The Consensual Invasion: How Cuba took over a rich Venezuela and turned it into a colony – Part III

Sitting on the largest oil reserves in the world, Venezuela was once the richest nation in Latin America. Then socialism opened the door to the Castro dictatorship, and it became a satellite of communist Cuba. The most amazing part was that this invasion by Cuba was totally consensual and welcomed.

In part three of this seven-part series from La Gran Aldea, Gloria M. Bastidas continues her explanation of how Venezuela went from a rich country to a satellite of Cuba (my translation):

‘The consensual invasion’: From a rich nation to a satellite of Havana

A book published by Penguin Random House Grupo Editorial narrates with elegant prose how the Cuban regime sank its tentacles into Venezuela until it absolutely controlled everything. Notaries and registries. The issuance of IDs and passports. The Armed Forces. Intelligence services. PDVSA’s software. Ministries. Ramp 4 of Maiquetía. It’s written by Diego Maldonado, a pseudonym aimed at protecting the author’s identity. But the text is much more than that. “The consensual invasion” is the story of the monumental looting that the Castro regime carried out of Venezuela’s vast oil wealth without “firing a shot.”

Part III

The curious thing – and this is another sharp observation made by Maldonado – is that the colonization happened without a single shot being fired. It’s a swift blow. A voluntary servitude. A move that will allow the Cuban Blackbeard, and then his successors, to take control of the country’s registries and notaries; of the identification system (IDs and passports); of the public administration software; of the fiber optic networks; of the exclusive Ramp 4 of Maiquetía Airport; of the intelligence apparatus, of repression (Maldonado recalls that the FAES received training from the so-called “Black Wasps,” the elite corps of the Revolutionary Armed Forces (FAR) of Cuba), and of the FANB.

But the tentacles reach further. The author warns that Cuba has a deep understanding of the national electrical system, the oil industry, and a map of Venezuela’s mineral reserves. And another point that Maldonado makes: the Cubans, on the other hand, do not allow any interference in their internal affairs. The classic characteristic of well-established totalitarian regimes: They operate like a Masonic club, even for their allies.

For Maldonado, one of the main operators of Castro’s penetration in Venezuela is Commander Ramiro Valdés. The writer recreates a scene that took place in January 2009, when the 50th anniversary of the Cuban revolution was celebrated. Chávez ordered the Cuban flag to be raised at the National Pantheon, where it would remain forever.

By that time, he had already been in power for a decade. And he had visited the island 24 times. Ramiro Valdés is present at that event at the Pantheon. A hero forged in the epic of the Sierra Maestra. “The small, slender officer wears the brown dress uniform with gold buttons of the Cuban army,” says Maldonado. A few weeks before this scene brought up by Maldonado, Raúl Castro visited the country and closed agreements with the Chavista government totaling more than 2 billion dollars. After such a lucrative deal, Valdés’s presence at the festivities is more than justified. Maldonado does not overlook that within the framework of this agreement, there is an astonishing item: Cuba will be a co-owner of a company whose mission would be to “design and manage the software programs of the Venezuelan oil industry.”

This is astonishing because the Cubans are going to teach a corporation, PDVSA, which as of 2005 was still the third most important oil company in the world, after Saudi Aramco of Saudi Arabia, and Exxon of the United States. And this is another aspect that the author of “The Consensual Invasion” emphasizes. In the Havana-Caracas relationship, it seems as if the former were a superpower that manages cutting-edge technology and highly qualified human resources, while the latter is a poor backward country that needs urgent advice in all areas, paying inflated, astronomical sums for it. The country that patented Orimulsion and produced more than 3 million barrels of oil per day when Chavez came to power, that impoverished country, was to be guided by a regime that left the island in ruins. Castro is Gulliver and Venezuela is a land of pygmies.

This is part of Fidel Castro’s skillful marketing. Or the lack of scruples of his generous dolphin Chavez, who crowned the miracle of turning the island into an oil exporter. Chavez wears the uniform of King Midas. Maldonado comments that by 2014, and according to statements by the Minister of Planning and Economy of Cuba, Marino Murillo, the island obtained $765 million from the resale of oil. Oil that Venezuela sent to Gulliver. Remember that the Government began by sending 53,000 barrels daily to Cuba (Energy Agreement of the year 2000), later increased the shipment to 92,000 and then increased it to 115,000. So it is understood how the sugar-producing country ended up in the international oil markets at the expense of its “satellite.”

