Politics, recent
comments 70

How Venezuelan Democracy Lost the Battle Against Castro—An Interview with Orlando Avendaño

Días de Sumisión (Days of Submission), written by Venezuelan journalist Orlando Avendaño and published last year by Editorial Ígneo, offers a fascinating history of Cuban interference in Venezuela’s democratic system, and analyses how Fidel Castro opened the way for Hugo Chávez’s disastrous presidency. I sat down with Avendaño to talk about his book and the current situation in Venezuela.

How did you come up with the idea of writing Days of Submission?

The project was born in a conversation with a prominent university professor from Caracas, in which we both took on the task of trying to determine who was responsible for Hugo Chávez’s ascent to power. In addition to the political actors best known to chavismo, we knew that there were many other individuals and factors that had somehow contributed to making a man like Chávez president of Venezuela. And then we discovered that behind all of them was Fidel Castro.

You divide your book into three parts: “The Uprising,” “The Infiltration,” and “The Consolidation.” Tell me a bit about the structure.

The three parts of this book are the three stages in the process of Castro’s persistent attempt to seize power in Venezuela. Various strategies were outlined, each a response to the failure of the last. First was the insurrection: that was the process of fomenting armed conflict in Venezuela—that is, the guerrilla warfare sponsored by Havana in the 1960s. This occurred in several Latin American nations and in countries on other continents, such as Africa. The rebel groups formed the so-called Frente de Liberación Nacional, a communist paramilitary organization that united the Venezuelan guerrilla groups—all of whom saw the Castro revolution as their “moral north”—in an attempt to overthrow the Venezuelan government. They were devastated militarily, democracy was restored, and they submitted themselves to a process of disarmament and pacification. Following the failure of this armed revolt, those who had orchestrated it adopted a new strategy of infiltration. This infiltration consisted of introducing individuals sympathetic to the Cuban revolution into the armed forces so that they could expand the project, recruit officers, and, in a few years, be in a position to seize power. After the failed coup d’état of February 4, 1992, orchestrated by officials sympathetic to the Cuban revolution, the process of consolidating their insurrectionary project began with the reunification of all the groups that had spent decades planning it, and the growing popularity of Chávez. Chávez travels to Havana in 1994.

How does Cuba control Venezuela today?

Orlando Avendaño (Pic: Twitter)

The Cuban state has interfered in five key areas of Venezuelan governance: Records and Notaries; Identification; the Bolivarian National Police Organization; the intelligence and counterintelligence agencies; and the National Armed Forces. One of the most shameful things about this process of capitulation is that is was built on a kind of platform of legitimacy. This happened with the gradual dismantling of Venezuelan institutions in exchange for the country’s surrender to Cuba, all of which was supported by a large part of Venezuelan society. Chávez handed the country over to Cuba and people applauded. He began with economic agreements and social exchanges; that is, oil in exchange for Cuban doctors, teachers, and so on. We now know that these exchanges were really an attempt by the Cuban regime to exert greater influence in other nations. Everything happened at so many levels and in so many ways that it seems surreal. The Organisation of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro recently announced that there are “some 46,000 Cubans in Venezuela, an occupation force that teaches how to torture and repress, that performs intelligence, civil identification, and migration services.” It is still difficult to detail precisely how we reached this point, and to explain specifically how each Cuban individual penetrated each area of my country’s politics and institutions.

Do you think there is any discontent among members of the head of the Venezuelan army when they see how far Cuban influence has spread through their institutions? 

I should, but at this point I no longer believe there are many traces of morals, ethics, or principles within the Venezuelan armed forces. The military leadership allowed all this interference to take place in exchange for a lot of money, many privileges, and immense access to power. At one point, some very brave individuals rebelled against the first great Cuban attempt to penetrate the armed forces, which was carried out under the terrible slogan of “Socialism, Homeland, or Death,” but they were all repressed by the government.

Venezuelan protests in Caracas, 2016 (Pic: Eneas De Troya Flickr)

On 30 April, the Venezuelan opposition tried to organize again to overthrow the Maduro regime. The days passed and, for now, we can only conclude that it was another failed attempt. What do you think are the causes of this failure?

There are a number of different explanations for this failure. Most agree that the rebellion was anticipated. This was probably because the information had been leaked or because the regime already had already made plans to stop Juán Guaidó at a later date. I also believe that it was a mistake to have released [opposition politician] Leopoldo López first and to place him at the forefront of this movement; I think this generated an enormous discomfort among the military who were supposed to support the insurrection. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton assured that a pact had already been made with the Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino López, the head of the presidential guard Iván Hernández Dalas, and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno, who had apparently promised that they would recognize Guaidó at the moment he rebelled. But then for some reason they did not act.

What should the Venezuelan opposition do to put an end to the dictatorship and return the country to its long process of democratic reconstruction?

The chavismo of some has turned Venezuela into a unique historical precedent. For the first time in human history, a much stronger, militarily powerful, and economically more robust state has submitted to the control of a much smaller and poorer one. The dictatorship has remained in power despite terrible political, economic, and social crises. It has survived international pressures, thousands of protests in the streets, the most horrible migratory crisis in the history of our continent. But none of this has brought the dictatorship to an end. This has led me to conclude that this regime will not be ousted by conventional means; it can only be overthrown by force. When using force there are only two options: internal or external. Internal force can only be imposed by those with weapons, that is, by the military groups. But over the last few years, it has been demonstrated that these groups do not intend to collaborate to bring Nicolás Maduro down, because many have been bought with state benefits, and others are so mired in scandals of corruption and repression they are afraid of what will happen to them if the regime falls. What happened on April 30 was further proof of this. In spite of the pact they had made to help defeat the dictatorship, the military leadership decided to do nothing. I now believe that only military intervention from outside has the capacity to remove Maduro from power, despite all the unfortunate and unforeseeable consequences this implies. But if we don’t take the risk, the danger will be even greater, conflict will continue to be imminent, and the stability of the entire region will be compromised.

