Tuesday, January 16, 2007

New developments from out here in the badlands west of the Besós:

El Pais is reporting that Fidel is in "very serious" condition with diverticulitis, which is apparently what that Spanish doctor, whose salary we all pay, went over to treat him for. He's reportedly had three operations.

El Pais didn't mention that Miguel Valdés Tamayo, one of the 75 Cuban dissidents jailed in 2003, died last Wednesday at age 50 in a Havana hospital after suffering two heart attacks. He was prohibited from leaving Cuba in order to seek medical treatment abroad. Valdés Tamayo, by the way, was an Afro-Cuban with hundreds of years of ancestral heritage in the country, while Castro is a second-generation immigrant middle-class white boy from Spain. Valdés Tamayo's father might have worked on Fidel's father's plantation.

I would say El Pais is likely to be a credible source on the Castro story, since it's the unofficial organ of the Spanish Socialist Party, which has good relations with the Castro government. If El Pais is reporting that El Comandante has taken a turn for the worse, it's likely true.

There was an article in La Vanguardia a few days ago which rather stridently said that the Cuban exiles should be excluded from having any voice in what happens to Cuba after Fidel. Dude, those people either are Cuban citizens or would be if not for Castro's dictatorship, so I don't quite see how they either should or can be kept out.

For some reason (probably leftist indoctrination in the schools and media), around here public opinion is very strongly against the Cuban exiles, especially among those living in Florida. They are portrayed as Fascist mafiosi, not just the few who are shady--and among any group of people, a few are going to be shady no matter what. It was claimed around here that the Cuban-Americans were responsible for Bush's victory in 2000, because most of them vote Republican, and Bush won Florida by only a few thousand votes. That's reductionism, of course; you could equally well make that argument about any group that tends Republican.

In Parliament, Zapatero and Rajoy had a big fight about what to do about ETA. Rajoy was very harsh, blasting Zap for negotiating with the terrorists, and he had a point. However, politically I'm not sure Rajoy's hard line is going to play well with the center, unless the Barajas bombing has moved the center toward the hard line. Rajoy's biggest weakness is that most non-PP voters see him, and especially the Zaplana-Acebes wing of the party, as mean and nasty. Zap's biggest weakness is that most non-PSOE voters see him as a weakling and a wimp.

Zap's appearance in Parliament didn't help anything. He seems bewildered. He thought he could trust ETA and they betrayed him, and now he doesn't know what to do. Rajoy nailed him to the wall, saying, "If you don't obey them, they'll commit bombings, and if there aren't any bombings, it's because you've given in." Zap wasn't able to point out the bad logic here--that is, he should have said that he now understands that ETA would commit bombings no matter who was prime minister, and that a lack of bombings might very well mean that state security has the terrorist gangsters up against the ropes. He didn't. Instead he demanded that Rajoy take back what he had said, and Rajoy of course refused.

Local big stink: They've been digging a tunnel along the route of the AVE, the high-speed train that is supposed to run from Madrid through Barcelona to the French border, in the suburbs directly southwest of the city. Poorly-constructed buildings in places like El Prat de Llobregat have begun to develop cracks. This is worrying, and shows an unfortunate lack of planning, since one of the first things they should have done is consider the effects of this massive construction project on its environment. Oh, well, maybe it'll turn into an excuse to tear down some crappy old buildings and put up some decent ones.

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