Miami New Times' predictions for 2012

Riptide is not buying into the notion that a big Mayan-predicted asteroid will pulverize sunny South Florida in 2012, but we're willing to make some other pretty bold predictions:

Real estate developer Jorge M. Perez will realize he's a lot less rich than he thought, so he'll rescind his $35 million gift to the Miami Art Museum in exchange for slapping his name on the place. But MAM's board of directors will quickly find a new benefactor, a mysterious Russian-born baron from Fisher Island with the initials S.C., who will plunk down double Perez's offer and some crappy arte povera pieces he picked up at the NADA fair during Art Basel. The museum will be renamed SCAM, a perfect homage to the city's reputation.

Meanwhile, things will get bleak for the Miami Marlins and the big casino conglomerates. After spending more than $200 million to lure four big-name free agents, the team will struggle to sell out home games at its new taxpayer-funded ballpark. Owner Jeffrey Loria will be forced to sell the team to a Chinese-Venezuelan conglomerate owned by a subsidiary of Malaysian-based Genting and Hugo Chávez. The revelation cements die-hard Cuban exiles' long-held suspicions that the Miami Herald is a communist front.

Then Genting's efforts to pass a casino resort bill in Tallahassee will end badly when Gov. Rick Scott kills the measure so the GOP can avoid the wrath of right-wing Cuban-American voters in the upcoming presidential election. And fearing he'll hurt his chances at ever succeeding the Castro brothers in a free Cuba, Lincoln Diaz-Balart will quit his job as a Genting lobbyist.

The ploy will fail on both fronts. Barack Obama will get re-elected, while in Havana, Fidel and Raúl will both kick the bucket. Before they die, they'll rewrite the Cuban constitution to designate Elián González the supreme comandante. In his first official act, the former boy messiah of Miami will invite Genting to invest the $2 billion slated for the Biscayne Bay site to turn Cuba into a theme-park/casino island. Cuba's economy will be saved while sinking South Florida's tourism industry.

As the new year begins, hundreds of thousands of unemployed, cynical Miamians will search for a glimmer of hope. The Magic City will need a hero. Inspired by the real-life attention-seeking antics of Seattle's Phoenix Jones and the prose of Miami Herald editor Myriam Marquez, a handyman hailing from Hialeah will answer the call. He'll be armed with a belt full of pastelitos he'll chuck at evildoers with the precision of a Chinese-star-throwing ninja. He'll dress in a fortified costume constructed of mashed ham and cornmeal. Miami's hero will be named Pepe Croqueta.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.