 

Jorge C. Carrasco is a Cuban journalist and writer. His writing has appeared in outlets such as Washington Examiner, the Western Journal, the Foundation for Economic Education, and CapX, among many others. You can follow him on Twitter @JorgeCCarrasco

Orlando Avendaño is a Venezuelan writer, journalist, and editor-in-chief at the PanAm Post. You can follow him on Twitter @OrlvndoA

70 Comments

  1. Cynical Old Biologist says

    “But if we don’t take the risk…” Something tells me that Jorge and Orlando won’t be taking any risks – they will be expecting the great majority of poorer Venezuelans who prefer Maduro to a US backed puppet to do the suffering.

    “…all of which was supported by a large part of Venezuelan society.” There you have it. Democracy at work for better or worse. Worse for Jorge and Orlando maybe. But the majority became happier under Chavez. Removing the US sanctions on Venezuela will also allow the majority of people to be happier.

    • Gringo says

      they will be expecting the great majority of poorer Venezuelans who prefer Maduro to a US backed puppet to do the suffering.

      In the December 2015 legislative elections, the opposition won two thirds of the National Assembly seats. ( 112 of 168).

    • Johnny Appleseed says

      The house of cards worked for awhile under Chavez only because of peak oil prices. Once those crashed the whole system collapsed.

    • Jack B. Nimble says

      “……U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton assured that a pact had already been made with the Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino López, the head of the presidential guard Iván Hernández Dalas, and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice Maikel Moreno, who had apparently promised that they would recognize Guaidó at the moment he rebelled. But then for some reason they did not act…………”

      Maybe they did not act because they were playing both sides? Bolton outed these would-be plotters, helping to ensure that no other Venezuelan officials will turn to Americans in the future for help in ousting Maduro. In foreign policy, Bolton and Trump have a reverse Midas touch–just look at how well they are solving the Middle East crisis after so many decades of failure!

      It is worth noting that none of the coup plotters has been arrested, and Guaido is still leading rallies including one on May 11th in which he announced that he is seeking a direct line of communication with the US military. Link: https://thehill.com/latino/443268-guaido-asks-for-direct-communication-with-us-military

      Also, compare Maduro’s response to what happened in 2016 in Turkey after a failed coup: over 30,000 Turkish citizens were arrested and dozens of coup plotters were sentenced to life in prison. Link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2016_Turkish_coup_d%27%C3%A9tat_attempt

      Bottom Line:. Maduro is certainly authoritarian, but he is not a Fidel Castro or even a Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

      • Shamrock says

        JBN
        “In foreign policy, Bolton and Trump have a reverse Midas touch–just look at how well they are solving the Middle East crisis after so many decades of failure!”

        Not sure I am following what you mean here. In the last 2 decades, Bush made a mess in Afghanistan and Iraq and Obama made a mess in Syria and Libya. Are you saying Trump is doing worse? It seems to me he is pulling out of Syria but not invading any other countries. He may not be solving any problems in this region but I don’t see how is doing any worse.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @Shamrock

          I agree that American foreign policy successes have been few since the fall of the USSR. Even the expansion of NATO and the intervention in the Yugoslav war under B. Clinton have proved to be problematic.

          I think that Obama had minor, qualified successes in his opening to Cuba and to Iran, but Trump trashed those deals soon after taking office.

          Trump seems to think that he can make ‘deals’ with N. Korea, the Palestinians, and China [over trade] while showing the iron fist to Cuba, Iran and Venezuela. All of the above except the Palestinians have real armies, and Venezuela has large numbers of military weapons in civilian hands. So the idea of a quick, successful military strike against Iran, N. Korea or Venezuela is just a fantasy.

          Trump, like Obama before him, deserves credit for keeping the US out of a big ground war. And if Trump could pull off ‘deals’ in Asia and the Middle East, that would be great for everyone concerned. But as long as he lets Pompeo and Bolton run the show with their take-it-or-leave-it diplomacy, I don’t expect to see success any time soon.

          • Shamrock says

            JBN

            Thanks for clarifying. I pretty much agree with you, especially the part about keeping the US out of a ground war.

      • dirk says

        ” Vladimir”, some times I read Vladimiro, really a typical and nice Latin American name, but not very Western.

      • dirk says

        Yes, and what can be the reason of not arresting Guaido? Is he so sure of himself and his influence on the military? Just only very few of them, until now, left the army and chose for the opposition.

        • Jack B. Nimble says

          @dirk

          ‘…..what can be the reason of not arresting Guaido?……..’

          Let’s speculate!

          Maybe Maduro was told through back channels that if Guaido is arrested, unmarked missile firing drones will show up on his doorstep?

          Or maybe Maduro prefers to have Guaido running around the countryside, making a complete fool of himself?

          Or maybe Maduro is a lazy, incompetent tyrant?

          Or maybe Maduro isn’t the thug that the US makes him out to be…………

          • dirk says

            Indeed, having him running around, and making a fool of himself, that’s, in fact, maybe,the way it goes there ( I’ve lived there for some time), that I understand best, what do you think, Gringo?? And, this Vladimir ( just only look at how he is named) is probably his best guarantee for succes (for the time being , not so very long any more, I fear, but time, look at Gaddafi, is not the factor here.

      • carl says

        Turkey can afford to jail thousands of its citizens, Venezuela cannot.

    • Fuzzy Headed Mang says

      Three million Venezuelans have already left the country, and it’s not clear that a majority of poorer Venezuelans prefer Maduro. Is it better to have a Cuban and Russian backed puppet than a US backed puppet? What the article didn’t mention was the extensive Russian influence in Venezuela. I agree there should be no US military involvement there. No US soldier should have to die for another country. Not after Afghanistan and Iraq. Economic sanctions yes.

      • The best solution is to create a Venezuelan police force, recruited from the 4 million in exile, to enter Venezuela and create two spaces within the country where assembly deputies, soldiers and whole units of the Venezuelan armed forces can flee and join the liberation effort.

        This police force must be well armed, provided with armored vehicles, include a core made up of thousands of soldiers and police who have already fled, assisted by a logistics tail to include technical and medical personnel able to restore some basic services. They must be provided with ships loaded with humanitarian aid and equipment to establish a basic infrastructure in areas under their control.

