How Cubans See the Crisis in Venezuela / Ivan Garcia

Whenever he traveled to Havana, Nicolás Maduro met with Fidel Castro. The image is from March 2016 and was taken from La Razón.

Iván García, 5 February 2019 — After the daily rush, Aleida, a housewife, goes out in search of fruits and vegetables and other foods in the market. At lunchtime, thanks to her culinary creativity, she turns three chicken legs into six little servings. After cleaning up, she sits down to watch the Brazilian telenovela and when it is over, she tunes into Telesur, a news channel founded with the petrodollars of the late Hugo Chávez and managed by the propaganda wing of the Venezuelan PSUV and the Department of Revolutionary Orientation of the Cuban Communist Party.

At that moment, the unpresentable Nicolás Maduro, with a frown, is attacking Trump and “Yankee imperialism.” Aleida turns to her husband sitting next to her, and asks, “And now what happened in Venezuela?”

“I don’t know, on the radio I heard there’s a coup d’etat. How strange, without tanks or shots. A guy named Juan Guaidó says he is president. I do not understand anything. Turn that off and let’s watch a serial from the weekly packet,” replies her husband.

Nor does Rubén, a winemaker, understand the Venezuelan situation. “Maduro is always screaming and cursing at someone. Who would think to make a busdriver president? In Venezuela, scandals and problems follow each other and have no end.”

Denise, a university student, is more informed. Her father is a doctor and he is working on a mission in Maracaibo, Venezuela. “That’s a mess. No food, a pound of pork has one price today and in three days costs twice as much. According to my father, the majority of the population don’t like Maduro, but there is also a certain distrust of the opposition. However, Guaidó has come across well, he is young and when he speaks he seems like an ordinary Venezuelan.”

With the exception of political analysts, journalists, dissidents and well-informed people, Cubans are unaware of what is happening in Venezuela. Norge, a graduate in political science, believes that “the manipulation of information in the national media and in Telesur is atrocious. In the press, you can’t find statistics the on hyper inflation (in Venezela), the depreciation of the Bolívar (national currency), the decrease in oil production, much less can you can read a report or a report about the hardships, hunger and lack of medicines in Venezuela.”

Alicia, a designer in private business, says that in Cuba they blame the United States, the opposition and private businessmen for the economic difficulties in Venezuela. “The political situation where Guaidó proclaimed himself [interim] president and pointed to Maduro as a usurper, is not explained in [the newspapers] Granma or Juventud Rebelde. You can not read a serious analysis that provides elements to understand the current state of affairs in Venezuela. Then they say that the Americans are to blame.”

The Venezuelan context has the ingredients of a Hollywood thriller. Espionage, corruption to spare, violation of human rights, torture, degrading treatment of political prisoners and even alleged suicides.

From the Island, Maduro’s Venezuela is seen as cornered between the ideological scams of the Cuban regime and the advice of the Special Service troops of Castroism. The lack of liquidity, the economic crisis and the isolation from the West has caused Chavismo to become a toady of Russia, China and Turkey.

“On January 24 and 25 I woke up early, with the TV remote in my hand. From the bed I expected to see the news of Maduro’s departure, almost certainly to Cuba, but unfortunately it did not happen. It is a real pity that the Venezuelan military commanders have not made the leap, but that reaction is normal, because they are corrupt to the core. They live on perks like the generals here. And in the case of Venezuela, we must add influence peddling and drug trafficking,” says Rolando, a secondary school teacher.

Recently, in the newspaper ABC, a story was published entitled “This is How Chavismo’s Children Spend their Nights in Madrid.” It focuses on Mitchell Padrino Betancourt, eldest son of Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López. “Mitchell knows well the intricacies of the Madrid night and engages in long revelries regardless of the day of the week. He knows how to get the most out of the wee hours with expensive champagne, hookahs and a lot of reggaeton.”

Mitchell and his sister Yarazetd study at Madrid universities. Both were born of the marriage of Padrino with Yarazetd Betancourt, daughter of a colonel. A source told ABC that “Padrino’s children frequently leave home for security reasons, travel a lot to Venezuela, but right now no one knows where they are.”

For Professor Rolando, “all that and more happens with the approval and the special and express advice of the Cuban misgovernment. The penetration is so evident that Maduro now appears with Interest Sections [stand-ins for embassies when there were no formal relations], those that opened in Havana and Washington before relations with the United States were re-established in December 2014. There can be no stronger evidence of the presence of the hands of Cuba in Venezuela.”

Venezuela has long ceased to be sovereign. Silently, without firing a shot, Fidel Castro, with the authorization of Hugo Chávez, began to control key points of the power structures in the South American nation. Military advisors and Cuban counterintelligence have access to privileged information, be it the control of identity cards and passports and customs, or military strategies in case of an aggression from the United States.

Fidel Castro achieved an unprecedented political feat. With a third of the population, a miserable GDP and an army with obsolete weaponry, he managed to colonize Venezuela at the stroke of ideological ingredients. Like tropical Rasputins, the Cuban advisers walk around Venezuela’s Miraflores Palace advising the cream of the Chavista executive.

In the vast operation of managing a country from a distance, the island regime has distorted the rules of the economic and productive game in Venezuela. Castroism has a significant share of guilt in the bestial Venezuelan crisis. In addition to getting oil at rock bottom prices, Cuba obtained billions of dollars in subsidies.

Like a leech, the olive green autocracy has sucked resources, managed operations to buy food with high cost overruns, and re-exported Venezuelan fuel at international market prices. If we give credit to international scholars, in these twenty years of Chavismo, Cuba has obtained benefits equivalent to one hundred billion dollars. Maybe more.

ALBA — a kind of European Union for Latin American and Caribbean countries, designed by Fidel Castro and Hugo Chávez and with the participation of leftist governments or those dependent on Venezuelan oil — never worked. “Fidel said that thanks to ALBA, in Cuba, chocolates, toys and cans of sardines would be sold at reasonable prices and Cubans could go as tourists to Margarita Island. Everything was a lie,” recalls Ignacio, a retired cigar worker.

In the offices of the Palace of the Revolution a space and a common currency, the Sucre, was delineated. Half jokingly, half seriously, the comrades of the PCC (Cuban Communist Party) and the PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) called their alliance “Cubazuela.”

When the economic crisis in Venezuela worsened, due to the fall in oil prices, Chávez’s handpicked successor opted for new credit lines with Russia and China. The debt between Cuba and Venezuela then grew. Currently, the United States is one of the few countries that pay cash for their purchases of Venezuelan fuel. Oil exports to China are pay downs on the debt. Russia has invested ten billion dollars in the oil sector and Turkey has received concessions for mining and gold mining.

With his erratic economic policies and concessions to great powers, in search of support and geostrategic balance, Maduro has sunk Venezuela and transformed the rich country into a poor nation and a hostage of external political chess.

Because of his great irresponsibility and ideological blindness, and for the good of Venezuela and the Venezuelans, Nicolás Maduro should resign now.