The 1990s had been the bleakest decade of the CubanRevolution. Yet by the beginning of the new millennium the ageing leader and his regime received a new boost of economic and

political oxygen through the changing configuration of international

geopolitics. With the collapse of Communism in Europe, the bipolar world

of the Cold War had given way briefly to the unipolar world of US hege-

mony, only to make way for a new multipolar world of competing states in

which old powers such as Russia and newly emerging economies such as

China, India and Brazil increasingly challenged the economic supremacy

of the US. In Latin America, a new cycle of social democratic and populist

governments emerged, largely in response to the failure of the neo-liberal

measures essayed under pressure from the US and the IMF by the govern-

ments of the 1990s. This was marked by a new phenomenon that promised

more than the cyclical left-right patterns of previous decades in that

non-traditional groups such as women and people from poor and ethnic

backgrounds were penetrating the preserve of the hitherto white, male and

middle-class political elites and acceding to positions of power, often with

the backing of new, popular movements.