        I would avoid foreign troops on Venezuelan soil, except those used to provide logistics support, humanitarian aid, man field hospitals, and help Venezuelan pilots control the air. An exception would be allowing the entry of up to 10000 Colombian military personnel into the Western states, to pursue and eliminate ELN and FARC guerrillas.

    • ga gamba says

      Removing the US sanctions on Venezuela will also allow the majority of people to be happier.

      You read that on a placard at the May Day drumming circle and puppet show?

      Firstly, it isn’t solely the US. It’s the US and about 50 other countries including Canada, Australia, almost all of Latin America, and most of the EU that shifted recognition of Venezuela’s legitimate government from the Maduro regime to Guaido.

      Secondly, there are no sanctions “on Venezuela”. Of the US, there are prohibitions on US persons, which includes US citizens, US residents, and US-located companies from doing business with 81 Venezuelans to include the organisations they own or manage. This began during the Obama administration. For example, a US bank with accounts owned a Venezuela general on the list of 81 will freeze them. The other countries have their own restrictions on what activities they may restrict their own people from doing with Venezuelan government officials and entities.

      Further, for about a year now US persons may not do business with two Venezuelan companies, its state-owned oil company PDVSA and its state-owned gold mining company – several of its gold mines were once owed by a Canadian company but were expropriated by Chavez. Other countries have also applied their own restrictions. This means Caterpillar may not sell equipment or spare parts to either of these companies. If either wants to raise funds through a bond sale, US merchant banks, rating agencies, and buyers may not participate. PDVSA owned US-based Citgo (Venezuela’s most valuable overseas asset), so to get around these restrictions Citgo separated from the parent company, fired those Venezuelans loyal to Maduro working in the US, and aligned itself with Guaido. Because the Maduro regime owes billions to outside creditors, they had eyed Citgo’s shares as a way to collect – Citgo’s shares has been used as collateral including for a loan made by Russia. The separation of Citgo from the regime preserves Venezuelan ownership, albeit in different hands. Further, Guaido has been granted the right to control Venezuelan assets parked in US bank accounts.

      Assets frozen in the US and elsewhere are not only protected from Venezuelan officials misusing them for further self enrichment, Guaido has been able to work with creditors to repay the debt rather than they seizing these assets and further eroding the country’s wealth. Creditors are looking to seize Venezuela’s gold held overseas, such as at the Bank of England. They’ll probably also seize PDVSA’s oil tankers – they’ve already blocked delivery of supplies and spare parts to the fleet. Conoco started seizing Venezuelan oil in Curacao and other Dutch Caribbean islands in a bid to recoup $2 billion it is owed. As of the end of 2018, the Maduro regime owes $156 billion (740% the value of exports) to include the seizures of foreign-owned businesses/assets, interest on bonds, arrears, bilateral loans (China and Russia), and legal fees from arbitration cases, but it has almost no way to repay. It’s in such a dire strait that even Chinese state-owned Sinopec filed a lawsuit against PDVSA in the US to claim unsettled debts – Venezuela is paying off its interest owed to China with oil.

      Presently, credit card transactions by Mastercard and Visa cardholders are permitted to be done in Venezuela – those will likely be next prohibited. Ordinary Venezuelans have abandoned the local currency, and for years using foreign currency was illegal, so Bitcoin has become the widely accepted currency by non-state businesses. Yet, poor internet connectivity amid persistent blackouts and a lack of affordable smart mobiles thwart potential participants.

      Next, it’s been Chavez’s and Maduro’s economic mismanagement that’s the cause of the collapse. In 2003 Chavez imposed currency controls that gave him the power to arbitrarily fix the bolivar exchange rate (a preferred rate for favoured companies and a worse rate for everyone else), limited Venezuelans’ access to foreign currency, and controlled the prices of dozens of basic goods. The outcome was the spread of corruption where those who could buy dollars at favourable rates were able to reap windfalls selling dollars on the black market. To get around price controls, producers shifted production to uncontrolled items, for example cakes instead of bread. Instead of controlling costs by improving efficiency and productivity, the typical goals of a company, it became of national game of find (or buy) the loopholes and exploit them. Productive talent and energy were diverted to unproductive efforts.

      Lastly, each country may choose to establish or terminate trade relations with others, No one has the right to trade, market access, or commercial services; it’s a privilege often extended to each party of a bilateral friendship, commerce and navigation treaty. It has mixed results. Many in OPEC decided to restrict oil exports to the West in the aftermath of Israel cleaning the Arabs’ clocks yet again in ’73. In the aftermath of the Soviet invasion the US decided to end grain shipments to the USSR. Argentina made up the shortfall, which busted the US embargo. Trade restriction due to political disputes is not uncommon, and it’s not always a death blow.

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        GG – no US sanctions on Venezuela but “US persons may not do business with … its state-owned oil company PDVSA” ??

        And as a citizen of a US client regime, I find it very disappointing, but hardly surprising, that so many nations immediately backed the US puppet Guaido. The majority of the world’s nations still have not.

    • Darwin Hernandez says

      Dear Cynical Old Biologist,
      Let me help you to understand why your comment is full of false statements:
      1)”the great majority of poorer Venezuelans who prefer Maduro” what’s your source on this claim? I bet you’d mention something about elections. If so, do you know how the “electoral system” works in Venezuela? Do you know that even Smartmatic, the company behind the process recently mentioned that 1 million of votes appeared out of the blue in one recent “election”. By the way, do you know the conditions in which the presidential elections occurred back in May 2018? If you don’t, how can you be so sure that the majority of poorer Venezuelans prefer Maduro. Also, saying poor and Venezuelan is redundant.
      2)Yes, there were millions of Venezuelans who voted for Chavez on the early 2000s but that does not mean that we have the same picture now.
      3)Do you think that this calamity is produced by American sanctions? Do you know that the first sanctions were against people in the Chavista group, not over the country? Does a sanction over one person have impact on the economy of a 30 million people country? The sanctions over the government are pretty recent, thou. Do you think that a sanction with less that 1 year would produce a >10000000% inflation rate? How about our gdp sinking at least three years in row? Is it blame of the sanctions, too?
      4) where is the domestic industry? Does the word “expropriation” ring a bell here?
      5)Anything to say besides to ad hominem?
      Greetings!

