29 April 2008

The "Reforms" Du Jour

Raúl Catro said yesterday at a meeting of Cuba’s Communist Party that his brother’s provisional proclamation whereby the elder distributed his many hats to Raúl and six others was no longer in place.

Fidel, who is still the First Secretary of the Cuban Communist party, hasn’t responded to his deposing on his blog “Reflecciones Del Compañero Fidel.” That gives me something to look forward to. It’s always fun to read what the ghost writers write on behalf of the ghost. I have really come to appreciate their sense of irony and sarcasm.

Raúl also called for a party Congress in late 2009. I am assuming that Fidel, if he makes it to late 2009, will be replaced by Raúl, if he makes it to late 2009 at the Party Congres, if the party makes it to late 2009.

Raúl also “announced a new seven-member executive committee would preside over the all-powerful Political Bureau”. The committee consists of the same geriatric club that now fills the Vice-President positions on the Council of State. They average 70 yrs, and that's with Lage, virtually a babe in the woods, in there driving the average down.

All the Vice Presidents of the Council of State were selected by Fidel in his July 31, 2006 to carry out one of his many responsibilities. In addition, the minister of public Health, José Ramón Balaguer Cabrera was designated by the then tyrant to perform his duties “as the principal instigator of the National and International Public Health Program.” Balaguer is still the Health minister but Raúl did not say who would be instigating the National and International Health Program. Pffft. So no real changes in the sun dried faces.

Effectively, Raúl has cut out a layer on the regime’s “org chart”. He’s either got the party running the Council of State or he’s got the Council of State running the party’s politburo. I’m not sure which. I am not a Stalinist and I don’t understand communist smoke and mirror organizations. But I do know that Raul’s people are running the Army, The Council of State and the Party which means he gets the biggest pork chop at the picnic.

So why have the meeting and the congress and pre determined elections? Well, it keeps everybody busy, for one.

And it gives the Reuter’s Mark Franks the opportunity to proclaim:

Cuban President Raul Castro has reorganized the Communist Party's leadership and consolidated his power as he pushes through reforms two months after succeeding his ailing brother Fidel Castro.

Wow! Impressive! Raúl pushing reforms!
Raúl has mastered the art of making busywork look important and has conquered inertia by making a country stuck in reverse appear like its moving at warp speed.

25 April 2008

The more things stay the same….

Before this week, the previous few weeks brought news of changes in Cuba.

The cynics screamed, the lovers cried, and the commies dreamed.

This week started with the brutal breakup of a peaceful sit-in by the Ladies In White and continued with Fidel warning the Cuban people that he was still making decisions and at the risk of state-sponsored psychological terrorism, he would continue to make the tough decisions to ensure that the free market system would never return to Cuba.

And it ended with Archbishop Ortega settling for the crumbs that the regime throws his way.

Not a word was spoken. The church bells all were broken. And the three men I admire most: The father, son, and the holy ghost, They caught the last train for the coast.

Some continue to be optimistic about the future.

I drove my Chevy to the levee singing that’ll be the day that I die.

23 April 2008

Slow Postings...

I apologize to the readers of this blog for not posting too much stuff in the last couple of days.

Being an unabashed tree hugger, I spent the day yesterday celebrating Earth Day.

We had meetings about what to do to stop Global Warming. It may not be a big deal to you that live in high elevations, but I’m like ½ and inch over sea level here in the Sunshine state.

According to a report in yesterday’s Miami Herald, well, we’re doomed. South Florida will be part of the Gulf of Mexico very soon:

Hal Wanless, a University of Miami geology professor who has studied sea-level rise in South Florida for decades, understands the threat seems daunting. His maps show that at six feet, a level he considers likely by 2100, only a strip of ancient limestone ridge several miles from the coast would remain high and dry.

So we had meetings and decided that as an alternative to commuting in carbon exhaust spewing cars, we would start to commute in Hippity Hop Balls.

