14ymedio, Joaquín Villalobos, 21 February 2019 — In July of 1968 I finished my baccalaureate in a Catholic school with a professor who was a soldier for the dictator Francisco Franco. The students had to go to receive Lyndon Johnson, president of the United States, who visited the country. It was the first time I heard “Yankee go home” screamed by some college students. The Vietnam War was at its height, the Cuban Revolution was only nine years old, the military ruled my country and almost the entire continent with American support . Those who fought against colonialism demanded non-intervention and the self-determination of the peoples.
Half a century later everything changed, right-wing dictators were finished, communist utopias collapsed, elections defeated the armed struggle and now, seeing what is happening in Venezuela and Nicaragua, the evil seems to have changed its ideological side.
As of the year 2000, governments in Latin America fell in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras, Paraguay, Brazil and Guatemala. They collapsed with moderate civic pressure, little international pressure, without prisoners, without exiles and with little violence; the most serious were 50 deaths in Bolivia.
In all these cases the institutions played a role in the crisis, even in Honduras the military coup was ordered by Congress, and ultimatey elections allowed the preservation of democracy. The judgment on the fairness or unfairness of these events is a broad debate, but compared to what happened in the twentieth century, objectively it seemed that, with imperfections, we were in another civic age.
The cases of Venezuela and Nicaragua have broken the rules of the game established in 2000, when the Democratic Charter was signed in Lima. Maduro and Ortega have accumulated more than 700 deaths, 800 political prisoners, thousands of exiles and engaged in the systematic use of torture. Venezuelan refugees total in the millions and Nicaraguan refugees are also on the rise. Both have brutally repressed the largest and longest-running civic protests in Latin American history and both are resisting isolation and international sanctions unprecedented on our continent.
The international community and the Venezuelans themselves have been making forecasts based on the premises established in 2000, and believe that at some point Maduro and Ortega will negotiate their exits. However, if this is correct, they should have collapsed. Why hasn’t this happened? The answer is that the obstacle is not in Venezuela or Nicaragua, but in Cuba.
Colonialism basically consists of political, military and cultural control, a puppet government and an extractive economy. The British dominated India for almost a century with the few thousand Englishmen sent to a country of some 300 million inhabitants and more than three million square kilometers.
Fidel Castro, through the instrument of Chavez, managed to conquer Venezuela. He defined the government model; aligned the country ideologically with 21st Century Socialism; reorganized, trained and defined the doctrine of the Armed Forces; assumed control of the intelligence and security services; sent hundreds of thousands of soldiers, teachers and doctors to consolidate his political dominance; established the Bolivarian Alliance of the Peoples of America (ALBA) for the geopolitical defense of his colony; chose Maduro as the puppet successor to Chavez and established an extractive economy that allowed him to obtain some 100,000 barrels of oil a day to sustain his regime.
In the last 15 years Cuba has received more than 35 billion dollars. At present, Maduro delivers 80% of the oil destined for cooperation to Cuba and 15% to Nicaragua. Any need of the Cuban regime has priority over the humanitarian emergency suffered by Venezuelans.
In Venezuela, life is played by the revolutionary leftist religion that has Cuba as its Vatican. The transition from Cuba to democracy and the market economy is a huge change for Latin America, comparable to what the fall of the Berlin Wall meant for Europe. When the collapse of the Soviet Union was clearly inescapable, the aspiration of its aging leaders was to die in bed, as Fidel Castro did in Cuba. The political, economic, ideological and above all personal interests of thousands of Cuban leaders and bureaucrats are the main obstacle in this crisis. This explains Ortega’s and Maduro’s ferocious resistance and elevated willingness to kill and torture.
The Cuban regime has opted for Venezuela and Nicaragua to be destroyed in a futile containment strategy to avoid its own inevitable end. Cuba has been resisting a transition for twenty years while its citizens suffer from hunger and misery. There is no visible emigration like the Venezuelan one because it is an island, but the most brutal massacre of Castroism is the more than one hundred thousand Cubans devoured by sharks while trying to cross the Strait of Florida since the Castros took power.
Cuba, the country that considered itself a leader in the fight against colonialism, ended up becoming a colonizer. Its leaders are dragging the entire left off a moral cliff that could leave a long conservative hegemony. Saving the useless and irredeemable failed Cuban model now means defending killings, torture and enormous corruption.
It does not make sense to defend Maduro from a hypothetical intervention of the United States when Venezuela is a country intervened in by Cuba. Whether the “left” likes it or not, in Venezuela there is a national liberation struggle and the dilemma is not to choose between Nicolás Maduro or Donald Trump, but between dictatorship or democracy. Faced with this reality, not aligning with democracy is to align with the dictatorship.
It is impossible to predict whether or not there may be a military intervention in Venezuela. The United States will make its own calculations in the face of Maduro’s absurd resistance. The automatic reaction to reject a intervention is understandable, but beyond the desires, the main thing is to pragmatically consider what could happen if it occurs.
In Venezuela there was never a real revolution, Chavismo did not cohere over revolutionary mysticism, but rather over clientelism and monetary ambition. Venezuela can not become a Vietnam, nor can there be a civil war. Venezuelans have persistently rejected violence, from Chávez, who surrendered twice, to the opposition, which for 18 years has resisted taking up arms.
Given the extreme unpopularity of Maduro, the deep division in the Armed Forces and some decorative militias that the military does not dare to arm permanently, the most likely scenario facing an intervention would be Panama in 1989 or Serbia in 1999, but with technology 20 years more advanced. In Panama, thousands of new rifles destined for militiamen who never existed were left abandoned. In Venezuela, they have been talking for years about a rifle factory that surely never existed because someone stole the money.
In conclusion, an intervention would be forceful, quick, successful and widely celebrated by millions of Venezuelans and Latin Americans. To say this is not to support a military solution, but to foresee a political reality. Therefore, if we want to avoid intervention and resolve the crisis politically, the right thing is not to confront Trump, but to demand that Cuba takes its hands off Venezuela.
Editor’s note: Joaquín Villalobos was a Salvadoran guerrilla and is a consultant for the resolution of international conflicts. This article has been published by the newspaper El País and we reproduce it with the authorization of the author.
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