      • Cynical Old Biologist says

        Greetings Darwin Hernandez! Compare the size of the public demonstrations supporting Maduro compared to those supporting Guaido. The demonstrations supporting the current regime are far larger. Look at the people who are demonstrating. It is pretty clear it is the less wealthy Venezuelans who are supporting Maduro.

        • OleK says

          @Cynical Old Biologist

          Using media portrayed crowd demonstrations as a proxy for actual support? That’s pretty laughable. No, they could NEVER be manipulated by the media!

        • northernobserver says

          Another dirty old death eater. Take your red black poison elsewhere.

  2. “The great majority of poorer Venezuelans who prefer Maduro”

    You mean the 2 million that prefer to flee the country, or the ones that chose to stay and starve?

    Sanctions aren’t why Venezuela is imploding. And “the majority” did not get happier under Chavez. If you admit the majority of people are still poor, how can you say they are happier under Maduro/Chavez? A few people consolidated power, stole wealth, and pilfered natural resources. Everyone else stayed broke and kept quiet about it or disappeared.

      • Gringo says

        Regarding Venezuelan quality of life improving under Chavez, an appropriate reply is that improvements under Chavez didn’t match improvements in other countries. For example, in 1998, the year Chavez was elected, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 20 (deaths per 1,000 live births). When Chavez died in 2013, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 15.4. Yes, that is an improvement, How does that improvement compare to other countries?

        In 1998, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate ranked 6th in Latin America(romance language speaking). In 2013, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality ranked 12th in Latin America. By 2017, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality ranked 18th in Latin America only Bolivia and Haiti had worse Infant Mortality rates than Venezuela’s 25.7. From 1998 to 2017, Bolivia’s Infant Mortality rate went from 63 to 28; Venezuela’s from 20 to 25.7.

        Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births), 1998
        Cuba 7.1
        Chile 10.1
        Costa Rica 12.4
        Uruguay 16
        Argentina 19.1
        Venezuela, RB 20
        Colombia 22.5
        Panama 22.7
        Mexico 25
        Ecuador 27.4
        Paraguay 29.2
        El Salvador 30.2
        Brazil 34.3
        Peru 34.6
        Dominican Republic 35.1
        Nicaragua 36.1
        Honduras 36.7
        Guatemala 43.8
        Bolivia 63.8
        Haiti 79.4

        Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births), 2013
        Cuba 4.4
        Chile 7.1
        Uruguay 8.2
        Costa Rica 8.4
        Argentina 11.3
        Mexico 13.7
        Peru 13.7
        Ecuador 13.8
        Colombia 14.4
        El Salvador 14.5
        Brazil 14.9
        Venezuela, RB 15.4
        Panama 15.7
        Nicaragua 17
        Honduras 18
        Paraguay 20.2
        Guatemala 26.3
        Dominican Republic 27.2
        Bolivia 32.2
        Haiti 57.9

        Mortality rate, infant (per 1,000 live births), 2013
        Cuba 4.1
        Chile 6.3
        Uruguay 7
        Costa Rica 7.8
        Argentina 9.2
        Mexico 11.5
        Peru 11.6
        Ecuador 12.5
        El Salvador 12.5
        Colombia 12.7
        Brazil 13.2
        Panama 13.9
        Nicaragua 14.8
        Honduras 15.6
        Paraguay 17.9
        Guatemala 23.1
        Dominican Republic 25
        Venezuela, RB 25.7
        Bolivia 28
        Haiti 53.9

        https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.IMRT.IN

        • Gringo says

          Correction: the third list of Infant Mortality rates was for 2017.

      • Gringo says

        Regarding Venezuelan quality of life improving under Chavez, an appropriate reply is that improvements under Chavez didn’t match improvements in other countries. Take 2: the economy.

        When Chávez was elected in 1998, Venezuelan oil was selling for about $11/BBL. When he died in 2013, Venezuelan oil was selling for about $100/BBL. Even with this oil export revenue bonanza of around $750 billion in current dollars from 1999-2013, Chavismo’s record on economic growth was pathetic- anemic- near the bottom of the barrel. From 1998-2013, Venezuela’s increase in per capita income was 15%, compared to 44% for the World at this time. See the table below.

        GDP per capita, PPP (constant 2011 international $), % growth 1998-2013
        East Asia & Pacific (excluding high income) 191.9%
        Upper middle income 110.3%
        South Asia 103.9%
        Low & middle income 91.9%
        World 44.3%
        Sub-Saharan Africa 42.4%
        Middle East & North Africa 31.8%
        Latin America & Caribbean 30.2%
        Venezuela 15.1%

        Chavismo’s pathetic economic growth, in spite of the 1999-2013 oil revenue bonanza, is why the loudly and widely touted reductions in poverty were not sustainable. In order to distribute more money, you need more money to distribute.All Chavismo was doing was throwing money around.

        https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.PP.KD?locations=PE

      • Fuzzy Headed Mang says

        So according to your logic, the poorer Venezuelans become, the more they’ll prefer Maduro.

      • That article is from 2013.

        A lot has happened in 6 years.

        Question. Why are you defending something that is such a clear failure? There’s actually no “sides” in so much human suffering.

        Chavez socialism experiment worked for a time, then stopped working, and now it’s remnants are hurting millions of people.

  3. marekbage says

    Take two extreme right wingers, a few well polished conspiracy theories and a fistful of hyperbole. Mix them together and, viola!, you have the bucket load of horseshit presented above.

    Of course, there’s no mention of the NeoLiberal catastrophuck caused by Rafael Caldera in the latter half of the 1990’s that saw 66% of the population living below the poverty line and GDP wound back to levels not seen since the early ’60s.

    I daresay those conditions had a hell of a lot more to do with the rise of Chavez than the nefarious machinations of a dirt poor Caribbean nation!

    The only threat to democracy at present are the actions of Maduro as he tries to maintain power and the actions Guiado as he tries to steal it.
    Cuba is an irrelevancy.

