What happened to Obama's guayabera?

Something didn't happen at the sixth Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia over the weekend. Yes, Western hemisphere nations failed to reach consensus on including Cuba in the gathering, overhauling the region's drug policy (an expert taskforce will study the issue), or, really, much of anything. But I'm talking about something else: Barack Obama appears to have not worn a guayabera -- the light tropical dress shirt that several Latin American leaders are sporting in the summit photo-op above. And there's our president, looking decidedly stuffy in a suit jacket and (admittedly open) button-down. 

"Obama, loyal to his jacket. The others, in guayaberas," read a caption to a similar picture published in Venezuela's El Universal. (The article proceeds to critique the dress of several heads of state, noting that, among the female leaders, Costa Rica's Laura Chinchilla came closest to adopting the guayabera style.)

In the run-up to the summit, the daughter of Colombian designer Edgar Gómez Estévez told local media and the Spanish news agency EFE that she was making 130 guayaberas for Obama and that they would be more daring than usual because Obama was a "distinct, special, happy, and extroverted person." As far as I can tell, the White House never confirmed that Obama would be wearing a Gómez-designed guayabera.

Nevertheless, Cuba's Fidel Castro latched on to the reports, dubbing the event the "summit of the guayaberas" and criticizing the U.S. president for planning to wear a shirt that originated in Cuba while barring Cuba from attending the summit.

To be fair to Obama, it appears that several leaders at the summit decided to forego the guayabera (and some are even wearing ties!):

So what happened with Obama's wardrobe? Either the early media reports were wrong, or Obama had a change of heart about wearing the shirt. The real question: How long before we see a campaign ad accusing Obama of taking directives -- on fashion, no less -- from Fidel? 



A lean to the far right in Greece?

With Greece's national parliamentary election set for May  6, the crisis-ridden country may have a new threat to worry about: the extremist fringe vote. Due to popular frustration with the country's current economic situation, it is "thought likely" that left- and right-wing political fringe parties will make gains among voters at the expense of mainstream political parties like the conservative New Democracy party and the socialist Pasok party.

But as the New York Times reported yesterday, the Greek ultranationalist group Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi group that has broadened its appeal by "capitalizing on fears that illegal immigration has grown out of control at a time when the economy is bleeding jobs," may very well receive more than the 3 percent of votes needed to enter Parliament. This is bad news for Greek society, which University of Athens political scientist Nicos Demertzis calls a "a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution." Though no Golden Party member has ever held national office, party leader Nikos Michaloliakos was elected to the Athens City Council in 2010.

Golden Dawn joins the ranks of dozens of nationalist-populist fringe parties all over Europe whose enflamed euroskeptic reactions to the "cuts to wages and pensions imposed in order to secure aid from the EU and the IMF" have resulted in political shakeups. The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) , led by Geert Wilders, won 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats in the 2010 general election, and came in second in the Netherlands in the 2009 European Parliament elections.

Golden Dawn also espouses a particularly anti-German sentiment:

''It's right to hate Germany, because it is still the leader of the banksters and the European Union,'' Mr. Michaloliakos, the group's leader, said, using a derogatory term for bankers.

Of course, Golden Dawn is still transitioning from a street-fighting group  into a political party, but it remains to be seen whether it can  become a well-oiled machine like France's National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is still campaigning for the presidency. Even so, its increasing popularity is evidence of a dangerous trend that only promises to worsen. At least we have Greek left-wing anarchist groups like the Cosnpiracy of Fire Nuclei, Nikola Tesla Commandos, and Immediate Intervention Hood-wearers to keep us properly entertained.