Miami Panel: “Cubans Will Fight to the End in Venezuela”
Recently-Boosted Military Presence Testifies: “They Need the Money”
As protesting Venezuelans seek to oust the Chavista regime, they have more to overcome than just their fellow countrymen. Among the foreign groups colluding with the regime, including Iranians and the FARC from Colombia, Cuba is the closest and most important ally.
Given the heightened crisis over the past few weeks, this close relationship compelled the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami to gather a panel on Tuesday evening. Before an audience of 40 attendees, they put forward a variety of possible scenarios and then weighed the implications for Cuba and options for the United States.
Although the panelists — including institute scholars and Susan Kaufman Purcell of the Center for Hemispheric Policy — covered a lot of ground in their two hours, they all agreed that the Cuban regime is extremely dependent on Venezuela and will do all it can to maintain that relationship. Estimates for various aid flows from Venezuela to Cuba went as high as US$13 billion annually, which equates to more than $1,100 per individual on the island and far in excess of the average salary of $240-360.
“This has nothing to do with ideology,” Pedro Roig explained; “it has all to do with corruption” — in reference to both the Cuban parasitism and that of other foreigners embedded in the government, in particular the military. Roig estimates that Cuba has between 7,000 and 8,000 full-time military personnel in Venezuela right now, a boost of approximately 2,000 in just the past few days. If one includes Cubans working in other professions, but still with military training, his number jumps to 30,000.
The Cuban regime has been through these challenges before, Brian Latell recounted, and will be well aware of how to handle the situation — even if the size of this uprising has caught them by surprise. At one time, Chile, Grenada, and Nicaragua all had leaders who were solid allies of Cuba and then fell from power, and Venezuela is “vastly more important.” The panelists speculated that Cuba may even resort to recruiting troops from allies such as Ecuador and Bolivia.
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