    • Fuzzy Headed Mang says

      What about Russia as a threat to Venezuelan democracy and independence? They have troops there, and have sent a lot of aid. Indeed, Chavez was a response to Caldera.

  4. brian jackson says

    I stopped reading at ……….”Castro’s attempts to seize power in Venezuela” !!!!
    Thanks Quillette, I needed a good laugh!

    • Gringo says

      From the article:

      After the failed coup d’état of February 4, 1992, orchestrated by officials sympathetic to the Cuban revolution,

      Are you going to tell me that Chavez, the coup leader, was NOT sympathetic to the Cuban revolution? 🙂
      In addition, it is a historical fact that, like the article says, Castro sponsored guerrillas all over Latin America- not just to Venezuela. Have you ever heard about Che Guevara in Bolivia. If you are laughing, you are merely demonstrating your ignorance.

      • E. Olson says

        Gringo – I appreciate your efforts to bring some historical accuracy and data to this discussion. Apparently Chavez is still a socialist hero of the people to not only assorted Hollywood celebrities and Democrat presidential candidates, but also several Quillette commenters.

  5. E. Olson says

    It is amazing what greedy, stupid people will do to gain or maintain power. How else can you possibly explain how Castro could have any influence anywhere, given the disaster zone Cuba has been since the revolution? If Cuba hadn’t been a Soviet client and economically and militarily propped up until the wall fell, Castro’s regime would have collapsed by the early 1970s. How anyone with half a brain in Venezuela could look at Cuba and say “I want some of that” is beyond comprehension, but greed and lust for power often gets in the way of proper brain functioning.

    Unfortunately, US military intervention to “solve” the Venezuelan problems is unlikely to work when half or more of the country votes for corrupt and incompetent governments who promise “free stuff” and “fairness” by mismanaging/punishing the tremendous sources of natural wealth and talent in the country (or working with even more corrupt and incompetent Cubans). No intervention can fix rampant native stupidity.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @E. Olson

      Governments are corrupt when the governed are corrupt.

  6. dirk says

    I miss a very important aspect in Orlando’s exposee of Cuban interference in Venezuela: their agronomical advisors, with their experience of city farming, agroecology, conuco production and marketing (thus, not supermarketing of imported stuff) and family peasantry. Venezuela long since has given up self sufficiency in farming because importing the basics was possible, easier and cheaper with all that oil money. So, this selfsufficiency would have been a logical (partly) solution, however, did not work out. Maybe, the end of Maduro is even hastened by this failure, because, what are the poor devils going to eat there in the near future??

    • Gringo says

      dirk:

      I miss a very important aspect in Orlando’s exposee of Cuban interference in Venezuela: their agronomical advisors, with their experience of city farming, agroecology, conuco production and marketing (thus, not supermarketing of imported stuff) and family peasantry. Venezuela long since has given up self sufficiency in farming

      As Cuba has also given up in self-sufficiency in farming, I fail to see how they could provide any useful advice to Venezuela.
      Cuba starts widespread rationing of food and other basics

      Cuba imports roughly two thirds of its food at an annual cost of more than $2.7 billion and brief shortages of individual products have been common for years. In recent months, a growing number of products have started to go missing for days or weeks at a time, and long lines have sprung up within minutes of the appearance of scarce products like chicken or flour. Many shoppers find themselves still standing in line when the products run out — a problem the government has been blaming on “hoarders.

      Cuba giving agricultural advice is comparable to Cuba’s giving advice on electricity generation.
      Crops (PIN) Net per capita Production decline, percent
      Venezuela (1998-2016) 35.7%
      Cuba (1961-2016) 32.2%

      OTOH, Cuba’s advice on intelligence services is excellent- as Maduro can attest.

      http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI

      • dirk says

        We discussed that amply before, Gringo. Check also Miguel Altieri on agroecology and urban agriculture in Cuba, really amazing what happened there, they had to, of course, because after 1990 no more foreign exchange for certified seeds, fertilizer and pesticides, and not enough gas from their friends in Venezuela for the machinery (horses and oxen are doing it now).
        You know the Freire station in Barinas? Also not very succesful, but the model in Brasil doing quite well. The Feria Conuquera of Caracas (- agricultura cero divisas -), as an alternative , also never supplied enough for so many , the Cuban lessons were in vain. And the people are losing weight slowly.

        • Gringo says

          dirk:
          Check also Miguel Altieri on agroecology and urban agriculture in Cuba, really amazing what happened there,

          Miguel Altieri in Monthly Review: The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture (2012).

          When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, parts, and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on imported synthetic chemical inputs, and became a world-class case of ecological agriculture.
          This was such a successful turnaround that Cuba rebounded to show the best food production performance in Latin America and the Caribbean over the following period, a remarkable annual growth rate of 4.2 percent per capita from 1996 through 2005, a period in which the regional average was 0 percent

          Let’s see what the FAO has to say about per capita production in Cuba from 1996-2005.
          Net per capita production change, 1996-2005, Cuba
          Agriculture (PIN) 13.8% decline
          Cereals,Total 16.5% decline
          Crops (PIN) 7.6% increase
          Food (PIN) 13.4% decline
          Livestock (PIN) 23.5% decline
          Non Food (PIN) 25.6% decline

          There is no way those 1996-2005 per capita growth figures translate into a 4.2% ANNUAL growth, which would translate into a 45% increase in per capita production over a 9 year period.

          Yes, a country which imports most of its food and whose per capita crop production has declined by a third can offer good advice to others on how to improve agriculture. 🙂

          Dime otro de vaqueros, as they say in Venezuela. Or in Maracaibo: Decime otro de vaqueros. (For those, unlike dirk, who do not speak Spanish: Tell me another cowboy story, tell me another fish story.)

          http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QI

          • Gringo says

            From FAO stats, there was substantial increase in production for some Cuban fruits and vegetables from 1996-2005, though this would not apparently translate into increased Food production overall. The quarter of Cuban farmland that was infested with Marabu, the African bushy weed, after leaving fallow land that once produced sugar, had a negative effect on agricultural production.

