Not in his wildest dreams did Fidel Castro think he would gain political control of and derive economic benefit from a nation nine times bigger than Cuba, with two and a half times the population and with the biggest oil reserves on the planet.
Cuba’s ideological colonisation of Venezuela could go down in history as a work of art in terms of political domination. The bearded chap never ceases to surprise us.
He wasn’t a minor autocrat. For better or worse, he was always a political animal. Charlatan, student gangster and manipulator, and always audacious.
He showed his clear inability to create riches and establish a solid and coherent economy. Before he came to power, at the point of a rifle in January 1959, Cuba was the second largest economy in Latin America.
Fifty-five years later, with its finances in the red, meagre GDP, and scant productivity, the island now vies with Haiti for the lowest place in the continent.
In terms of political strategies, Castro is an old fox. He always liked planning revolutions and wars. In the ’80’s, from a big house in the Havana suburb of Nuevo Vedado, he remotely controlled the civil war in Angola.
He is an incorrigible maniac. He likes to know everything that’s going on. From the soldiers’ meals, and livestock cross-breeding, to forecasts of the path of a hurricane.
Castro was unpredictable. He was not a comfortable Soviet satellite. He plotted conspiracies, guerilla warfare, and indoctrinated some star performers of Latin American youth. Some of them now holding power, constitute a formidable political capital for the regime.
An excellent talent-spotter, when, on February 4th 1992, Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Chávez led a rabble in a coup d’etat in Venezuela, before anyone else did, Fidel Castro, from Havana, saw the potential of the parachutist from Barinas.
He invited him to Cuba as soon as he stepped out of jail. He was his full-time political manager. Just as in any alliance or human relationship, one person always tries to dominate the other.
Castro was subtle. For health reasons, he was already back. His strategy with Chavez was low profile. He didn’t overshadow him. On the contrary. The project was to create a continental leader.
Chávez had charisma and Venezuela had an interesting income stream from oil. Cuba was in the doldrums after the fall of the Berlin Wall, a crisis with a stalled economy and the disappearance of the USSR.
The guerrilla wars in America were not yet a way forward. The “disgusting bourgeois democracy”, of which the “Comandante” was so critical, was the means by which the political groups related to the Cuban regime would gain power.
Those groups came in by the back door in broken countries, where corruption and poor government prevailed. Fidel Castro’s great achievement was to colonise Venezuela without firing a single shot.
In the annals of history there have existed different forms of domination. Imperial powers were not always very large countries. Denmark, Belgium and Holland had overseas possessions.
But, in the background, there was an economic strength or a fearful military machine. Great Britain, in its golden age, could count on an impressive naval strength.
These days, the United States is the possessor of a nuclear arsenal and military technology never seen before. Castro’s Cuba is an economy heading for the fourth world.
Its previous military power, which allowed it to get involved simultaneously in two military campaigns in Ethiopia and Angola, has now reduced, following the Soviet collapse, to an army equipped with obsolete weapons.
The geopolitical logic taught in schools, that the countries which are economically and militarily strong dominate the ones which are poor and weak, has been blown to bits by the case of Cuba and Venezuela.
Castro’s trick for occupying Venezuela has been ideological complicity. According to the Venezuelan journalist Cristina Marcano — joint author with Alberto Barreras of the biography Hugo Chávez sin uniforme: una historia personal (Hugo Chávez without a uniform: a personal history) – everything started in 1997.
General Antonio Rivera, who worked as Head of Telecommunications for the President and was National Director of Civil Protection, points out that in that year 29 Cuban undercover agents established themselves in the Margaritas Islands and helped Chávez with intelligence, personal security and information areas in the election campaign.
After that the interference increased. About 45 thousand Cubans now work in the Venezuelan public administration, the presidential office, ministries and state-owned companies.
Or as bureaucrats, doctors, nurses, dentists, scientists, teachers, information officers, analysts, agricultural technicians, in the electrical services, and cultural workers and developers. Also in security, intelligence and in the armed forces.
When the Cuban collaborators arrive at the Maiquetía airport in Caracas, all the immigration formalities are dealt with by the island´s military personnel.
Cuban Ministry of the Interior specialists run the Venezuelan identification system, the ID cards and passports, commercial registers and Notary Publics.
They know what properties they have and what transactions they carry out. They also jointly manage the ports, are involved in the airports and immigration entry control points, where they can go about their business as they please.
The Cuban company Albet SA, from the University of Information Science (UCI), which runs the Information Service of Identification, Immigration and Emigration (SAIME), is so powerful that they don’t allow Venezuelans into the top floor of the headquarters of SAIME in Caracas.
The Presidential information systems, ministries, social programmes, police services and those of the state oil company PDVSA are also Cuban, by way of the joint venture, Guardián del Alba,* according to the journalist Marcano
The political influence of Cuba, as much in relation to the government of the late Hugo Chávez as now with that of Nicolás Maduro, is decisive. The strategic strings are pulled from Havana.
The Castro brothers benefit to the tune of more than 100 thousand barrels a day of oil and financial assistance estimated at $10B annually.
The PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) is so dependent on them, that the Cuban big-wigs, including General Raúl Castro, fly around in luxury executive jets with Venezuelan plates.
No other empire in the world has ever been able to conquer another nation without the benefit of economic power, or having to send troops. Cuba is the first. In private, Fidel Castro must be very proud.
*Translator’s note: Cuban- Venezuelan information software company in support of the oil industry established to maintain the country’s independence in this field.
Translated by GH
15 May 2014