Miami -- YOU SCOFF at the idea that the shadowy intrigues of historic Byzantium could be brought back to life today, right off the shores of our very own sunny Florida? That today Caribbean "emperors" are manipulating not in the name of God, but of the "free market"?
I suggest very strongly then that you look, this watershed second week of October, at Fidel Castro's Cuba.
In Havana, GeorgieAnneGeyeras Castro faced the Fourth Communist Party Congress yesterday, he was plotting for his very life as never before in his 32 years in power.
With a 1982 foreign investment law, frozen the moment it was passed, now suddenly dusted off and brought out, Castro announced last week that there already were 200 foreign companies investing in Cuba. Most are Spanish and almost all are in tourism, an industry that is assiduously kept away from the prying eyes of ordinary Cubans. However, an ultra-conservative delegation of Spanish politicians and businessmen was just in Cuba, and it is authoritatively rumored that they were even permitted to "buy" two of Castro's revered communist sugar mills!
Then travel those famous "90 miles" from Havana to Miami. There, plans of much of the prosperous Cuban-American community are now congealing, both politically and economically. Politically conservative and influential groups such as the Cuban American National Foundation are counting down the days before returning to Cuba to seize anew the political power they lost in 1959.
But more interesting and revealing signals of the next stage are to be found in the economic realm. In contacting large investment firms on Wall Street, the foundation has announced it has raised billions of dollars to invest in a post-Castro Cuba. But, incredibly, this money is to be used to literally "auction" off the island to first-comers, in order to raise money to repay the old owners of property before 1959!
In addition, long-worthless bonds issued by the pre-Castro governments, as early as 1937, are now selling again in Miami, in a feverish atmosphere. The buyers expect that the post-Castro government they fully see coming will repay these bonds.
Meanwhile, in a Washington obsessed by the collapse of the Soviet empire after the gulf war, little thought is being given to Cuba, which is the next foreign crisis almost upon us.
This, despite the fact that Castro twice planned to bomb South Florida's Turkey Point Nuclear plant (in 1962 and in 1983), that there is only 10 minutes flying time between Cuba and South Florida, and that the major defense American officials here give is, "But Castro's pilots probably would not obey."
On the Havana end, out of desperation, Castro seems to be trying one last economic ploy to save his island before it collapses. He is testing a kind of "Chinese model," by which he would maintain his total imperial political power but would give some small tidbits of economic ownership to selected foreigners.
On the Miami side, the fervent (and, worse, sincere) intent to get back lands and industries that were seized by Castro after the revolution is of course only buying him time on the island. Even Cubans who hate Castro will fight for him, if it is a case of being taken over by the ancien regime.
Nor should Americans forget the fact that many of these politically active Cuban-Americans in Miami talk privately about going back to Cuba on the arms of an American invasion, just like in the "old days."
On the Washington side, with so little attention being given to Cuba and to the countdown to collapse that already has started, there is dangerously little understanding of these sinister Caribbean cabals.
President George Bush is the only one not acting out his appointed conspiratorial imperial role. That is in some ways good, and it confirms his innocence. But it would be better not to leave all the initiating to others less responsible.
In short, it is time for the president to reaffirm to the Cuban people, as directly as possible, that, whatever happens in Miami, the United States of America is taking no part in auctioning them off for the future in any possible way. It is time for Washington to act on its own, strongly and quickly, to cut through these Byzantine intrigues before some event, planned by these others, takes the power to act away from us.