            Production, metric tons
            Chillies and peppers, green 1996 13,566
            Chillies and peppers, green 2005 81,815
            Cucumbers and gherkins 1996 51,706
            Cucumbers and gherkins 2005 219,460
            Mangoes, mangosteens, guavas 1996 79,400
            Mangoes, mangosteens, guavas 2005 370,335
            Onions, dry 1996 10,691
            Onions, dry 2005 129,428
            Tomatoes 1996 208,500
            Tomatoes 2005 802,600
            Watermelons 1996 30,332
            Watermelons 2005 79,630
            Yams 1996 3,244
            Yams 2005 137,055

            http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#data/QC

          • dirk says

            Of course, cheap dry food like wheat , rice and maize meal can better be imported and kept a subsidized item for the time being, (peri)-urban agriculture is (for own use and sale) on veggies, fruits, legumes, but also plantains, sweet potatoes, yams, yuca and even poultry rabbits and swine. BTW, ever read whether goats eat that nasty marabu? It is also a leguminous shrub, with protein-rich pods. In that case, your knife cuts at two sides, finish off the weeds and free meat. And more grass for sheep and dairy. Heaven on earth!

  7. Barney Doran says

    I think John Bolton wrote the last two sentences of this article.

    • Morgan Foster says

      @Barney Doran

      Military intervention, as called for by the author, would obligate the US to take in a substantial percentage of the Venezuelan people as self-described refugees. I would rather spend the money on a wall.

    • dirk says

      I just read now that Venezuela does not import maize meal, but just only white maize (about half of what they need) , the staple for that “harina for their arepas”, produced by the mega-agro-firm Polar. So, the industry and commerce still not completely eradicated there, I wonder really that this strange symbiosis can survive there, but how?? One always wonders how things march forward (or backward) there, in the deep South!

  8. Chip says

    So, a foreign government meddles in a country’s elections, bringing to power a corrupt and incompetent buffoon who proceeds to destroy the country from within.

    Sounds familiar somehow.

    • Fuzzy Headed Mang says

      He may be a buffoon, but the American economy appears to be booming….. he he

  9. Jack B. Nimble says

    @Barney Doran

    Has anyone else noticed that Bolton is a one-trick pony when it comes to diplomacy:

    Bolton to Cubans: throw off your oppressive rulers and we’ll remove sanctions and let the Yankee investment dollars flow. We have big plans for your country!!!

    Bolton to N. Koreans: throw off your oppressive rulers and we’ll remove sanctions and let the Yankee investment dollars flow. We have big plans….

    Bolton to Palestinians: throw off your oppressive rulers and we’ll remove sanctions and let the Yankee investment dollars flow……

    Bolton to Iranians: throw off your oppressive rulers and we’ll remove sanctions……….

    Bolton to Russians: throw off your oppressive rulers………. err…. let’s forget that one!

  10. TheSnark says

    As long as Maduro’s regime controls the para-militaries and the army, and is willing to use them, he will stay in power. What the Cuban advisors are doing is making sure he keeps that control (and, of course, making sure that Cuba gets enough oil).

    The para-militaries are uneducated rural punks brought to the city with the promise of better pay and the chance to beat people up. The higher ranks of the military are bought off with massive corruption. The lower ranks are kept in line through harsh military discipline and threats to their families.

    The opposition winning democratic elections, massive popular discontent, millions fleeing the country, and economic collapse all mean little to those in power as long as the men with guns support the regime.

    Sadly, the author is probably right that it will come to violence in the end.

    • Gringo says

      Good comment, but with one disclaimer. The paramilitaries, a.k.a. “colectivos,” were already living in the cities. They were not “brought into the city with the promise of better pay and the chance to beat people up,” They were already in the city. They were gangs that got put on the government payroll.

      The Chavista regime has denied peaceful attempts at change. The regime cast aside the National Assembly, where the opposition had two thirds of the seats. ( 112/168). The regime “replaced” the National Assembly with a Constitutional National Assembly on July 30, 2017. Smartmatic, the company that supplied electoral hardware and software, stated that there were “at least” a million fraudulent votes in the July 30 “election.”

      While the Chavista-written Constitution had a proviso for a Recall Referendum, the regime used whatever pretext it could find to deny the petitions for a Recall Referendum that were delivered to the Electoral Council in 2016.

      In the 2018 Presidential elections, the Supreme Court took the major opposition party and its leaders off the ballot. Venezuelan Supreme Court Bans Opposition Leaders From Upcoming Presidential Election

      Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the main opposition coalition won’t be allowed to register for the presidential election, a decision that is fueling accusations of election rigging even before people head to the polls.

      The ruling follows the government’s decision, under President Nicolás Maduro and the United Socialist Party, to hold early elections, before April 30.

      The nation’s most popular anti-Maduro leaders, such as Leopoldo López, leader of the Popular Will party, and Henrique Capriles, head of the Justice First party, who were both previously excluded from the election are now scrambling to figure out their response, according to Reuters.

      the regime has denied all peaceful attempts at change, the conclusion is that only violence will result in change.

    • Gringo says

      Venezuela was in exactly the same situation was it was today before Chavez came to power.
      Not exactly. The current situation is a lot worse. Consider per capita income and Infant Mortality rate. Chavez was elected in 1998. IMF.: GDP per capita, constant prices: 2011 international dollar. In 1998, with Venezuelan oil selling for around $11/BBL, Venezuela’s per capita income was $15,651 (2011 constant dollars.) In 2019, Venezuela’s per capita income was $9262 in 2018 and an estimated $8,600 in 2019. Much worse today than in 1998.

      In 1998, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 20 (deaths per 1,0000 live births). In 2017, when Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 25.7. After peaking at just below $40/BBL in 1981, the export price of Venezuelan oil gradually declined to $11/BBL in 1998. From 1981 to 1998, even with the falling price of oil. Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate kept declining, from 34 in 1981 to 20 in 1998. In 2012, with oil selling around $100/BBL, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 14.3. In 2017, Venezuela’s Infant Mortality rate was 25.7, when Venezuelan oil was selling for arounc $40-$50/BBL. Much worse today than in 1998.

