“Is He Dead Yet?”

I heard on the radio in Vegas that a Cuban restaurant there is offering a free mojito to anyone who walks in and asks, “Is he dead yet?” (sorry, Vegas drinkers, but I don’t remember the name of the place). From reading this rather facinating analysis, I’m guessing the answer is “yes.”

[T]he events to date in Cuba strongly suggest that a fierce internal struggle is now going on and that Raul’s absence from the airwaves is ample evidence that he is definitely not in control and cannot muster even a temporary consensus.

Politics in dictatorships rely heavily on the nuances of public appearances to demonstrate who has power and who doesn’t, information that is crucial to provide direction for those who are part of the ruling system but not part of the inner circles of power. Dictatorships require a public face of unchallengeable unity and cannot withstand public displays of infighting. For that reason, the #1 priority for any would-be successor are fawning public appearances and blanket media coverage focused on him in order to demonstrate to all that he has emerged as the unchallenged center of power. It is all orchestrated, and none of it is “news.” If others share the stage, this means that the struggle is continuing but is stalemated and a public face of collective unity is necessary to prevent the regime from collapsing for lack of someone in control. But eventually there must be a Number 1.

Sometimes the struggle is over quickly – Gorbachev quickly solidified his preeminence after the death of the puppet Chernenko who was a nonentity used as a place-holder by the competing power brokers while they carried on their internal battle. After Gorbachev’s emergence, the media switched to all-Gorbachev all the time. Similarly, Hua Guo-feng (remember him? No one does) was Mao’s appointed heir, and his appearances and utterances blanketed the airwaves, newspapers, etc. But he was quickly shoved aside by Deng Xiaoping who managed to organize a stable coalition behind him and emerge triumphant in the inner circle, then quickly and publicly threw out and humiliated the Gang of Four, his principal opponents. Appearances in the media tracked closely the rise and fall of this power struggle.

Read the whole thing. And of course, whenever the answer is “yes,” it’ll be not a half-century too soon.

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26 Responses to ““Is He Dead Yet?””

  1. MMDeuce Says:

    According to this it’s the Spirit of Cuba and the promotion ends Friday (today)

    http://www.reviewjournal.com/lvrj_home/2006/Aug-02-Wed-2006/news/8830700.html

  2. Grokodile Says:

    Sometimes I demonstrate my geekery by finding things like this fascinating.

    If crisis equals opportunity, there is a lot of opportunity on the planet right now.

  3. jag Says:

    The pig is either dead or totally incapacitated (with death a certainty).

    Raul’s having problems otherwise he’d be up front, all around and strutting in his highest glory.

    I’d love to think that this is the end of the whole, disgusting, Communist chapter in Cuba but I’m afraid ruthlessness abounds in Havana and the silence doesn’t signal a “revolution” as much as it means some murderers are vying to subvert more established murderers.

  4. beloml Says:

    Still, we’ve heard more from Castro in the last couple of weeks than we have from Steve . . .

  5. johnny Says:

    When you ask “Is he dead yet?” I assume you’re referring to Steve. Is he resting comfortably somewhere? Is Will simply the temporary public face of a titanic behind-the-blog power play? Will a dancing armadillo play a role? And what would Peggy Noonan say? Am I drunk? If you answered yes to all of these, go read The Retropolitan.

  6. Mr. Lion Says:

    I wonder if the Bart Simpson approach would work.

    Is he dead yet?
    Is he dead yet?
    Is he dead yet?
    Is he dead yet?

    Mmmm. Mojitos.

  7. richard mcenroe Says:

    Let’s not get out hopes up too soon.

    Alternative:

    Castro ain’t dead. Raul is staying out of sight because he knows that even being thought to be establishing a rival cult of personality is a death sentence, and he’s worried the gahstly revenant might pull through, so is playing it safe.

  8. Tim P Says:

    Hmm.

    Steve’s picture is still on the right sidebar.

    Yet all postings have been signed by Will. A subtle & nuanced change.

    Various unnamed sources have disclosed that there is a titanic and vicious power struggle going on within the Vodkapire.

    Longtime ‘expert’ observers theorize that there may be a ‘VenomousInstaDillo’ troika emerging, establishing temporary control while the factions battle behind the scenes. Recent public pronouncements of trips to Vegas by noted agents hint at outside agitators being brought in, but in reality trips were being made to Kansas to shore up support by one of the factions battling for power.

    Other factions within Colorado have obtained restraining orders, but jurisdictional disputes still hamper their effective implementation.

    Curiouser and curiouser.

  9. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Tim P
    RE: Said Alice….

    “Curiouser and curiouser….”

    I’m curious about this literary project Stephen is working on.

    My neighbor just finished one such project. I’m looking forward to arguing it over fine scotch and tobacco when it comes out.

    Will Stephen do a special RMBB where we can all hurl our tomatoes at him over HIS effort?

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)
    [I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth… and it did not get into print until, fifty years later, [when] publishers would publish anything that had my name on it. — George Bernard Shaw]

  10. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Stephen Green
    RE: Try NOT to Repeat History

    As 99 per cent of English authors and 100 per cent of American ones [authors] are just such imbeciles, managers and publishers make a practice of asking for every right the author possesses. — George Bernard Shaw

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  11. PatrickKelley Says:

    If Castro dies and there follows an intense power struggle leading to a civil war, or anything like the potential for that, you can look for a new wave, a flood, of Cuban immigrants over the coming years that will easily rival the numbers that are coming from Mexico. Sorry, I just don’t think I can find anything to crow about.

  12. Gary B Says:

    What happens in Cuba, stays in Cuba

  13. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Gary B
    RE: Yeah…

    “What happens in Cuba, stays in Cuba” — Gary B

    …except when it comes to (1) ICBMS and (2) long-range bomber airfields.

