Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A Lesson on Probabilities

If I wake up one morning and emerge from my bedroom to find the house ransacked, my silver chest (presuming I had one) empty and the back door open, my automatic reaction would be to think my house had been burglarized. Of course, it is within the realm of possibility that the neighbor's pet monkey had escaped, climbed in through my window and was at the moment probably playing spoons in the back yard. But which is more likely?

I offer this little tidbit to illustrate a point. I was reading along in Time, minding my own business, when I came across "The Raul Castro Era Begins." Ah, I thought, grist for the mill. Padgett, the author, sees the much ballyhooed interrogation of Alarcon by Havana students, particularly one Eliecer Avila, as part of some internecine warfare. In a species of Byzantine reasoning, it was a move orchestrated by Raul to weaken hardliners:

What was most surprising about the interrogation was the fact that Avila got away with it. After initial reports that the young man had been detained for his effrontery, he appeared a week later on another video denying that he was jailed and insisting that his confrontation with Alarcon was meant "to build better socialism and not to destroy it." He added: "What needs to be fixed, what needs to be changed and revised, [we want to] do it within the revolution."

All of which indicates that the youthful outburst
may not have been the spontaneous Havana Spring it was widely billed as, but rather a part of something quietly sanctioned by Cuba's interim President, Raul Castro. Since being tapped by his older brother, Fidel Castro, as the country's provisional leader in the summer of 2006 after Fidel underwent major intestinal surgery, Raul, 76, has pushed a more pragmatic, even reform-minded agenda that has encouraged limited public debate — and, just as important, worked to undermine hard-line fidelistas like Alarcon. The Avila episode was yet another sign of how firmly Raul seems to have consolidated his position — and why he's most likely to succeed his brother as full President this weekend in a National Assembly vote after Fidel officially resigned from the post today. "It wouldn't surprise me if people in Raul's faction leaked those [Avila] tapes out," says Brian Latell, a Cuba expert at the University of Miami and author of After Fidel.

I understand well the temptation to look for the devious underlayment when dealing with the regime, but if the fix was in, someone forgot to tell the young man's mother, who in near hysteria contacted dissidents. Now I ask you, what is more likely that he was hauled in, threatened, and forced to recant on national television or that it was all part of an elaborate Raulian ploy? I know what I think.

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