      This piece does raise a lot of valid points; but I feel like it’s trying to dance around the big point: The People of Venezuela democratically elected Chavez into power,
      Nobody here is denying that Chavez was freely and fairly elected in 1998. You, however, are dancing around a much bigger point: the current Venezuelan regime has in the last 3 years denied all attempts at peaceful change through the ballot box. See my comment above.
      ¿Me entendés, pana?

  11. Heike says

    “On 30 April, the Venezuelan opposition tried to organize again to overthrow the Maduro regime. The days passed and, for now, we can only conclude that it was another failed attempt.”

    I do not understand how educated people can talk about this topic without pointing out that this was a CIA-backed coup, carried out with US support and instigation. It certainly wasn’t some idea that percolated up from Venezuelans.

    “Dictatorship”? The most recent elections were certified by the Carter Center.

    This sort of dishonesty is all over reporting about Venezuela. I’m no friend of the failed policies of socialism but Jesus, people, the US is trying to overthrow the government there, and hasn’t ruled out military invasion.

    • Gringo says

      “Dictatorship”? The most recent elections were certified by the Carter Center.
      Consider the May 2018 Presidential election.Wikipedia: 2018 Venezuelan presidential election

      The Carter Center turned down Maduro’s invitation to send an observation team on election day, as did other election observing institutions.[38]

      Consider the July 30, 2017 Constituent National Assembly election.
      Opposition leaders, election experts decry Venezuela vote

      The Atlanta-based Carter Center whose founder, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, once said Venezuela had one of the best election processes in the world, also came out against the process.

      “On top of the fact the election was illegal, the (electoral council) broke every rule in the book of electoral integrity,” said Jennie K. Lincoln, the Carter Center’s director for Latin America and Caribbean. “This election destroyed any vestiges of democracy that might have yet existed in Venezuela.”

      Heike: knave or fool?

      This sort of dishonesty is all over reporting about Venezuela.
      Yes, it is very dishonest on your part to claim that the Carter Center certified the most recent elections in Venezuela.

      • Heike says

        So the CIA and Americans aren’t trying to overthrow the government of Venezuela. Got it. I can’t help but notice you neither addressed not refuted the central statement, and instead pounced on the one part that you didn’t like. Any discussion of Venezuela must include the fact that the Americans are energetically trying to overthrow their government. This isn’t even a secret.

        Sorry, I’m not paid to post like you are, and have to rely on memory for these sorts of things. Here’s what was in my mind: Former US President Carter: Venezuelan Electoral System “Best in the World”

        Speaking at an annual event last week in Atlanta for his Carter Centre foundation, the politician-turned philanthropist stated, “As a matter of fact, of the 92 elections that we’ve monitored, I would say the election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

        Venezuela has developed a fully automated touch-screen voting system, which now uses thumbprint recognition technology and prints off a receipt to confirm voters’ choices.

        In the context of the Carter Centre’s work monitoring electoral processes around the globe, Carter also disclosed his opinion that in the US “we have one of the worst election processes in the world, and it’s almost entirely because of the excessive influx of money,” he said referring to lack of controls over private campaign donations.

        The comments come with just three weeks before Venezuelans go to the polls on 7 October, in a historic presidential election in which socialist incumbent President Hugo Chavez is standing against right-wing challenger Henrique Capriles Radonski of the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD) coalition.

        Chavez welcomed Carter’s comments, stating yesterday that “he [Carter] has spoken the truth because he has verified it. We say that the Venezuelan electoral system is one of the best in the world”.

  12. dirk says

    Something I would like to have Gringo’s opinion on, in this meandering discussion: dictatorship ( and bossy behaviour in general) is for us (majority) western humanists about the worst what one can imagine, but in Latin America? (and I lived there for 10 yrs). For us, the people, the ordinary people, workers , shopkeepers and intellectuals alike) are sovereign, if no longer, the bosses/politicians should go. But in Mexico, Peru and Brasil? Much less so, I fear. I remember having heard simple people addressing at mass meetings generals of the likes of Vladimir at certain occasions with -Of course, MI general/comandante- for us, again, incomprehensible. Socialism there is also not what socialism is in Europe (where invented). It just is another form of playing the big boss!

    I’m following the news on Venezuela with much interest, but with quite other eyes as most, I fear!

    • Gringo says

      Socialism there is also not what socialism is in Europe (where invented). It just is another form of playing the big boss!
      In Latin America, agreed.

      In Latin America, the man on horseback has long been part of politics. Before Hugo Chavez was elected in 1998, Venezuela had experienced only 40 years of electoral politics (1958-1998). The rest were civilian or military dictators. As an indication that Hugo Chavez had no intention of renouncing the role of man on horseback, consider that he invited former General-President Marcos Perez Jiménez – deposed in 1958- to his 1999 inauguration.

      Both Castro and the Sandinistas had their crowds chant back some variation of “Comandante, tell us what to do.” (Georgie Ann Geyer, in Guerrilla Prince, her biography of Castro [available for the viewing at Google Books], points out that Mussolini had his crowds chant something similar. That was no mere coincidence, she points out.)

      In Argentina and Bolivia, it is a safe bet that having been out of electoral politics for going on 30 years now, it is not likely that the military will get involved again. (Though such a bet would have been lost in Venezuela.) At the same time, both countries have had leaders who have shown some autocratic strains, such as Evo in Bolivia and the Kirchners in Argentina.

      I would like to add that there were a number of jokes in popular culture about the military in military-ruled regimes. Just like jokes in the Soviet bloc. Such the Argentine political cartoonist Landrú’s line about Bolivia: “The problem in Bolivia isn’t anarchy. It’s anarchy in the military.” Appropriate for coup of the month behavior then prevalent in Bolivia. And yes, there is a strong anarchic strain in Bolivia. Or President Lucas jokes in Guatemala- which were told for decades after he was deposed.

      In addition to Mi General, there is Mi Patrón.