    Regards,

    Chuck(le)

  14. bgates Says:

    a flood, of Cuban immigrants over the coming years that will easily rival the numbers that are coming from Mexico. Well, there are 10 million Mexicans in the US, and 11 million Cubans in Cuba. So your prediction requires everyone from Cuba to come over, and immigration from Mexico to stop.

  15. jon Says:

    It looks like we’ll soon see the full effects of our stupid embargo. Pretty soon there’ll be tens of thousands of American tourists plunking down millions of dollars at Belgian-owned casinos, French-owned hotels, German-owned spas, Dutch-run cruiseship ports, and Chinese-subsidized everything else.

    But at least a “free” Cuba will get its cut, right?

  16. PatrickKelley Says:

    bgates-I thought there were more people in Cuba than that. Still, the percentages would rival Mexico at least, so it’s still not good.

    jon-Do you realy feel sorry for the American hotel industry? I don’t. I do feel sorry for the Cuban people though, if it weren’t for our embargo at least we’d have a diplomatic presence on the island, a foot in the door, and at least a better than passing chance to influence events for the better.

    When Castro goes, Raoul can’t be too awful far behind, and then things are going to disintegrate into chaos. And a lot of the Cuban Americans here are going to be the ones fanning the flames, and then demanding the US government put out the fire.

  17. jon Says:

    I don’t really feel sorry for the US hotel industry (aside: is there such a thing? other than Motel 6, I mean.) I just see a lot of wasted years when we could have had American citizens on the ground in Cuba doing what we do best: spend money and spread our way of life (which isn’t 100% positive, but at least shows our good side).

    Instead, for forty-plus years, the Cuban government has had a monopoly on their nation’s view of Americans. There is going to be a lot of PR work needed to overcome all those Reagan soundbites and clips of Miami radicals.

    The embargo could be argued for as a way to keep money from Fidel, but it can also be argued that it made Fidel’s hold of power easier. I have faith that American citizens spending money can have more positive effects than the potential negatives of the situation. Even in places such as Myanmar, Iran and North Korea.

  18. Augurwell Says:

    I think this is all the mobs’ fault, after Elliot Ness and the LADP kicked them out of the country they all went to Cuba.

  19. Au Says:


    Afterburner Thought: ‘Is he dead yet ?’
    ~

  20. bgates Says:

    jon – there have been lots of American citizens on the ground in France for the past 50 years. They don’t like us (not that that bothers me, but it suggests American presence doesn’t have to lead to pro-American sentiment.) Meanwhile, Eastern Europe does support us, and supposedly the Iranian public has a huge crush on us, and Americans are thin on the ground in both.

    You know, internationalists are horrified by isolationists because they want to engage the world and win them over. I wonder if isolationists could make headway by pointing out that the world loves us most when we’re not around.

  21. jon Says:

    Bgates: I was in France ten years ago, and got the same warm response to my presence that I have gotten in England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and California. People everywhere have a love/hate relationship with tourists.

    France doesn’t dislike America. The French don’t like the current American administration. There’s a big difference between the two, and it’s foolish to insist that the French themselves can’t figure it out.

    As for lots of Americans “on the ground in France for the past 50 years”, try 200+ years. We’ve always been in France, and they’ve never asked us to leave in droves. Plus a country that puts up with Ambassador Benjamin Franklin can’t be all bad.

    As for Eastern Europe and Iran (and France, too): tourist dollars and support can be separated. Chart the tourist money spent and pro-Administration sentiments in San Francisco and Roanoke and I bet you’ll see a pattern, but it doesn’t mean a lot.

    I’m not saying that letting our tourists spend freely will free the world, but I do believe that we the people best represent our country.

  22. JD Says:

    jon said: “France doesn’t dislike America.

    In that you are correct, but only partially, my good sir. In fact, fwance HATES America. They hate the fact that we have bailed their asses out twice in the 20th Century from their own gallic political and military ineptitude.

    Moreover, fwance hates anything that isn’t fwench, primarily because it suffers from the extreme fault of not being fwench. Ever since the “lingua franca” effectively became English because of the size of the U.S. economy, fwance has been in an ever-loving political and cultural snit.

    As to Cuba – my Spidey Sense is telling me that anyone looking for Raul Castro should not be looking in Havana, but rather in a rather dark room in Caracas, awaiting the outcome of whether or not Tio Fidelito emerges Al-Davis-like from the tomb. Just my $0.02.

  23. jon Says:

    I don’t understand the Raul-Castro-is-afraid-of-looking-like-the-next-leader meme. Didn’t Fidel appoint him?

    I think Raul’s camera-shy nature might have more to do with the fact that Dennis Kucinich would beat him in a charisma showdown than any fear of a Stalinist headshot.

  24. rosignol Says:

    […] if it weren’t for our embargo at least we’d have a diplomatic presence on the island, a foot in the door, and at least a better than passing chance to influence events for the better.
    -PatrickKelley

    We do have a diplomatic presence on the island. It’s called an ‘Interests Section’ instead of an Embassy, but the basic functions are the same.

    You know, internationalists are horrified by isolationists because they want to engage the world and win them over. I wonder if isolationists could make headway by pointing out that the world loves us most when we’re not around.
    -bgates

    It’s funny because it’s true.

  25. ErikZ Says:

    “France doesn’t dislike America. The French don’t like the current American administration. There’s a big difference between the two, and it’s foolish to insist that the French themselves can’t figure it out.”

    I think you can’t tell if you’re being loved for your wallet.

  26. bud Says:

    I still think that the big winner (when the US normalizes relations with Cuba – obviously post-Fidel) is going to be Barrett-Jackson.

    There’s literally *tons* of late ’40s to mid ’50s operational autos there.

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