What Will Cuba Do?

Maduro was sworn into his position with strong internal and external opposition, which does not recognize his mandate. (EFE / Cristian Hernandez)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 3 February 2019 — The Venezuelan regime of Nicolas Maduro is sinking. What will Cuba do? According to a recent poll, 83.7% of Venezuelans urgently want this obese and muddle-headed man to leave. They prefer the engineer Juan Guaidó.  Maduro is backed by only 4.6%. The rest did not respond or did not know.

Guaidó has the clear backing of society, the support of more than 50 democratic countries and of the most accredited international organizations: the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the European Parliament, the Lima Group. Maduro, on the other hand, has only the backing of Iran — another pariah — along with Russia, China, Turkey, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador and the folderol of Colombian narco-guerrillas camped in Venezuela: the FARC and the ELN.

I repeat: What will Cuba do? The Cuban political operatives agree with this analysis, but it only appears in the (not so) secret papers they send almost daily to Havana in a diplomatic bag. They do not trust phones nor the Internet nor encrypted messages.

Meanwhile, Rogelio Polanco, the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela, asks the Chavistas to resist. He just did so at the inauguration of the “José Martí-Fidel Castro” university chair at Venezuela’s Simón Rodríguez National Experimental University, in Petare.

Cuba, he said, has been able to withstand the siege of the United States for decades. Venezuela can achieve the same results if it digs trenches and puts knees to the ground. The order is to resist. Cuba, heroically, is willing to fight to the last Venezuelan.

Polanco knows that what he says is not true, but he has not been placed in that position to tell the truth, but to try to save Venezuela’s aid and subsidies to the Island. That is his mission.

He is a journalist linked to Cuban Intelligence turned diplomat, and not a professor of ethics. You only have to look to see the discomfort in the mismatch between what he really believes and what he is forced to say. Polanco is not unaware that the level of chaos and disorder in Venezuela is much greater than in Cuba.

Maduro, like almost the entire structure of Cuban power, seems like an idiot but is forced to smile. Annual inflation is several million percent. The shortages are total. The lack of medicine borders on the criminal. The murder rate is very high. One is more likely to die violently in Caracas than in the Kabul of the Afghans. And added to this is the decision of the United States to bury Maduro’s dictatorship before its dismantling and the uncontrolled exodus of Venezuelans affects the entire region even more.

The Cuban dictatorship, since the death of Kennedy, has been allowed by Washington. First because of its protection by the USSR, then due to the general conviction that it was doomed to disappear and it was not worth taking the risk to try to liquidate it.

I have heard that many times in the United States. Faced with the uncertainty of a resounding defeat, the idea prevailed of doing nothing for fear of an overflowing exodus and the tremendous cost of rebuilding a country subjected to decades of communist neglect. Why kill a mosquito with cannon fire if it will die in the short term?

Clinton even granted twenty thousand visas a year to Castro to placate him. It was the escape valve. There was no hurry. In the end, there was the secret aspiration to let it pass to another administration to have to deal with the inevitable end of Castroism.

This attitude has nothing to do with the actively hostile behavior of Donald Trump’s government, determined to tighten the financial screws on the Maduro dictatorship until it suffocates.

The United States is the financial master of the planet. It has 22% of world GDP while 80% of commercial transactions made in dollars travel through the American banking system. That would allow Trump, for example, to prohibit the sending of remittances to Cuba and treat as enemies the countries that break the embargo. In 60 days the enormous poverty of Cuba would become an absolute misery that would affect the Cuban ruling class and explode the pressure cooker.

I return to the original question: What will Cuba do? The symptoms are that, while it demands that Venezuelans resist, it will be secretly repatriating its troops and advisors, while erasing the compromising hard disks.

The Cuban government is absolutely unproductive, but the essential feature of Raúl Castro is his prudence. Fidel would have acted in a much more crazy way, like when he asked the USSR to use its missiles to”preventively” destroy the United States, but fortunately for all Cubans Fidel is buried, they say, in the cemetery of Santa Ifigenia in Santiago de Cuba.


The 14ymedio team is committed to serious journalism that reflects the reality of deep Cuba. Thank you for joining us on this long road. We invite you to continue supporting us, but this time by becoming a member of 14ymedio. Together we can continue to transform journalism in Cuba.