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December 2015
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Electoral Defeat in Venezuela Could Accelerate Reforms in Cuba

Electoral Defeat in Venezuela Could Accelerate Reforms in Cuba / Ivan Garcia
Posted on December 16, 2015

Iván García, Diario de las Américas, 8 December 2015 — Just past
midnight, when Cuba’s military bigwigs heard the president of the
Venezuelan electoral college, Tibisay Lucena, confirm the loss of
Nicolas Maduro’s PSUV (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) in the
December 6 parliamentary elections, alarm bells went off in the offices
of Cuba’s Palace of the Revolution.

The epicenter of the Venezuelan political earthquake shook official
Cuba, the one made up of timid statesmen, irresponsible officials and
radical ideologues who try to govern a nation by adding one plus zero.

The virtual country designed by Raul Castro’s advisors — those who have
hidden Cuba’s structural, political, economic and social problems — is a
double-edged sword.

Maintaining an iron fisted-control over the island’s media has allowed
them to present to the world the image of a society made up of a
pleasant, committed people by means of a publicity stunt called the
Cuban Revolution.

It did exist, but after 1976 it became a nation with an
institutionalized Soviet court that used Marxism as its political guidebook.

Thanks to an efficient intelligence apparatus, the Castro brothers have
governed the country without having to deal with popular protests by
suppressing a tiny domestic dissident movement whose tactical errors
have shown it does not known how or has not been able to connect with
the average Cuban.
Cuba managed to export its inane economic ideology to Venezuela. When
Colonel Hugo Rafael Chavez was nothing more than the leader of a coup,
Fidel Castro saw in him a future statesman.

After Chavez was released from prison, Castro welcomed him to Havana
with the pomp and circumstance befitting a president. Chavez’ mentor
monitored his every move. Given Castro’s skill, he was able to install
in Caracas’ presidential palace something better than an ideological and
strategic ally. He installed a ventriloquist.

The Castro brothers can claim one unquestionable accomplishment: they
now exert remote control over a nation with three times the population,
GDP and natural resources of their own.

When corruption, popular discontent and uncontrolled poverty allowed
Hugo Chavez to enter Venezuelan politics through the back door, he
carried a portfolio whose outlines had been drawn by his mentor, Fidel.

The biggest mistake of Chavez, Maduro and the Castros has been to govern
only for the benefit of their supporters. There have been other major
blunders, such as the ideologization of education, the nationalization
of private businesses and the dismantling of the machinery of a
functioning economy.
Caracas’ response has been to blame the eternal enemies: Yankee
imperialism, the bourgeoisie and the local business community. In spite
of his corruption scandals, Brazil’s President Lula and Uruguay’s
President Mujica showed themselves to be different kinds of leftists.

Like good travel companions, the Brazilian and Uruguayan presidents
supported or quieted the excesses and absurdities of their ideological
partners on the international stage. But they did not fracture their
societies like Chavez or the Castros did.

Chavez’s megalomania became a hindrance. The death of the paratrooper
from Sabaneta de Barinas, like that of any leader, left an
insurmountable power vacuum.

If Maduro had been prudent, he would have formed alliances with the
opposition in order to get through the downturn. By the time he came to
power, conditions had changed. The export boom in raw materials was over
and oil prices had plunged, but he failed to properly assess the situation.

Nicolas Maduro’s frequent foolish statements, profanity and insults will
not put an end to inflation, currency depreciation, organized crime,
food shortages or social tensions in Venezuela.

More than the Venezuelan opposition, the PSUV’s main contender is the
people, and on December 6 they spoke. What could happen going forward?

If Maduro does not alter his political strategy, disaster awaits him,
either through some form of recall before 2019 or through a substantial
and continuing loss of power.

If he had any decency, he would resign as president. After countless
missteps in running the country, record violence, official corruption
and two relatives of his wife accused of drug trafficking, the best way
out for Maduro, and for preserving Chavez’ legacy, would be for him to
leave office.

But I do not think this will happen. People like him derive their
authority by going against the tide. Diplomacy is not their strength.
Quite the opposite with Raul Castro. When he became president in 2006,
few would have bet a penny on him.

He had a reputation as a drunkard and a shadowy conspirator. He came to
power only because he was Fidel’s brother. The relief pitcher came along
at a critical moment. He faced a stagnant economy in crisis and a
political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who had died in jail from a
hunger strike.

Raul was besieged in the international arena by the United States and
the European Union due to his brother’s disastrous policy decision to
jail seventy-five dissidents in the spring of 2003.

But the Cuban autocrat knows how to negotiate a favorable treaty with
the White House and the EU without easing up on his repression of
dissidents or changing the status quo too much.

Raul Castro is an expert at blowing smoke. A year after December 17 he
has not implemented a strategy in response to President Obama’s road map.

Perhaps the electoral drubbing in Venezuela on December 6 combined with
the unstoppable exodus of Cubans will encourage him to adopt of serious
reforms. Though you never know with the Castros.

Source: Electoral Defeat in Venezuela Could Accelerate Reforms in Cuba /
Ivan Garcia | Translating Cuba –

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