Friday, November 09, 2007

In Santiago

The Ibero-American Summit is on again this weekend.

Every year since 1991, the heads of government of all Latin American nations join their Spanish and Portuguese counterparts (plus King Juan Carlos of Spain and the President of Portugal), for a highly publicised get together in some exotic location or other.

This time around, the Summit is being held in Santiago de Chile.

At one level, these meetings are pretty harmless exercises – an opportunity for mostly obscure politicians to make grand public statements about investment, the environment, poverty and assorted social justice issues.

But they are also a joke. A big joke.

After all, this is the same crowd that happily allowed that grand master of cynicism, Fidel Castro, to sign a Summit declaration in support of democracy and respect for human rights in Latin America. That's right, Fidel Castro. Why, the organisers even agreed to hold one of the summits in Havana, back in 1999.

The dictator used to love these "talk fests" because inevitably, he would always be the star attraction – even before he arrived, there would be endless media speculation across the continent on whether he would or would not attend.

Perversely, the media would then spend the next few days hanging on the old man’s every word and gesture, like a pack of ever-vigilant hyenas watching an old and decrepit elephant stumble through the savannah.

Of course, Castro won't be in Chile this weekend. He is far too ill to go anywhere.

Instead, the regime has sent two “supplementaries”: the seriously colourless Carlos Lage in his capacity as Cuba's vice-president; and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the moronic Felipe Perez Roque.

True to form, these two stooges have spent the few hours since arriving in Santiago answering questions about Castro’s health with inane responses about how the dictator is “improving all the time”.

Asked on Chilean television what exactly Castro was up to, Lage replied, apparently with a straight face, that his one-time boss was "working very, very hard".
Doing what? "I'd say he is reading, studying, analysing, offering his views and giving us lots of ideas on how continue the struggle for justice,” he said.



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