      Part of the persistence of the man on horseback in Latin American culture is that the man on horseback intersects with another cultural theme- that of the vivo, which can be translated as sharp-witted, con man, or scam artist. The vivo is admired because he cuts through standard laws and ethics- or red tape- to get what he wants- he gets things done. The dictator who doesn’t bother with making sure what he is doing is legal- he just issues a decree to make it so- is an example of a vivo.. Another example of the dictator as vivo is torture. According to the dictator, torture -humane or inhumane-gets things done. Ethics be damned. V.S.Naipaul, in his prescient 1972 article in the New York Review of Books, noted that in Argentina, some opponents of the military regime then in power also supported torture.
      The Corpse at the Iron Gate (1972.)

      These lawyers had been represented to me as a group working for “civil rights.” They were young, stylishly dressed, and they were meeting that morning to draft a petition against torture. The top-floor flat was scruffy and bare; visitors were scrutinized through the peep-hole; everybody whispered; and there was a lot of cigarette smoke. Intrigue, danger. But one of the lawyers was diverted by my invitation to lunch, and at lunch-he was a hearty and expensive eater-he made it clear that the torture they were protesting against wasn’t to be confused with the torture in Perón’s time.

      He said: “When justice is the justice of the people men sometimes commit excesses. But in the final analysis the important thing is that justice should be done in the name of the people. …“There are no internal enemies,” the trade union leader said, with a smile. But at the same time he thought that torture would continue in Argentina. “A world without torture is an ideal world.” And there was torture and torture. “Depende de quién sea torturado.It depends on who is tortured. An evildoer, that’s all right. But a man who’s trying to save the country-that’s something else. Torture isn’t only the electric prod, you know. Poverty is torture, frustration is torture.” He was urbane; I had been told he was the most intellectual of the Peronist trade union leaders. He had been punctual; his office was uncluttered and neat; on his desk, below glass, there was a large photograph of the young Perón.

      The madness that enveloped Argentina in the 1970s was far from being confined to only the military.

      • dirk says

        Claro, Gringo, thanks for the examples, yes, Chvez and Maduro as the old LLaneros, what about Guaido??
        And what about that contempt for the rules and laws: I heard the expression in Mexico, -un chingo de dinero-, and asked what chingo was. It was not the result of long and hard work, but of how to cheat and break , destroy the system, quite something else of what we think it should be. But…….. I loved the time there, nevertheless, because also often try to go against the grain, play the vaquero.

  13. well Heike, the Carter assessment was way back when things were looking better for Chavez, and even then it´s “fool proof” approval of the voting system did or could not really account for something like Cuban citizens being flown in to pass as Venezuelans, as Cuban opponent Guillermo Farinas told from whose hometown some of those folks were. And the Chavistas were totally shocked in the last parlamentary elections that gave 2/3s of the seats to the opposition which is why the dictatorshop created a new “parliament” to oust the real one.

  14. Pingback: Cómo la democracia venezolana perdió la batalla contra Castro: una entrevista con Orlando Avendaño – La Linterna Azul

  15. Fickle Pickle says

    Why not feature an essay on the systematic decades long project to quite literally kill off any and every one who attempted to create a local scale alternative to the rapacious corporations (and local elites) that dominate almost every aspect of life in both Central and South America.
    A good place to start would be this truth-telling site:

    http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/SOA/SOA_watch.html

    • Gringo says

      Why not feature an essay on the systematic decades long project to quite literally kill off any and every one who attempted to create a local scale alternative to the rapacious corporations ..

      Unfortunately for your narrative, the “alternatives” have been singularly unsuccessful in managing their economies. This is perhaps most apparent in the “alternative” governments’ pathetic results in agricultural production.

      Compare how milk production in Cuba has increased since 1961, compared to Latin America.From 1961 to 2017, milk production increased 55% in Cuba, compared with an increase of 328% in Latin America. Not even the PSFs (Pendejos sin Fronteras- idiots beyond borders) have told us that the cause of Cuba’s low milk production was due to the CIA’s shooting the descendants of Ubre Blanca, a.k.a. Fidel’s wonder cow.

      Cuba’s low milk production is entirely the responsibility of the Castro regime. Had Cuba’s milk production increased from 1961 to 2017 as much as milk production increased in Latin America, it would have produced 1.5 million metric tons of milk in 2017 – while Cuba’s actual milk production in 2017 was about a third of that- 541 thousand metric tons.

      Not surprisingly, this pathetic production means that Cuba imports huge quantities of food. Cuba imports roughly two thirds of its food at an annual cost of more than $2.7 billion.

      Milk Production, Metric tons
      Cuba 1961 350,000
      Cuba 2017 541,100
      Latin America 1961 18,569,829
      Latin America 2017 79,45,712

  16. dirk says

    O la la, ubre blanca, the super cow, more than 100 ltrs per day, increible, pero verdad. But, of course, as everywhere, average national milk output does not depend on one or two champions, in air conditioned stables, but on the good care and rationed feed by the average farmers, not limited by all those naughty rules. Dairy farmers don’t like too many rules!

    • Gringo says

      Dairy farmers don’t like too many rules!
      Perhaps because they already follow some rather inexorable rules, like waking up at 4 a.m. to milk the cows. ( Which is why milk drinkers should be grateful that there are people willing to be dairy farmers.) Having rules like that to follow, they don’t like bureaucrats imposing more rules.

  17. Roger says

    Now also Quillette bangs the drums of war. Tuning out here. Warmongers.

    • Gringo says

      I am glad to hear that you are in favor of a peaceful solution. Where where you when the Chavista regime denied previous attempts at peaceful change?

      In the December 2015 legislative elections, the opposition won two thirds (112 of 168) of the National Assembly seats. The regime “replaced” the National Assembly with a Constitutional National Assembly on July 30, 2017. Smartmatic, the company that supplied electoral hardware and software, stated that there were “at least” a million fraudulent votes in the July 30 “election.”

      While the Chavista-written Constitution had a proviso for a Recall Referendum, the regime used whatever pretext it could find to deny the petitions for a Recall Referendum that were delivered to the Electoral Council in 2016.
      In the 2018 Presidential elections, the Supreme Court took the major opposition party and its leaders off the ballot, once again denying attempts at peaceful change.

      Where were you when the Chavista government was denying all these attempts at peaceful change? I wager you weren’t complaining at all.

Leave a Reply