A complicated question. But considering that Cuba gets more, much, much more out of the deal than Venezuela it seems that we are indeed a neo-colony of Cuba. The island gets from us raw materials and money and sends us folks to help administrate (rule?) Venezuela and cure the natives. Where have I seen this before? Africa circa 1880?
But this is old news: if Castro is still in office (we know now that he and Raul are alive) and if his regime seems to be doing better recently than it has done in over a decade, we all know it is due to all the oil that Venezuela sells cheap to Cuba which resells part of it at international prices. Probably that resale is enough to cover the original strictly Cuban bill, quite a feat by itself for fidel in his long collection of people he took to the cleaners.
But the real beauty of it is that there is no real evidence that fidel is paying even for all of the discounted share of oil. In large measure the payment is assured by sending thousands of alleged MD and sports trainers to pay for the oil bill. To which it seems we can also include the body guards of Chavez and all sorts of “advisors”. Venezuela today is full of stories of Cubans at all levels of public administration and quite often as the real power in certain ministries dependencies. Studies have been done that show that many of the new Venezuelan “revolutionary” laws are inspired, when not almost copied, from Cuban existing laws. As a personal example my S.O., who works in a ministry (careful of course not to express any anti Chavez opinion), reports constantly of colleagues going back and forth to Cuba to all sorts of symposiums, meetings, work shops, etc. There is very little movement from Cuba, and very few to other non Cuban destinations, though apparently Bolivia has become a fashionable destination of late. These Cuban outings receive a very discreet coverage. It goes without saying that my S.O. lack of revolutionary fervor at work has resulted in no invitation so far to any Cuban junket.
All of course is paid by Venezuela. It is just as in the old days when the mother country was bringing home all the gold or cotton or oil, taking in a few of the natives for training for lower administrative positions while sending a few colonial wide white brimmed hat wearing personnel to make sure the natives would not become restless.
There are two recent events that illustrate even better this neo-colonial status.
The last Caribbean and Central America games in Cartagena were expected to see Venezuela come in third and perhaps even compete with Mexico for the second spot (Cuba being expected, of course, to get the first spot). The reason was that Venezuela has been improving in sports results supposedly since so many Cuban trainers flooded Venezuelan sports institutions. There is even a rather well regarded Cuban trainer at my local pool as, imagine that, many of these Cubans actually enjoy being in Venezuela, enjoy the freedom that we still have, the reasonably well stocked shelves, and are not into the mood to promote any revolution whatsoever (when not planning to defect, but that is another story since those that are sent have all of their families held in Cuba and their paycheck diverted to Cuba, limiting of course their choice).
Well, as it turned out Venezuela made it only to the 4th position (49 instead of the planned 62 gold medals!). What was worse, the third went to a surprising (right wing) Colombia strong success. An incensed Chavez fired Venezuelan sports association, the IND director, Eduardo Alvarez, only to rehire him a few days later when athletes complained. What happened? Well, it seems that the charges of bad umpire calls during the Cartagena games were not unfounded, and that many of the medals that Venezuela lost were because the Cuban trainers in Venezuela favored Cuban competitors instead of their trainees that they accompanied. The term “umpire Cuban mafia” was used. Like in any Olympic type of event these charges are difficult to document and come from the athletes themselves and the Venezuelan coaches. But the rumors must have been strong enough to reach Chavez ears who furious at Alvarez for pointing the finger at the Cuban mafia fired him! As a summary I will recommend an editorial of El Nacional, subscription only that I have lifted to put here (in Spanish, as most links from Venezuela, sorry!)).
Saturday we got another neo-colonial moment. Chavez announced that he would fly to Cuba Sunday to celebrate Castro’s birthday. Interestingly Chavez who hops on a plane to Cuba whenever he wants or stops over for a few hours whenever on one of his grand tours, did not stop there on his way back from Africa when fidel got sick. This fed very well the rumor mill of his bad relationship with raul. I will point out that this is all B.S. as raul knows better than wean Cuba from the Venezuelan teat… but I digress.
I do not care much for the alive status of the Castro brothers as they cannot possibly last much longer. My point is that Chavez, as a good representative of the natives, goes to see the king when allowed. Or is that summoned? And he even bears tribute. After all, who could have told whether Chavez would see fidel (he did, pics out this morning)? Or maybe fidel and raul and hugo will have a little family picture and have the last laugh at the CNN semi sycophantic coverage of Cuba these days? But the way the coverage proceeds, content and time stamp, is decided in Havana, not in Caracas.
— — — — — — — — — —
Val and I might have a strange relationship but we do like each other a lot as we see eye to eye on what really matters, democracy and individual freedom for our land to the point of having written guest posts for each other. I am truly honored to be the possible token liberal at Babalu where I will report on occasion on the complex relationship between Cuba and Venezuela. I will leave aside fashionable US political issues when the right to even have a blog is denied in Cuba and threatened in Venezuela. I cannot wait for the day when Cuba and Venezuela are free again and Val and I can sit with a few beers and discuss and argue vehemently on other stuff. That is the hard earned privilege of democracy, the liberty to argue politics drinking whichever imported beer you like while we wait for a “lechon” to finish to roast. What fun that will be!
Meanwhile my first problem will be to get used to write fidel, raul and hugo without capital letters when I post here…