Wednesday, April 4, 2007

La Alborada Disses Shannon

The following from the newsletter of the Cuban American Alliance Education Fund is a skeptical interpretation of State Department comments that can be found, along with my more optimistic assessment at

He's Back

La Alborada - March 29

Yes, we mean Fidel. Yesterday's Granma published an article by him on the US inititative to increase the production of ethanol as a substitute for gasoline. He warned of the consequences for poor countries of abandoning food production to raise crops for ethanol in order to allow the rich countries to maintain their level of energy consumption.

The news was on Internet immediately. Some agencies reported the fact of the article, without the text; others published the text, or a contextualized summary of it; and others tried mockingly to downplay it. Still, it's there, evidence that Fidel's health continues to improve, as various Cuban officials have been saying. Evo Morales predicted that he might be seen in public in April.

That is the message, as much as the observations about energy and its sources.

Different audiences will receive it differently. President Bush's commission for annexation, in particular, will see in it a way to explain its total failure to anticipate the peaceful transfer of power that is taking place on the island. Its 2006 report predicted confidently that upon "Fidel Castro's incapacitation, death, or ouster" there would be civil disturbances and uprisings calling for an intervention by the US. The report conjured up Civil War images of desolation like those in Gone with the Wind, with smoke rising from the fields and wounded soldiers and beggars wandering aimlessly about. In this narrative, the North again was called upon to lead a Reconstruction of the South, and it accepted nobly.

Nothing of the sort happened, despite the very obvious incapacitation of the Cuban president. The experts on the Commission, including Condoleeza Rice, showed that they knew very little about Cuba. Their prediction hardly touched reality; their detailed and expensive plans were irrelevant.

After having revealed that Fidel had terminal cancer (which he did not) and repeatedly declaring his imminent death (some even insinuated that he might no longer be alive), they realized that such announcements only undermined the premises of the commission’s report. If all that was true, why were the Cubans not rising up and not calling on the US to intervene?

As the Cuban leader's heath improved, they saw the plausible way out: the problem was that Fidel's incapacitation came short of death, and, in fact, he was not really incapacitated! If that had been the case, then the prediction would have been true. A week ago, a leading State Department official declared that Fidel was still in charge. The headline for a number of news agencies was "U.S. recognizes that Castro continues to exert control over Cuba." The policy was right all along, was the implication. It's just that the facts had been misperceived, because Cuba is "opaque."

The official, Thomas Shannon, specified that "the transfer of power had occurred in terms of managing day-to-day government" but that the new leadership was "unable to define itself independent of Fidel Castro." He tried to make this very clear: "I think we're kind of in this period of almost suspended animation, that there is expectation of change in Cuba but it's not happening, and it's not happening because Fidel Castro is not a day-to-day presence, but he's still a controlling presence."

So there we have it: Kind of in a period of almost-suspended animation, change is still expected but it's not happening because Fidel is not there but he's in control.

Talk about opaque. That's not clear enough to represent an official assessment, let alone justify a foreign policy.

It sounds like the Administration is back to hoping for, or planning for--and this time specifically--death or ouster. But, in the meantime, it will continue its failed and counterproductive policy of 45 years, never mind the public opinion polls, the restive Congress and governors, the disaffected agro-industrial and other commercial interests, and the UN General Assembly.

Because, who knows, maybe something will kind of fall into place sometime.

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