21 April 2008

Histrory Re-Lived

Rice is in the news.

The price of rice is skyrocketing in world markets, creating a panic.

So, Raúl Castro in another example of his now famous pragmatism, has decided to re-think Cuba’s rice importing policy and shift to domestically grown supplies. One can imagine his older half brother ordering the Cuban people to re-sist rather than re-think and ordering them not to ever consume any of that “white capitalist grain that the Empire is using as a weapon to bring the brave and glorious people of Cuba to their knees” or some nonsense like that and they would get the short end of the stick and go hungry.

According to this article, before the USSR imploded, Cuba use to produce up to 260,000 tons of consumable rice.


Decapitalization, plague and drought followed.

That means Fidel got involved.

Cuba has been importing about 500,000 tons a year from Viet Nam.

So now while the re-thinking, re-planting, re-structuring goes on, the Cuban people are about 500,000 tons short of the Cuban staple and have no rice to put in the new electric rice cookers that they are now allowed to purchase. In other words, Cubans will re-get (and regret) the short end of the stick and go re-hungry. A more pragmatic re-hunger courtesy of Re-Castro.

18 April 2008

Benedict Comes To America

My thoughts on the Vatican's Cuba diplomacy over at Babalu.

Hopefully I'll wind up in a different circle of Hell than the Castros.

17 April 2008

No Space for Dreams

Last week, April 10 to be exact, a group of 18 Cuban dissidents announced, drowned out by the din of DVD’s, electric rice cookers and cell phones flying off the shelves, that they had created an "Agenda for the Transition":

"We are convinced that the process of transition that is approaching in Cuba should take place in an atmosphere of national reconciliation,'' said Martha Beatriz Roque, who with Vladimiro Roca directs the new organization.

Among the other members are Elizardo Sánchez, René Gómez Manzano, Félix Bonne Carcasés, Guillermo Fariñas, Jorge Luis García Pérez (Antúnez) and Francisco Chaviano and Héctor Palacios. Other dissidents, like Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, did not answer an invitation to join the effort.

Ms. Roque admitted that the dissidents “aren’t completely prepared” for the transition, but its more prepared than the opposition in other countries and better prepared than the regime.
Yesterday, Granma, the official propaganda rag of the regime said “niet” to any possibility of any kind of reconciliation, national or not, with the Cuban dissidents.:
"There is no space for the dreams of adversaries, internal mercenaries and fifth columnists," an editorial in the ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma

"There will be a more perfect socialism sustained and defended by a united people led by Fidel, Raul and the party's leadership," it said.

Still, the word in Miami is that the Havana regime is about to announce the easing of travel restrictions-doing away with the white card. Yesterday, I commented on this blog that I thought that pulling that card might be a difficult trick for Raul because it may just bring the house of cards that is the Cuban regime tumbling down.

Granma sensed that Miami’s intransigent crowd would be ready with the “house of cards” analogy and had this pre-emptive response:

The Granma editorial scoffed at the conference as the work of "mafiosos" and alleged it was an attempt to subvert the Cuban government. "The Cuban Revolution is not a castle made of cards," the editorial stated, "but an impregnable fortress."

Scary. And my life partner says I'm paranoid.

16 April 2008

Raul’s Card Tricks

I have taken to calling Raul the non-magician because he once warned the Cuban people not to expect the regime to solve their problems quickly because “they weren’t magicians.”

But for a non-magician, as I have said, he has put on quite a magic show- a show of illusions and smoke and mirrors-for the world to see.

His slight of hand in doing away with certain restrictions on the Cuban people have been well received by the audience.

Most of his tricks so far have been simple card tricks, where he managed to pull an ace out of his sleeve or guess a marked card.

But soon, he may have to cut a new deck and that’s where it’s going to get interesting.

It looks like the next card Raul is going to pull is the dreaded white card which is what Cubans call the regime's written permission to travel outside of Cuba-an “exit visa.”

