Dodgers are now in first by a half game.


Thursday, August 10, 2006

Important Argentina News

Via Vivir Latino: Apparently vasectomies are illegal in Argentina, but a man with 37 children is petitioning to get one.

According to, the man works as a painter, and doesn't have the money to buy contraceptives because he says that "buying a box of condoms would be mean 'leaving his family without a kilo of sugar'". He also says he cannot control himself to abstain when he falls in love with a woman, and that he lived for 14 years with three wives under the same roof.

Here's what I don't get. Vasectomies are illegal in Argentina, but condoms and polygamy are perfectly fine?


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cuba and immigration

After the news of Fidel's illness, various members of the U.S. government made a point of saying that Cubans should refrain from trying to make their way to the U.S., fearing the type of mass movement that has happened several times in the past (Mariel being the most famous).

But now there is news that the administration will soon ease up on the infamous "wet foot, dry foot" policy, which makes asylum a snap if you make shore, but difficult if you're caught in the water. The change will be to make the latter easier.

I am not here to defend "wet foot, dry foot"(which is a bizarre policy) but it seems to me that if you don't want people to start taking that very dangerous route to Florida, then this is not the time to broadcast that if you take the trek, the U.S. will more likely let you stay.


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Baseball under the sun

As longtime Padres announcer Jerry Coleman would say, today is "baseball under the sun." We're heading to Petco Park in a few hours, and got lucky because we'll get to see Jake Peavy (against Livan Hernandez of the Nationals). I really like Peavy, though this season has been horrible--there is all kinds of speculation, much of which centers on his participation in the World Baseball Classic.

Even better, it is "kids run the bases" day, so my kids and their cousins will go down on the field after the game. This dad/uncle also plans on being down there.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Decision on Mexican election

Sometime today, the Tribunal will make its decision. According to Milenio there are three options:

1. Call for a ballot by ballot recount
2. Only recount disputed ballot boxes
3. Reject AMLO's petition

Of course, AMLO has said he will only accept the first option. The tent protest was meant to pressure the Tribunal to choose that option, which would then avoid the million dollar question: what happens if it is 2 or 3?


Friday, August 04, 2006

More on Raúl

Today Granma is making a big point about Raúl's leadership qualities, with a story about his role in the attack on the Moncada barracks in 1953. How he assumed a leadership role because he thought Fidel had been killed, with a quote that he was just a "simple soldier" doing his duty. Maybe they figure Raúl needs a little public grooming before he makes his entrance.


Mexico protests

As my previous posts have shown, I am interested in the very different perceptions of the AMLO protests. On the one hand, for example, the BBC says AMLO supporters were "digging in." CNN has news of how the protests blocked the stock exchange. On the other hand, Ricardo's Blog reports from Mexico City that the tents are largely empty. I'd love to see polls that might shed some light on the popular reaction to the protests, and some estimates on the current number of people participating in the tent protests.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tony Montana

Is it a coincidence that now, just as uncertainty about Cuba is high, AMC is showing Scarface, the ultimate "crazed Cuban immigrant" movie?



The only update I've seen so far on Fidel is that Ricardo Alarcón (president of the Cuban National Assembly) told NPR yesterday that Fidel would not return to power for “some weeks.”

Raúl has remained out of sight, which of course fuels even more rumors (like he is busy planning Fidel’s funeral). I think we need to keep applying Occam’s razor, meaning the most plausible explanation will usually be the least convoluted. With this in mind, I actually agree with Roger Noriega (probably for the first time ever) when he speculated about Raúl:

"He's probably being careful not to be dramatic in asserting himself as a new leader," Noriega said.

However, if Fidel will be out for weeks, Raúl will need to show himself before long, or people will really start getting nervous.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Viva Castro o no?

Rumors are just flying around about Castro. To go right to the horse’s mouth, so to speak, I went to Granma (the official state news organization) this morning but it had no updates at all. Instead, we get bits of news from travelers and dissidents. They report that there may be troop movements in Cuba, though this is not terribly surprising, since this is obviously a time when uprisings would be most expected and so the state will likely crack down even more on any signs of dissent.

The Cuban government released a statement in Castro’s name:

“The most I can say is that the situation will remain stable for many days before a verdict can be given,” the statement said. “In spirits, I find myself perfectly fine. The important thing is that the country is running perfectly well. The country is prepared for its defense by the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the people. Our compatriots will know everything at the appropriate time.”

Although many news reports label this statement as cryptic, I see it as fairly clear cut. He had major surgery, the outcome of which is always dicey for an almost 80 year old, Raúl is in charge, and we’ll tell you when there is more news.

Update: Later in the morning, Granma did release the full statement here.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

More on the AMLO protests

Following up on yesterday’s story about AMLO’s supporters in Mexico City, I am trying to figure out exactly how much life has been disrupted. There are now tents set up by AMLO supporters, and traffic is being affected.

The NYT headline says the capital is “paralyzed” and that tempers are “flaring.” The syndicated article in the Miami Herald says the entire city has been “brought to a halt.” It also includes the following, which is cut and pasted into every single article about AMLO:

While there've been no serious incidents so far, fears have grown that the protests could lead to violence as frustrations grow on both sides of the election dispute.

The L.A. Times is less dramatic:

City traffic snarled and business owners complained, but there was little trouble as hundreds of protesters made camp on the central square

According to Milenio, the head of transport in Mexico City said 200,000 people were affected, and that people should give themselves an extra 20-30 minutes to use Avenida Reforma. This is serious, but does not sound as dire as the U.S. media, yet the PRD is in charge in the D.F., so would naturally downplay it.

Is this going to seriously hurt the economy and cause violence? Or is it a peaceful protest that the media loves to portray as leftist agitation?


The Big Fidel News

Fidel Castro is having intestinal surgery (apparently he has bleeding as a result of the stress of recent trips) and so has temporarily ceded power to his brother Raúl. The Latin Americanist has a good collection of links to different news sources as they’ve sought to interpret this. There have been interesting signs for a while.

I think it’s important to distinguish between Fidel being dead (rumors of which constantly abound--blogs spread them even further and faster) and being sick. He may recover from his surgery and we go back to "normal" though of course major surgery when you’re almost 80 is no laughing matter.

But there are so many unknowns. Raúl is not viewed as a strong leader—could this spark a power struggle? Who would line up where? I will watch with what I can only call morbid fascination. I say “morbid” because even if Fidel dies, the Cuban people are in for a very difficult ride, as the Communist Party, the Cuban military, the Bush administration, and Miami exiles all pursue their own interests. Shoot, Hugo Chávez might even get into the mix.


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