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Venezuela Needs De-Cubanization

The longer the Cubans stay, the greater the chance of serious friction in the military and other institutions. (Read this article in Spanish here.)

by
Jaime Daremblum

Bio

July 7, 2011 - 12:00 am
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Besides fighting internally over narcotrafficking and Cuban influence, the military may also clash with the tens of thousands of pro-government paramilitaries that Chávez has cultivated as his personal security force. These militia fighters represent the Venezuelan equivalent of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the lethally effective organization that crushed massive pro-democracy demonstrations in June 2009. If Venezuelans rose up the way Iranians did two years ago, the armed forces might refuse to slaughter civilians in the street. But what about the militias, who report directly to Chávez? What if they conducted a bloody crackdown? Would the military intervene to stop them? Or would it allow a Tiananmen-style massacre to take place?

These questions bring us back to Cuba. Would Havana really allow the Chávez regime to collapse? After all, the Communist-ruled island is critically dependent on cheap Venezuelan oil. Without those energy subsidies, the Castro government might well implode. The Cuban military advisers and intelligence personnel sent to Venezuela have been tasked with fortifying Chávez and preserving Bolivarian socialism. If the Caracas regime were faced with large-scale street protests, à la Tehran in 2009 and Cairo in 2011, would the Cubans push for a crackdown? If so, would Venezuelan military officials be able to prevent it?

In so many ways, the Cubanization of Venezuela has contributed to greater instability and uncertainty, while increasing the likelihood of violence. Chávez has essentially allowed his country to be colonized by Communist apparatchiks, whose government has a major stake in keeping the Venezuelan regime afloat. This has created yet another obstacle to restoring Venezuelan democracy. Indeed, before it can escape the nightmare of Chavismo and return to liberal, constitutional government, the South American country must first de-Cubanize.

(Read this article in Spanish here. )

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Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.
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