Pedro Anibal Riera Escalante made the request to parliament on Tuesday. Expectations are high that President Raúl Castro's government may drop the travel requirements.

This card is a tough card to pull.

Pulling it could very well bring the whole house of cards down.

15 April 2008

Reading Between The Paragraphs

One of the things that I find really insulting is those folks that want to travel to the “quaint” land stuck in past we call Cuba before they “ruin” it with McDonald’s and Starbucks.

But can you imagine living in Cuba, regardless of your political views and having these tourist travel to your home and gawk at you as if you were some kind of exhibit of a land stuck in the fifties?

Today, will be a day I remember because not only is it tax day, but it’s also the day that I found common ground with a communist Cuban brother, Enrique Ubieta Gómez, who writes for Juventud Rebelde who comments just about this subject. I’m purpose editing the mandatory defenses to the revolution conspicuously written in their own stand-alone paragraphs to prove that this piece can stand on its own and make a statement without the imposed ideological slant.

On Friday, as I travelled through the streets of Central Havana heading towards Havana’s Convention Center, where the closing ceremony of the Seventh Congress of UNEAC (National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba) would take place, I saw —as usual— several tourists taking pictures standing beside the “Big almonds” (American cars from the 1950s).

Some tourism promoters followed the market logic and created a taxi company charging in hard currency. This allowed tourists to realize a most unusual dream: to escape the engulfing present in a time-machine that takes them through a city that is frozen in its architectonic evolution. They are driven around in cars that were luxurious – four, five, or six decades ago.

Like characters in a Spielberg movie, the time-travelling tourists sample this mysterious island where there are still dinosaurs to offer proof of their discoveries. The pictures they take don't reveal that there are thousands of professionals in this city, or a similar amount of university students; or that there are no illiterate people among the passers-by, who are taped or filmed with video cameras; or that there are only five deaths per every a thousand newborns.

The same happened with music. An astute businessman assembled a wonderful group of vintage singers —in a country that has wonderful signers of all ages— and made them famous.

The music, cars, buildings, and a stubborn socialism —a “twentieth-century ideology” that has supposedly fallen into disuse— complemented each other allowing the tourist to live the past while in the present. Paradoxically, the symbols of socialism —a “Homeland or Death” billboard or the face of Che painted on a wall, or the scarf of a school uniform— were also photographed as parts of a “bygone” epoch. They were seen as superimposed images of passed times, like a post-modern pastiche.

The images represent a gold mine for some craftspeople, who sell serial paintings —in oils, wood or papier-mâché— of old cars and a few clichés of the now-disappeared vernacular theatre, which is performed in the middle of the street for the unsuspecting (or not) “Gallego” (Spaniard), or in a more up-dated version for any Italian.

In these days of UNEAC’s 7th congress, we have reflected about these and many other matters. I have been proud to be a Cuban intellectual, proud to have met with other writers and artists to share concerns and points of view about the spiritual life of the society we belong to, instead of speaking only about past literary, theatrical
or artistic tendencies.

Regarding the huge problems we are still facing, (Lage) said “they are the wounds of war, but of a war we have won.” It is a pity that those intoxicated visitors, victims of media manipulation, do not know how to look at the inside of the country, I mean, under its skin. It is sad to live without hope, without reasons to fight for a better world.

It's interesting, that as cubans, regarless of our potitics, we can agree that the tourist gawkers that travel to the quaint island that time forgot are "like the Spanish in America in the 16th century America, they look without seeing."

14 April 2008

Marx, Obama and Religion

One of the refreshing things about the Obama phenomenon is that he seemed to mark the resurgence of orator as candidate.

He, whether you agree with his message or not, embodied the inspiring politician able to reach, motivate and lead “the masses” with symbolic and inspiring oratory. John F. Kennedy meets Tony Roberts. Yes we can! (do for me what you won’t do for yourselves-) Vote!