Maldonado argues that the Complex Humanitarian Emergency that shakes Venezuela is not comparable to the so-called special period that Cuba experienced when Moscow cut off its economic aid. “Between 1990 and 1994, Cuba suffered a 35% drop in GDP. The nightmare in Venezuela is much worse: Between 2013 and 2018, the drop in GDP has been 52%, and yet, Chavismo continues to subsidize the island.

As oil production has decreased, the burden of the Cuban quota has become heavier and heavier. In 2000, Venezuela extracted an average of 3.45 million barrels per day, 18 years later it has been reduced to 1.9 million barrels per day. Even so, in March 2019, the Venezuelan government sent Cuba 65,520 barrels per day (according to OPEC data), more than in 2000, despite the fact that production plummeted that month to 960,000 barrels per day.”

Why does Caracas continue to supply oxygen to Havana when Venezuelans are suffocating from economic collapse? Because Caracas depends on the Cuban patent (repression and control of the Armed Forces) to stay afloat. With this argument as a backdrop, Maldonado establishes an interesting comparison between what cutting off aid meant for Cuba from the Russians – in the context of the Cold War – and the position in which the Maduro regime finds itself.

Although the subsidy from the Soviets amounted to 67% of the island’s GDP (at its peak), that of Venezuela reached 43.7% of the island’s GDP in 2012 and dropped to 19% in 2017. Maldonado relies on figures provided by Mesa-Lago. Seen in this light, as the author of “The Consensual Invasion” points out, even if Venezuela were to suspend its aid to Havana, the impact would not be proportional to what the island suffered after the collapse of the USSR.

But here comes the key point that differentiates the role played by the Russians – in the context of the Cold War – and the position of the Maduro regime: “Venezuela is very far from the Soviet Union, that federation of 15 republics that produced 11 million barrels of oil daily and was the third-largest economy in the world when it collapsed, and Moscow decided to suspend economic aid to the Castros. ‘That relatively small country in divided America,’ as Fidel once defined it, cannot do the same. The Bolivarian revolution cannot free itself from the Cuban ballast as the Russians did. It lacks the supremacy and autonomy to do so. Its survival, that of the civilian-military corporation that dominates Venezuela, depends largely on Havana. It cannot let go of the crutch without falling.”

The pivot on which the regime rests is weapons. That same rifle that Fidel Castro carried on his shoulder when he walked through Caracas, but multiplied to the nth power. In this regard, it is true that the Cubans are and have been true masters. And this Sun Tzu-like wisdom (or rather KGB-like) is used within the Venezuelan Armed Forces to monitor the steps of the officers.

Maldonado refers to two key testimonies in this regard. One, provided to The Washington Post by the former director of SEBIN, Manuel Cristopher Figuera, who told the newspaper that Raul Castro directly advises Maduro. And the other, of much greater weight due to the prestige of his figure within the barracks, is that of Major General Alexis López Ramírez. The high-ranking officer served as secretary of the National Defense Council (Codena) when he resigned from office because the Government convened a Constituent Assembly that did not follow constitutional guidelines. Previously, he had been Commander in Chief of the Army (2013-2014). López Ramírez went so far as to affirm that “the Cubans do the work of the general staff (of the Armed Forces).” And he also warned: “Aware of the risk I run, I must say the following: Too much evidence of torture and mistreatment of military personnel detained in the DGCIM (General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence). No doubt these practices were brought back by Cuban advice.”

Read the rest of this series HERE.

1 thought on “The Consensual Invasion: How Cuba took over a rich Venezuela and turned it into a colony – Part III”

  1. As much as Chávez worshiped Fidel Castro, the latter simply used him for what he was–a very rich but stupid groupie, not to say a pathetic little lovestruck bitch. Fidel, of course, was ALL about using anyone or anything he could turn to advantage, which included even his brother, let alone his “friends” and admirers.

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