How has Fidel managed to stay in power for so long?: That is one of the most typical questions I get from people who do not follow closely the situation in Cuba and are unfamiliar with Cuban history. Many of them believe the explanation is complex, but in reality, it is quite simple. When you are kept in abject poverty and misery, wondering where your next meal will come from and how in the world you will be able to find shoes for your children, the last thing on your mind is politics. As long as the people are kept weak in poverty, it takes much less effort to control them.
This is a lesson the Cuban people have learned all too well. And it is a lesson the people in Latin America unfortunate enough to have Fidel’s revolution exported to their country are learning as well. Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua are but a few examples, but Venezuela provides the most vivid exemplification.
On his blog Enrisco, Enrique del Risco shares the “technique” to subdue and control a population as explained to a former Venezuelan general by the country’s Chavista Economics and Finance Minister (my translation):
It’s all about Technique
According to former general Guaicapuro Lameda, who is also the former president of PDVSA (the state-owned company that controls the production of petroleum in Venezuela), Jorge Giordani, the current minister of Economy and Finances, years ago responded to his complaints that Chavezism was incapable of generating wealth and told him this :
“Look, General, you still don’t understand the revolution. Let me explain it to you: This revolution proposes to make a cultural change in the country, to change the way people think and live, and these changes can only be forced from the seat of power. Therefore, the first thing we have to do is stay in power in order to make those changes. The poor people have given us the political stage: they are the ones who vote for us so that is why we’re always talking about defending the poor. THE POOR PEOPLE WILL HAVE TO STAY POOR, WE NEED THEM THAT WAY, until we achieve the cultural transformation. Later, we can talk about economies and the generation and distribution of wealth. In the meantime, we have to keep them poor and hopeful […] this is about a cultural change and that takes at least three generations to carry out. The adults will resist it and cling to the past; the young people will live in it and become accustomed to it, and the children will learn it and make it their own. It will take a minimum of 30 years.”And when he went to Cuba, Fidel Castro told him not to worry about the aid Venezuela would give Cuba:
“To maintain ourselves we need about $4 billion dollars annually. More than that is a ‘nuisance,’ the people will begin living the good life and that will end the public discourse on poverty.”