Michael Totten continues his travel journals,
I heard no end of horror stories about soap shortages, both before and after I got there. A journalist friend of mine who visits Cuba semi-regularly brings little bars of hotel soap with him and hands them out to his interview subjects.
“They break down in tears when I give them soap,” he told me. “How often does that happen?” I said. “A hundred percent of the time,” he said.
I too brought soap with me to the island—full-size bars from the store, not small ones from hotels—but I didn’t want to make people cry wherever I went, so I left them discreetly for hotel staff, waiters, taxi drivers, and so on. And I tipped everyone as generously as I could since the government refuses to pay them.
None of this economic impoverishment is the result of American policy. The United States is hardly the world’s only soap manufacturer, for instance. Cuba can buy it from Mexico. Or Canada. Or the Dominican Republic. Cuba can make its own soap. It fact, it does make its own soap. The reason the country does not have enough is because the government historically hasn’t cared if the little people can’t wash. Soap is just one item among thousands that is strictly for the elite, for the “haves,” and for those lucky enough to find some in the shops before it runs out.
In a non-communist country where such a basic product is in short supply, somebody would mass-produce it and sell it. Soap-making doesn’t require nuclear physics. You can make it at home. Google “soap recipe” and you’ll see how easy it is. But Cuba is a communist country where private commerce is banned. If you make stuff and sell stuff, you might become “rich” and “bourgeois,” and the authorities will send you to prison.
Read the whole thing.
Condom shortage hits Cuba
Marxist Nicolas Maduro’s making a fashion statement inspired by Marx.
Groucho Marx, that is:
Nicolás Maduro introduced the new symbol of the revolution: The mustache cap.
The Venezuelan president surprised all during at event by showing the new icon of chavismo, by which all his followers can have his mustache.
Nicolás Maduro presentó el nuevo símbolo de la revolución: la “gorra del bigote”
El presidente venezolano sorprendió en un acto al mostrar un nuevo dispositivo del chavismo, gracias al cual sus seguidores pueden tener su bigote
The cap has a detachable mustache you can place under your nose.
I’m not making this up,
Maduro wore a blue one, but it’s also available in red or green.
Just in time for Mother’s Day!
Linked to by Babalu. Thank you!
Unlike the prior season, this season’s opener had me glued to the TV set from beginning to end. The episode is titled Time Zones, and Joel Murray as Freddy Rumsen opened it with an entrancing monologue (an ad for Accutron watches) that also serves both as a metaphor on time, and on the value of objects for those of us who are fond of our material possessions – especially our watches.
The pitch of Rumsen’s voice, the flat delivery, and the use of this monologue as the opener for the final season brings us into a Twilight Zone* of sorts, in keeping with the T-Zone title.
Read the rest of my review at Da Tech Guy Blog.
talking about The latest from Colombia plus other US-Latin America stories of the week with Silvio and Cecilia Torres.
Live at 8PM Eastern, and archived for your convenience.
The Venezuelan government has dismissed calls by the opposition for an amnesty for jailed protest leaders.
Government and opposition representatives met for a second time on Tuesday to try to put an end to two months of anti-government protests.
Following the meeting, Ramon Aveledo of the opposition MUD coalition said his proposal for an amnesty law had been rejected.
It’s all par for the course: Having put the Cubans in charge of Venezuela’s public notaries and civil registries, and of the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programs, police and security services as well as the national oil company,
Chávez’s successor, Nicolás Maduro, has deepened Caracas’s dependency on Havana even further. As students have taken to the streets in protest against an increasingly authoritarian regime the government has responded with a brutal repression that relies on many of the tools and tactics perfected by the police state that has run Cuba for too long.
Among those who would be denied amnesty are 30 military officials arrested for conspiracy to topple Cuba-controlled dictatorship
Among those arrested are the brothers Riviera Lago, one a colonel and the other a lieutenant colonel. Also two members of the National Guard, two from the navy, and one from the army. These are added to the generals arrested three weeks earlier, Oswaldo Hernandez Sanchez, Jose Machillanda Diaz, and Carlos Millan Yaguaracuto. The generals are all from the air force, like the majority of those involved in the alleged conspiracy.
Up to now, there have been very few military showing support for the protesters.
Other Venezuela items:
[T]he supply of currency in the economy [has] dried up almost completely.
If you go to Gerard‘s, you’ll get the lyrics for sing-along.
Well, after Mary O’Grady wrote about Panama’s President Ricardo Martinelli choosing his wife to run for vice-president, Martinelli tweeted,
“This WSJ journalist once interviewed me because she was a close friend of Jimmy Papadimitriu, who now advises Varela,”
Una vez la misma periodista del WSJ me entrevisto ya que era intima amiga de Jimmy Papadimitriu que ahora asesora a Varela.
— Ricardo Martinelli (@rmartinelli) April 14, 2014
The WSJ didn’t take the tweet sitting down:
He is referring to Juan Carlos Varela, who is Mr. Martinelli’s vice president and former foreign minister. Mr. Varela broke with Mr. Martinelli and is now running to succeed him as the presidential nominee of a competing party. We don’t know if Mr. Papadimitriu advises Mr. Varela, but we can say that Ms. O’Grady is not and has never been a friend of Mr. Papadimitriu. She did interview Mr. Martinelli—in 2010 when Mr. Papadimitriu was his chief of staff.
