Fidel Castro outwitted ten U.S. presidents and, stubbornly defying the Grim Reaper, is now watching vigilantly over his younger brother and "relief pitcher," Raúl, who faces the 11th. Bardach, a journalist, skillfully takes the reader back and forth between Havana and Miami, exposing the intricate webs of intrigue, spying, and violence that characterize Cuban politics on both sides of the Florida Strait. Her research is indefatigable (she took 12 trips to the island); her access, remarkably wide; and her opinions, centrist and considered. Particularly interesting are her mappings of the multiple extended families of the Castro brothers (including Fidel's ten children). Bardach paints a rather positive portrait of Raúl, as a man who, compared with his older brother, is less charismatic and more institutional, and perhaps relatively more pragmatic. But unless U.S. policy changes more quickly, she warns, Washington will be poorly positioned to enter the competition between Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and an energized Brazil for influence in a post-Fidel Cuba.
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