Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro Ruz, 1926-2016


Sergio Martinez's 'Quijote de America' in Vedado, Havana. 

   "He often told interviewers that he identified with Don Quixote, and like Quixote he struggled against threats both real and imagined ..." – Anthony DePalmanov in the New York Times, Nov. 26, 2016.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

The earliest Escalade?


Plying the streets of Santiago de Cuba is the Cadillac of people carriers.
   I CAN THINK of just two possible explanation for this great red machine.

1. Back in 1957, a group of up-and-comers in the Cadillac division of General Motors hit upon an idea for a bold new model that would combine the refinement and style of a passenger car with the people- and cargo-hauling capability of a truck. They called it a "utility-sports vehicle." Surreptitiously, they removed a 60-S sedan body from the assembly line and, toiling at night in the basement of the Cadillac headquarters, replaced its tail fins and rear roofline with a tall, wedge-fronted box. They weren't good welders, but hey, it was a prototype. After spraying the body a bright Dakotah Red and mounting it on a pickup truck chassis, they presented their creation to Cadillac general manager James Roche. "This," they told him, "is how we can grow our brand." Alas, they had seriously misjudged their reception. The normally restrained Roche was furious. "Destroy this immediately," he ordered, "and never again use 'grow' as a transitive verb." Crestfallen, the conspirators slunk away. That night, though, gathered in a Clark Street tavern, they decided to disregard Roche's order and instead hide the prototype in some foreign market until the time was right to present it once more. "Someday," they said, "the world will be ready for a Cadillac utility-sports vehicle." And indeed, 42 years later, Cadillac would decide to introduce a luxury car-truck-combination that it would call the Escalade. By then, however, the 1957 effort was long-forgotten, and Cadillac instead looked to the GMC Yukon Denali as the basis for its new offering. And the prototype? It rolls on still in a far corner of Cuba, appearing much the same as it did the day it emerged from the Cadillac HQ basement, except that some wag painted the tips of the Dagmar bumpers the same red as the body colour.

2. It's just another use-what's-at-hand amalgamation in a country that can't afford to let vehicle bits go to waste.

But which of these explanations is correct? Your guess is at least as good as mine.

FC Barcelona decals may have been meant as camouflage.




Saturday, November 12, 2016

Trump and Cuba: A tortuous timeline


Car guy: A younger Donald Trump with his 1956 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud.
   WHAT IS Donald Trump's position on Cuba? As with so many other policy questions, his record offers no clear picture:

  • Late 1998: With the mood in Washington suggesting an easing of tensions between the U.S. and Cuba, Trump Hotels and Casinos sends consultants to Havana to explore business opportunities. The $68,000 trip was in violation of the U.S. trade embargo, according to a recent Newsweek report.
  • June 5, 1999: In an op-ed piece for the Miami Herald, Trump writes that he has rejected invitations from European groups to back projects in Cuba because investing there "would directly subsidize the oppression of the Cuban people." He calls for the U.S. embargo to remain until Cuba has a change of government.
  • 2012-2013: Trump associates travel to Cuba to study potential opportunities for a golf resort, Bloomberg reports.
  • September 2015: Seeking the nomination for president, Trump breaks with most fellow Republicans by speaking in favour of normalized relations. “The concept of opening with Cuba is fine,” he says, adding, “but we should have made a better deal.”
  • October 2016: Asked by Jim Defede of CBS4 in Miami whether he would break off relations with Cuba, Trump responds: "I would do whatever you have to do to get a strong agreement. And people want an agreement, I like the idea of an agreement, but it has to be a real agreement."
  • November 2016: Trump running-mate Mike Pence says Trump would repeal President Barak Obama's executive order that removed Cuba from the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism. As well, says Pence, “We will support continuing the embargo until real political and religious freedoms are a reality for all the people of Cuba.” His comments come just days before Trump is elected president with key support from Cuban American voters in Florida.
   So, best guess: lots of tough talk, maybe a reinstatement of Cuba on the terrorism list, but an administration attuned to American business interest in the island's tasty development potential. How that will work is hard to say, but here's one thing to keep in mind. Donald Trump likes cars.