No doubt Mr. Martinelli was upset that Ms. O’Grady called out his electoral power play. Panamanians remember, and not fondly, military dictator Manuel Noriega, who was removed by U.S. troops in 1989. If Mr. Martinelli has designs on becoming one more caudillo, he ought to man-up and tell the voters rather than hide behind his wife’s illegal candidacy.
Why does this matter to the US?
Because Panama, especially following its canal expansion, remains a key trade partner to the Americas, and especially to the US. A true democracy, engaged in free trade, is best for the hemisphere.
Something out of Dante,
— shaimaa khalil (@Shaimaakhalil) April 14, 2014
Helicopters and airplanes dumped water on wildfires and the smoldering wreckage of hilltop neighborhoods around Valparaiso for a third straight day Monday as sailors in riot gear stood ready to evacuate 700 more families whose homes could be lost if the winds shifted.
Already 11,000 people were homeless as wildfires sent burning embers flying from hilltop to hilltop. A 15th body was found, and the toll of destroyed homes rose to more than 2,500.
To add to the destruction, the fires are so fierce they create their own winds.
Pray for the people of Valparaiso.
It’s Holy Week, and taxes are due tomorrow – not exactly the most cheerful way to start a week.
Federal police launch huge raid on Argentina’s ‘drug capital’
More than 3,000 federal agents involved in raids on around 80 ‘bunkers’ in the Argentine city of Rosario, plagued by violence between drug gangs
YPF, Chevron to Invest $1.6 Billion in 2014 in Argentina’s Vaca Muerta
Both companies will share equally in the investment outlay, which will go toward drilling 170 wells and building production facilities in Loma Campana, Neuquen. Good luck with that.
Metro, train and bus services around the country have been paralysed, as Ignacio de los Reyes reports
Public transport in Argentina has been severely disrupted by a huge nationwide strike against the economic policies of the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.
So, of course, Cristina’s trying to create a diversion: UK Falklands military exercises ‘provoke’ Argentina
But while everyone is talking about the shoe, little is talked about what the woman also threw along with it: a copy of a Department of Defense document labeled confidential and dated August 1967; it referred to an operation “Cynthia” in Bolivia. Operation “Cynthia” was a Bolivian army maneuver to capture Argentinean doctor and Cuban revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara.
Colombia has a loose-tongued president.
Yesterday, Juan Manuel Santos told us he knew where FARC commander alias Timochenko is hiding, but claimed he’d “think twice” before ordering a shoot-to-kill.
French Foreign Minister Visits Cuba
A French foreign minister visited Cuba for the first time in more than 30 years Saturday, traveling to the communist-run nation at a time when it is seeking to attract more foreign investment and improve ties with the European Union.
It’s what you call a totalitarian democracy: Does Ecuador’s leader aspire to a perpetual presidency?
Ecuador’s constitution bars Rafael Correa from running for the fourth term. But this won’t stop him from seeking reelection if ‘the people’ want it, he hints.
Chinese lending to Latin America
China lends disproportionately to countries that lack other options and, while on the subject of China, A Pax Sinica in the Middle East? Some Conjectures
[Mexican Finance Minister Luis] Videgaray said individuals identified by OFAC [the U.S. Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control], or in a similar list put out by the United Nations, could end up being sanctioned in Mexico but that his administration would not necessarily implement all U.S.-identified targets.
Nicaragua Sees Series of Arrow Killings of Dogs using crossbows and custom carbon arrows.
Panama Canal expansion draws bigger customers, and criticism
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal, one of the busiest waterways in the world. A massive building project is underway there to widen it for larger ships, but the expansion has not been undisputed.
Peru’s Italian job
Economic success cannot indefinitely co-exist with political weaknessThe “Italian model” holds that the important thing is that the economy was run by responsible technocrats. How’s that working out?
The real lesson from Italy is that if the political system is unable to act in the long-term interest of the majority, it ends up contaminating the economy with its failures. Peru is a democracy without meaningful parties. A regional election in October is likely to repeat the last one, in which 23 of the 25 regional presidents were independents. Thanks to mining and gas royalties, they command a big chunk of public money. One important region, Áncash, has become a mafia mini-state. Ten political opponents of the regional president, César Álvarez, have been murdered after denouncing corruption. His critics accuse Mr Álvarez, who denies all wrongdoing, of having bought off prosecutors. This month Mr Humala froze Áncash’s bank accounts.
It always amazes me that countless “models” – the Danish model, the Swedish model, etc. – are held as examples worth emulating in Latin America, instead of free market capitalism.
Uruguay to make medical marijuana available to prisoners
Any inmates who have been prescribed marijuana to improve their physical or mental health will have access to it according to the country’s drug tsar
Venezuela’s Protest Movement Fights The Ghost Of Chavez
The legacy of Hugo Chavez hangs over Venezuela — and the country’s protest leaders are having a hard time bringing his followers into their fold. Especially with the armed motorcycle gangs threatening them.
The week’s posts and podcast:
Venezuela: No food in the shops, but 3 jets for Raul
El libro que hay que leer: En español: Infobae entrevista a Casto Ocando, autor de Chavistas en el Imperio
At Da Tech Guy: