Mike Gonzalez

Cuba after Fidel Castro: Following Fidel

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Fidel Castro has resigned from his position as head of the government of Cuba after 49 years in charge.

Even during the last 18 months when his brother Raul (five years his junior) was formally in power he has continued to control things, just as he has ever since he led the rebel army into Havana in 1959.

His resignation letter suggests it is time to pass the baton to a younger generation. The less charismatic Raul, who has been named president, has hinted at reopening negotiations with the US, while at the same time actively building relations with China.

From Russia

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Royal Academy of Arts

In the third room of this extraordinary exhibition there is a group of works painted in Paris in 1908-10. It was the time of Cubism, of Pablo Picasso's Dryad, of Henri Matisse's sensual Nude, Black and Gold and the wonderfully energetic Dance II that is the exhibition's emblematic painting. Two years earlier Paul Cézanne painted the last of his studies of the Mont Sainte-Victoire when the hill itself disappears behind the sheer force of the painter's hand; now we are no longer looking at a place but at the experience, the sight and feeling of the place.

But is it art?

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Not a week passes without the Daily Mail or the Daily Express bitterly complaining that art has been taken over by anarchists and crackpots.

Empty rooms with flickering neon, piles of bricks, pictures (beautiful pictures as it happens) made with elephant dung, isolated figures half submerged off the Welsh coast - they exercise the middle classes to the point of apoplexy. But what is their art then? What is the artistic culture of the right?

Shaping the future in Venezuela

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As town square debates on Hugo Chavez's constitutional amendments rage in Venezuela, Mike Gonzalez considers whether they will deepen democracy or further centralise power.

It is Saturday afternoon in La Candelaria, a working class district of Venezuela's capital Caracas. A huge awning covers the main square (it's the rainy season) to shelter the 200 or so people sitting in groups of 12 at round tables. They are all wearing the red T-shirt of the Bolivarian revolution, and they are spending this Saturday, and many to come, discussing reforms to the constitution proposed by the president Hugo Chavez. In December these 120 or so amendments will be put to referendum.

Pulp Fiction

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Review of "The Uncomfortable Dead", Subcomandante Marcos and Paco Ignacio Taibo, Serpent's Tail £7.99

The dream team: Marcos, the sharp and witty Zapatista leader whose writings have travelled the world by internet since his explosion onto the political scene in 1994, and Paco Ignacio Taibo, perhaps less well known in Britain but a giant among Spanish-speaking readers of fiction. Taibo's support for the Zapatistas is well known - as you would expect from the author of an important biography of Che Guevara (My Friend Che Guevara).

Cuba's Dynastic Succession

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For the first time in 47 years Fidel Castro is not formally in control of the Cuban state.

Recent photographs show the man of legendary energy in slippers and pyjamas, recovering from an operation whose purposes remain the object of unsubstantiated rumours. And the same absence of concrete facts to work with informs the great debate about who will follow Fidel.

Nicaragua: A Return to Power for the Sandinistas?

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In this year of elections in Latin America, a half-forgotten name has re-emerged.

Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua (FSLN) was one of those who led the revolution that overthrew the 43-year dictatorship of the Somoza family in 1979. In 1984 he was elected president, but in 1990 he was defeated and replaced by a right wing alliance under Violeta Chamorro.

From One Struggle to Another

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From colonialism to nationhood and capitalism, Mike Gonzalez looks at the evolution of Latin American literature and its inspirations.

In 1941 the US publisher Farrar & Rinehart advertised a competition for the best Latin American novel. It was won by Broad and Alien is the World, set in a mountain community in Peru. Its author, Ciro Alegria, was one of a generation of writers who called themselves the indigenistas, middle class intellectuals committed to recuperating the culture and traditions of the indigenous communities of the Andes.

Frida Kahlo: a Life

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There is much power and beauty in the work of Frida Kahlo, says Mike Gonzalez, who examines the life of this remarkable artist.

There are two houses in almost neighbouring streets in the Mexico City district of Coyoacan. One is spare and dark and surrounded by high walls; there is very little colour to break the monotony and its gate is usually locked. This was the house where Leon Trotsky lived and was murdered in 1940.

Bolivia: Standing Tall in El Alto

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Bolivians are fighting to protect their natural resources.

Bolivia may be the second poorest country in Latin America (after Haiti), and one of the least known outside the region, but in the struggle against neoliberalism it is playing a key role. In 2000, in the town of Cochabamba, a mass movement of small farmers, market traders, workers and indigenous community groups reversed a government decision to sell off the regional water supply to Bechtel.

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