The other day I expressed surprise that Hugo Chavez had not spoken with Castro since he decided to leave public life. A friend who monitors Latin American politics suggested that the reason Chavez and Castro had not spoken might be that the two leaders are not as close as they once appeared. Cue the news today:
Nevertheless Fidel Castro's brother is quoted saying that Brazil "is a far more convenient associate than Venezuela's Chavez", for the transition period... The Folha de Sao Paulo piece based on data allegedly disclosed by members of the Brazilian government delegation that visited Cuba with the Brazilian president, says that Raul also requested Lula da Silva to convince United States to end the economic embargo dating back to 1962, and which President Bush has made even stricter... "In the words of one of the ministers, Brazil is one of few countries in the world capable of having a dialogue with the Cuban regime, with Chavez and with the US government". Besides "he's far more useful for that purpose than the conflicting Chavez who is at loggerheads with United States and Colombia".
Raul Castro must recognize that the U.S. embargo is unlikely to be lifted without some sort of real change in Havana. The Bush administration has certainly been clear that Fidel's departure alone means nothing; substantive reforms must follow. Would Raul contemplate reforms? This also demonstrates how Chavez's star is waning in Latin America: even the Cuban government views him as toxic.
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