In Venezuela, protests against the failed socialist regime of Nicolas Maduro are ongoing, but they have largely been crowded out of the news by events in Crimea and the drama of Flight 370. Still, from an American perspective, what is happening in Venezuela is of great importance. Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, and now Maduro, is a client of Cuba, and Cuba’s Communist government is a client of Russia, even though Russian largesse is not what it once was. These days, the Castro brothers are largely dependent on Venezuelan oil to keep their regime afloat. So Russia’s effort to extend its power into the Western Hemisphere depends in great part on what happens in Venezuela.
Photos of the anti-Maduro protests are dramatic. This is just one example out of many:
Press coverage of events in Venezuela is often equivocal, presumably because reporters hate to see another socialist government go down in flames. Take today’s Reuters story, for example:
Opponents of Venezuela’s socialist government marched on Sunday to protest against alleged Cuban interference in the armed forces, with clashes breaking out afterwards in a Caracas square.
Militant opposition leaders and students have been urging Venezuelans onto the streets to protest over issues ranging from crime and shortages of goods to the presence of Cuban advisers in Venezuela’s army and other state institutions.
“I spend five or six hours in a queue just to buy two packets of flour, or two bottles of cooking oil,” said pensioner Pedro Perez, 64, in the opposition rally.
“Also, I’m protesting over insecurity and the lies this government tells Venezuelans, bringing Cuban soldiers here … This is an ungovernable country, we can’t carry on like this.”
But Reuters seems to be on the fence as to Cuba’s role in Venezuela’s socialist debacle:
Venezuela supplies more than 100,000 barrels per day of oil to Cuba, for which it is partly paid by the presence of more than 30,000 medics, sports trainers and others from the Communist-ruled Caribbean island.
Medics! Sports trainers! But who are those “others,” who presumably must make up the vast majority of the value that Cuba conveys to the Maduro regime in exchange for 100,000 barrels of oil [at current prices, more than $10 million] a day? It isn’t really a mystery.
The Washington Times, April 2010:
Cuba’s communist government has deployed thousands of technical and military advisers to Venezuela to bolster the regime of leftist President Hugo Chavez, as that country faces energy shortages and increased repression against opposition political leaders.
A senior Cuban security official and former interior minister, Gen. Ramiro Valdez, arrived in Caracas, Venezuela, in February to take charge of a Cuban government mission that over the past several years has grown to an estimated 40,000 advisers and aid workers, including a large contingent of Cuban military personnel.
The advisers include intelligence and security officers, political advisers and medical personnel.
Fox News, February 2014:
Venezuela has promised 100,000 barrels of oil per day to Cuba, and in exchange Cuban intelligence runs the Venezuelan state security apparatus.
Even the New York Times has noticed. June 2010:
Mr. Chávez has made no bones about the presence of Cuban military advisers, who he says are “modestly” helping in some areas. But he has publicly offered no details on how many there are or where they are working. …
For Cuba, a military advisory role abroad is nothing new, even if its activities here differ from the combat brigades sent to Angola and Ethiopia in the 1970s or the advisers in Nicaragua in the 1980s. Cuba’s assistance in Venezuela is much broader, including areas like telecommunications and national identification card systems. The emergence of Cuba as Venezuela’s top ally has led to criticism that the Cubans are helping Mr. Chávez tighten his grip on an array of institutions.
In recent weeks, anti-Maduro protesters have reported being arrested and tortured by Cuban military or intelligence personnel. Wherever you find socialism, torture is not far behind.
What happens in energy-rich Venezuela is important. Is it too much to hope that the final collapse of socialism in that country will extinguish the appeal of socialism across Latin America? Yes. Even here in the U.S., socialism–the stupidest idea that has ever occurred to a human being–keeps making comebacks. But in the medium term, the collapse of the Russia-Cuba-Venezuela-Nicaragua axis will be of great benefit.