In the Loop

Good news and bad news on the Castro front

A Soldier of Fortune article suggests that Cuba is getting a little more tolerant, and looking to emulate . . . China.
A Soldier of Fortune article suggests that Cuba is getting a little more tolerant, and looking to emulate . . . China.
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By Al Kamen Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 10, 2010

He may be the last one to figure it out, but Fidel Castro's recent observation to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic that the Cuban economic model "doesn't even work for us anymore'' was nonetheless stunning.

It also comes at a time when long-underrated brother Raul Castro, now running the place, has been saying much the same thing, and has been moving quickly to shake things up.

On another front, a number of Cuban political prisoners were released over the summer, and according to a forthcoming article in Soldier of Fortune magazine, Raul has taken other "steps to lessen the repressive grip" of the communist dictatorship, including allowing some protests and easing up on treatment of dissidents.

Lest anyone get carried away and think Havana is about to become Des Moines, the article, written by former Radio Marti news director Jay Mallin and former Miami Herald Latin America editor Don Bohning, notes that Raul "has visited China and is believed to admire the Chinese model (rampant capitalism in the economy, tight communist control of the government) and to want to install it in Cuba."

But relations between Washington and Havana are clearly de-icing, though the odd case of Alan Gross of Potomac, an Agency for International Development contractor imprisoned in Cuba for the crime of distributing cellphones and laptops in Cuba's tiny Jewish community, probably will need to be resolved - maybe a Yom Kippur release? - for the thaw to continue.

Meanwhile, the cultural landscape continues to change. The Obama administration last month granted approval for the American Ballet Theater, where the famous Cuban prima ballerina Alicia Alonso got her start, to perform in Havana for the first time in 50 years - at the Karl Marx Theatre in November. Fidel is a fan of Alonso, now 89, the Soldier of Fortune piece notes.

Maybe one of the Castros will escort her to the ballet, Mallin suggested in an e-mail.

Not quite so windy

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may be the luckiest guy in the world. Outgoing Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has given him a "get out of town" card - which he's almost certain to take - so he can decamp before all the backbiting and recriminations amongst the Dems about who lost the House, if not the Senate, get into high gear.

He won't be around as the new House Oversight and Government Reform chairman, Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), fires daily subpoenas at the White House.

Then, if he wins, he gets to run one of America's greatest and most beautiful cities. Better yet, if he decides he doesn't like the job, he can run for the Senate in six years against Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) should Kirk win the open Obama seat this fall.

Meanwhile, Emanuel's No. 2, Deputy Chief of Staff Jim Messina, has long been slated to manage the Obama 2012 campaign, which would probably mean he'd depart sometime in the first half of next year.

Recipes for happiness

The 2010 "Best Places to Work" rankings for government agencies have become one of the hottest reads around.

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