For me, though, the more I learn about the guy, the redder he becomes- the more he reminds me of the communist rhetoric of my youth. It’s like someone is messing with the hue control on the TV.

Maybe the problem with Mr. O. is that he sees himself as a leader of the masses. If you’re part of the masses and you’re not hearing his call, well, obviously there must be something wrong with you. Obama doesn’t like that. But being the elitist that he is, he understands. You’re just clinging and resisting out of frustration.

“It’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

Although he stopped himself from calling the clingers “Gusanos”, worms, he clearly believes that there is some kind of psychological trauma that causes people not to agree with his populism meets class envy, neo socialist world view. Some kind of an ideological thought disorder. It’s not a big deal, really, nothing a little re-education can’t fix. He understands. All big brothers do.

In Cuba, you were just a plain old worthless Gusano and a criminal counterrevolutionary. Off you go to the work camps to get re-educated-end of story.

I know that sounds a bit paranoid but I’m not the only one that sees the color in Obama’s face and in his word getting redder.

Here’s an interesting, much more scholarly observation from Bill Krystol on the same Obama quote and its correlation to classic Marxist dogma:

… This sent me to Marx’s famous statement about religion in the introduction to his “Contribution to the Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”:

“Religious suffering is at the same time an expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the sentiment of a heartless world, and the soul of a soulless condition. It is the opium of the people.”

But it’s one thing for a German thinker to assert that “religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature.” It’s another thing for an American presidential candidate to claim that we “cling to ... religion” out of economic frustration.

And it’s a particularly odd claim for Barack Obama to make. After all, in his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, he emphasized with pride that blue-state Americans, too, “worship an awesome God.”…


Ok. So maybe I’m not totally nuts. Either that, or I, like Kristol, suffer from the trauma induced frustration that prevents us from seeing the world through the same pink colored eyeglasses that Obama does.

One of the things, perhaps the most important thing, I find despicable about Marxism is that it is a Godless religion. It is a religion in which there is no spirituality. Thus, everything is material. Men are not equal because the Creator made them equal-rights. They are equal because of the amount of possessions they have-egalitarianism.

And that’s why I find the Obama comment on religion insulting and beneath a man who is striving for the Presidency.

Seeking refuge in a higher power, regardless of my economic condition is my right-A God-given right and not a State given psychological disorder as Mr. Obama suggests.

11 April 2008

Forking The Pig

I don’t know about you, but as I read about the latest change du jour of the day coming from the Cuban regime, I start to get the impression, that although most of the changes are all about “gussying up a pig”, as Ruth pointed out the other day at 90 Miles Away, that its getting hot in the China’s caja and that the pig’s skin is turning into a crispy chicharron.

Every single one of those announced changes are meaningless propaganda ploys to siphon some cash from those who have it and make it appear to the outside world like they are making changes.

But they all represent a departure from the “revolution”. They are all tiny admissions that the tropical experiment in socialism has failed. They all amount to a white flag where the supposed egalitarian ideals of the revolution are surrendering to the realities of the free market. Time to stick a fork in that Puerco because it is done-and you’re not even going to need a knife.

Anyway, in the latest “change”, we find that Raúl, in all his pragmatism, has decided to do away with salary limits for Cuban workers. He’s doing away with the red wage ceiling.

"For the first time it is clearly and precisely stated that a salary does not have a limit, that the roof of a salary depends on productivity," economic commentator Ariel Terrero said.

Now, when I was a wee socialist trainee, socialism was described as a system where the individual would contribute to society according to his abilities and society would provide for the individual according to his needs - Imagine! If you substitute "Fidel" for "society" in the above definition, however, the true injustice of this nefarious system is exposed. Competition was considered capitalistic, bourgeois, evil and not egalitarian. Egalitarianism was the ideal. Eqalimisery was the result.
And for those that weren’t too motivated to contribute all they could for society, Fidel had a ready answer-“El que no trabaja, no come.” (if you don’t work, you don’t eat). And if that wasn’t enough of a motivator for you, well they had way more persuasive arguments.

