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Castañeda stikes out

22 March 2009

Jorge Castañeda has always had more credibility with conservatives (or even “paleo-conservatives”) in the United States than with his own countrymen.  Like many academics, he tends to put the cart before the horse, seeing the world in terms of his own theories — which don’t always fit.

In some ways, his popularity among the U.S. right is surprising, given that his mother was a Soviet diplomat, and Castañeda himself was, at one time, a member of the Mexican Communist Party.  On his paternal side, his father was Secretary of Foreign Relations during the Lopez Portillo Administration.  Jorge moved to the right … and his assumption is that everyone else did too.

Castañeda reputation as an academic rests on his biography of Che Guevarra and on a second book, arguing that the Latin American left has moved from revolutionary to electoral politics in response to the Cuban Revolution.

Perhaps, but in Cuba, the Revolutionary government that came to power in 1959 is still there.  Castañeda seems to be saying that people like him (and Che, who though not enjoying the advantages of a diplomatic family and French and U.S. schooling, hardly sprang from the loins of the underclass or even the lower middle-class) moved away from revolutionary politics and towards electoral middle-class parties.

jorgecastaneda-500And… was there during Castañeda’s tenure as the Fox Administration’s first Secretary of Foreign Relations.  As Foreign Minister, Castañeda and his boss both made the huge mistake of assuming George W. Bush would actually tell the truth (something any Texan could have told you was unlikely) when it came to the Mexican immigration issue.

Hoping for what the Foreign Minister kept calling “The Whole Enchilada” (a comprehensive immigration agreement with the United States) Castañeda’s diplomatic career crashed and burned after the March 2002 Monterrey Summit of the Americas, when the Cuban expert convinced President Fox to snub Fidel Castro.

Castro played tapes of Fox’s inept telephone calls attempting to deny that the Mexican President was acting on behalf of the United States in “disinviting” the island leader to the conference.  Cuba and Mexico have traditionally enjoyed close cultural, economic and political ties, staying out of each other’s domestic politics and maintaining good relations.  With a Cuba specialist in the Foreign Ministry, you’d think the rift could have been smoothed over, but Castañeda — apparently acting on his theory that Latin America had changed in response to the Revolution — let relations deteriorate to the point where Cuba and Mexico withdrew their ambassadors for each other’s capitals.

Having failed to improve relations with the United States, and having undone nearly a 100 years of good Cuban-Mexican relations… plus making Mexico look like a lackey of the United States in the eyes of every other Latin American nation… forced Fox to replace Castañeda.

Although he floated the idea of running for President in 2006 (with no support outside a small cadre mostly connected with Ibero-Americano, the Jesuit university in Mexico City), Castañeda really hasn’t been heard of in Mexico since.  He returned to the United States and writes for U.S. magazines on his academic speciality, still floating the idea that the Latin American democratic left is a reaction to the revolutionary 1950s.

There may be some validity in his theories, but it doesn’t mean Fidel Castro, or the Government of Cuba is going to follow his theories. Nor that everything relates to the theory.

Fidel, like a lot of retirees, has too much time on his hands… he watches a lot of baseball on TV and likes to write letters to the editor (which, Fidel being Fidel, are always published).  On politics, and baseball… and politics and baseball:

Baseball today, among all the sports, is the most capable of originating expectations because of the enormous variety of situations that might arise and the specific part played by each of the men on the diamond. It has a reputation everywhere as a truly exciting show. Even though the stadiums fill up with fans, there is nothing that compares to the pictures captured by the cameras. It seems to have been created so that baseball can be transmitted by that media.

Castañeda, in common with a lot of academics, assumes anything and everything relates to his own theories.  So, given that two holdovers from Fidel’s tenure were recently sacked, and given the U.S. obsession with all things Hugo Chavez (another baseball fan),  Fidel’s comments about the Venezuelan team were read to suggest that it wasn’t just a matter of Raul Castro replacing a few advisors, but “proof” of a Venezuelan plot to overthrow the Cuban government.

Hugo Chavez being an elected leader should fit Castañeda’s theories, but — given the U.S. inisistence that Chavez is not the “right” kind of Latin American leader, AND… given Castañeda’s continual kowtowing to U.S. policy as demonstrated by his failed tenure as Secretary of Foreign Relations, maybe it was just too tempting to “read in” the thesis behind his Newsweek article.

Based on Fidel’s musings about the Venezulan team, Castañeda insisted there was a plot by Chavez to overthrow Raul Castro and restore Stalinists to power in Cuba.  Besides making no sense — there’s no advantage  for Venezuela in a return to Stalinism in Cuba (and the sacked officials were more or less reformed Stalinists, just not signed on to the same reforms as the party leaders), the fact that the Venezulan national team has a lot of young players compared to the Cubans more seasoned line-up was all Fidel was talking about.

But, to Castañeda, it was a coded message that the Venezulan “coup” had failed. Uh… no… it’s why no one in Mexico takes Jorge  Castañeda seriously and he should be sent to the showers.

BoRev rounds the bases on this one.  First base, second base, rounding third… and its a JONRON!

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