Fast forward fifty years-thousands of dead Cubans, hundreds of thousands of separated families, millions of sorrows and an ocean of tears- if you could ever fast forward such things-and now they’re telling us we’ll, “salary depends on competition”. Le Ronca.

All that for nothing. They we’re wrong, made a mistake, the "exuberance of youth", the Yankees made them do it, blah, blah, blah. Wrong.

I guess those of us who didn’t like being a trained flea in Castro’s flea circus and were lucky enough to hop out, well, we were right all along.

And then, while enjoying a beer in the land of the free and the home of the brave, in the monument to individualism and competition, you read this:

INDIANAPOLIS (Reuters) - Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama
denounced huge pay packages for U.S. corporate chiefs on Friday…

…The first-term Illinois senator has introduced "say-on-pay" legislation that would give investors more of a voice in setting executive compensation packages.

He said the legislation needs to be approved immediately. He later acknowledged to reporters that getting the bill moving quickly in the Senate could be tough, although his spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said he would make it a priority if he is elected president in November.

Hmm. Just as the red pay cieling starts to go up in Cuba, it starts to come down in the US. It's like déjà vu all over again. Le Requete Ronca.

09 April 2008

The Refugee

Wa, war she's the refugee.
I see your face, I see you staring back at me.
Wa, war she is the refugee.
Her mama say one day she's gonna live in America.

In the morning she is waiting
Waiting for the ship to sail, sail away.

Wa, war her papa go to war.
He gonna fight but he don't know what for.
Wa, war her papa go to war.
Her mama say one day he's gonna come back from far away.

Oh help me
How can you help me?

In the evening
She is waiting
Waiting for her man to come
And take her by her hand
And take her to this promised land.

Wa, war she's a pretty face
But at the wrong time in the wrong place
Wa, war she's a pretty face
Her mama say one days she's gonna live in America.
Yeah, America.

Wa, war she is a refugee.
She coming back, she come and keep you company.
Wa, war she is a refugee.
Her mama say one day she's gonna live in America.

© U2 2008.

Fighting Change With Fire?

This morning I heard a blurb on the Radio that there had been a huge fire in “El Encanto” in the Cuban province of Camagüey. Cuban State Security was investigating the “suspicious” fire.

Later I saw that, freedom Fighter Aldo Rosado-Tuero is reporting on his site, Nuevo Accion, that a group called Nationalist Popular Movement is claiming responsibility for the fire that sadly took one life.

This is what happens when you play with fire as the regime is doing by trying to suck up as much of the “wealth” that Cubans with access to hard currency-most from remittances from abroad-have managed to accumulate.

Those Cubans with no hard currency connections and those who see right through Raúl’s smoke and mirrors were bound to have this kind of reaction to the regimes tired magic tricks.

You don’t tease a hungry dog with a piece of meat even if he’s chained.-(gee- a canine metaphor-now I’m in the bad company of Fiedler and Menendez)

I’m sure now we’re going to hear the “T” word pop up. I’m sure this incident will be portrayed in the official media as a terrorist act funded by the empire.

I hope that the free press uses its judgment to realize that this is not a terrorist act but an act of rebellion against injustice and oppression. It is no more a terrorist act than when there are urban riots in western democracies like the recent riots in France. These are just the actions of desperate people who have had enough….about 40 years ago.

08 April 2008

Victory At Last!

The Cuban Revolution, yes, the one that started 50 years ago and is still struggling to hit its stride, has won. So says Cuban Vice-President Carlos Lage:

"Double morality, prohibitions, a press that doesn't reflect our reality like we want, unwanted inequality, deteriorating infrastructure are all war wounds, but they are from a war we have won,"

I grew up hearing all about the triumphs of the revolution-there were so many! But those must have just been warm-ups up to now. Because now, they have really triumphed.

The revolution has won its ideological war against the US-brought the beast to its knees, they have. It triumphed against Cubans in exile who must have had a parade down la calle ocho waving white flags to surrender their dreams of decency and democracy.

Cuba has wounds, alright, deep, gaping wounds, but they were self inflicted and not by friendly fire either. They were caused by a madman who was hell bent on committing suicide by super-power and take the rest of “his family” with him in a final hail of bullets and fire. They are war wounds inflicted by Fidel Castro on his own people, in the name of an omnipotent and omnipresent yet indifferent enemy, to instill in the Cuban people the same hatred and nihilism that he felt.

So it’s time to “declare victory and go home” a-la Aiken. Only there’s no home to go to. The home has been destroyed, made ruins.

Fifty years of misery and struggle, of death and destruction, of suffering and separation, all for nothing, all to begin again, only now, at the bottom.

The script is being written as we watch. Saint Fidelis-who held the Northern Wolf at bay all those years, was forced to undertake radical and brutal measures to protect the holy city that was held in siege by the mighty empire-an empire whose only purpose was to destroy him for he was the heart and soul of his people. Some of the measures caused wounds and the ensuing blood and pain, but the empire forced him to take such radical and drastic measures.

But, the empire failed. Although the madman is no more, the empire didn’t vanquish him. He faded into a comfortable death bed-winning his final battle by successfully bequeathing his Kingdom and thus thwarting the empire’s plans.

Now that the war has been won, the reconstruction can begin in earnest-(hopefully not with an Argentinean Ernest), in baby steps, little by little, gadget by gadget.

Maybe in another fifty years or so…

Don’t get impatient. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.

04 April 2008

57 Channels (And Nothing On)

In today’s change du jour of the day…..(ahem)….Cubans get access to foreign TV with a new 24 hour channel.

The programming details haven’t been made available, but I’m assuming they’re going to buy innocuous novelas and talk shows to take the people’s mind off the matters at hand with a bit of the twentieth century 'opiate of the masses'. I know we’re in the twenty-first century, but I’m just trying to point out that TV is soooo last century….

Actually, it’s more of a case of “if you can’t beat them, join them” The great war against the illegal satellite dishes couldn’t be won. The Cubans are too clever and the system too corrupt to be able to eradicate them. So the regime has decided to compete (I know, the irony!) with the illicit dishes and its boring propagandist official TV and offer its own less threatening alternative.

After all, if the Cuban people are so bored with the official programming that they are willing to go through the expense and hassles that come with an illegal dish AND risk fines and incarceration to escape it, they’ll jump at chance of seeing free and legal somewhat entertaining programming and leave the dishes behind.

It’s a win-win for Raul. He limits the exposure to the siren song of western consumerism through the dishes and scores some points with the populace by providing some entertainment that he can control. And they can even run commercial to peddle....well....the same lies they've been peddling for 50 years.

03 April 2008

Demand and Supply

Another day, another shocker from the AP.
This one from someone I've harshly criticized for candy coating conditions in Cuba, Anita Snow.
President Raul Castro has lifted restrictions on consumer goods and hotel stays, but most Cubans get paid in virtually worthless pesos, which can't buy basic items like toilet paper, let alone a DVD player or poolside mojito cocktails at the Hotel Capri.

Nearly everything Cubans want or need must be bought with a separate currency created for tourists and foreigners. So, until the regular peso increases in value, Castro's moves will be bittersweet gestures.
According to Snow, Cubans are now eagerly awaiting Raul's next trick-unifying the currency.

The new leader's solution, now the talk of the island: merge the two currencies. But this turns out to be much easier said than done.

This is Raul's great problem. He has created expectations that he is going to institute significant "structural changes" and everyone is waiting..i.mpatiently and the clock is ticking.
In her piece, Snow is skeptical that Raul, the non magician, will be able to pull this trick off. Frankly, so am I because the Castro brothers have never been able to create any wealth which is really the only way to have economic growth.
The unfulfilled expectations for change might lead to even more frustration and eventually lead to demands, then protests and then demonstrations which Raul will try to brutally squash. By all accounts, the Cuban people, not particularly known for our patience, are already beginning to demand changes-i.e.the university student video, for example.
The title of Snoew's article: Cuban Demand: Power to the Peso!
Interesting times.

02 April 2008

Lo Que No Mata, Engorda

Loosely (very) translated What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger, but it could give you heart failure later.

From the AP:

Reforms May Strengthen Communism

It's not the stuff of Lenin or Marx, or even of Fidel Castro, but it's hardly free-market capitalism, either. In fact, steps to encourage a Cuban spending spree may help the communist system and its new president survive.

In rapid-fire decrees over the past week, Raul Castro's government has done away with some despised restrictions, lifting bans on electric appliances, microwaves and computers, inviting average citizens to enter long-forbidden resorts and declaring they can even legally have their own cell phones.

While people are excited to walk around stores and hotel lobbies, they will soon become frustrated that they can't afford to do more than look, said Juan Antonio Blanco, a Cuban academic based in Ontario, Canada.

"This government is totally myopic and shortsighted if it doesn't understand that it's sitting on dynamite," he said. "They have to do more than the things that will play in the international media."
And that's from the AP, folks

Oh wait what's that outside my window? Never mind its just a flying pig.

01 April 2008

Raúl's Magic Show

I have begun to view Raúl Castro’s recent changes as slight of hand tricks that attempt to create the magical illusion that real changes are taking place. For magic to be effective however, the audience has to buy into it, believe and not ask how the trick is done.

Obviously, Raúl keeps the lights in the circus’ theater dimmed and the music loud to distract the audience-misdirection. Those in the front row have seen these tricks before and aren’t too impressed. The ones in the rafters, well, they tend to want to believe in Raúl’s socialist magic and don’t want to ask any questions for fear of ruining the illusion. They got in the show for free-corporate seats or ideological discounts. Those that have to pay the full price of admission, well, they have more at stake; especially after Raúl himself has warned them not to have “any illusions that we are magicians and were going to solve problems.”

Still the Magic show continues and the pragmatic non-magician, I would say, is getting to the crucial point in the show.

So far, all his tricks have been run of the mill slight of hand tricks. He asked for audience participation he said he would take requests. The audience was used to the old magician-the one with the beard who is now the circus’ mascot and official greeter, He only knew one trick. So given the chance, they all shouted the trick they wanted to see out loud. The new non-magician, knowing what he already had up his sleeve, pretended that he heard the request for the trick he had planned to perform and performed it.

He did the microwave oven trick, the Computer trick, the cell phone trick and he topped it off with the highly requested hotel trick. He already had these tricks ready. They didn’t cost him anything and he could do them with his eyes closed. And Hell! They might even bring in some much needed tips.

The problem is that some in the audience might think that he was really taking requests from the audience. They may start to scream for the new non-magician with the sad eyes to perform some better tricks. Fiery tricks. They may have gotten emboldened, Hey, they’re stuck in the circus, after all, and cant leave and the admission was steep-not as steep as the exit price-but steep nonetheless. Might as well demand some real magic like making some food, clothing and houses appear out of thin air or like making some chains disappear.

Sadly, the new non-magician won’t do these tricks. These are the tricks that require him to play with fire. The now emboldened audience, who thought the magician was listening, may start to heckle him. Some, especially the impatient youth, may demand their money back. Some may want to leave.

The audience might begin to demand a real magician.

And Raúl will stop the show and remind them he’s not a real magician. He’ll remind them that he can’t make anything appear, but that if they keep heckling him, he can make them disappear.

But by then, it may not matter because his act might be over.