12 July 2011 ~ 0 Comentarios

The ghost of ‘Venecuba’ returns

By Carlos Alberto Montaner*

Chávez enfermo

(THE MIAMI HERALD) The danger is real. The Venezuelan democrats fear that, in view of Hugo Chávez’s cancer coinciding with the inevitable disappearance of a Fidel Castro much battered by illness and the years, Havana and Caracas might hurriedly dust off the plans of federation that they announced in late 2005 and later shelved.

How did the idea of uniting the two countries come about? It was a somnambulant aftermath of the Cold War, conceived by Fidel Castro at the start of the new millennium, when he convinced his rapt Venezuelan disciple that it was up to Havana and Caracas — to Fidel and Hugo, really — to continue with the anti-imperialist struggle that had been abandoned by the Russian traitors from the moment that Gorbachev, manipulated by the CIA, sold himself to capital, dissolved the Soviet Union and ended the model of Marxist-Leninist government that, since 1917, militated in favor of the workers of the world.

A call was made back to the trenches, this time seeking new electoral procedures. Once in government, the bourgeois republican structures in the conquered territories had to be dismantled, gradually liquidating the formal freedoms and division of powers that limit a strongman’s authority.

For this new historic stage, Chávez would put up the petrodollars, and Fidel would contribute the strategic vision, the cadres and the knowledge of the methods of revolutionary struggle learned during the several decades that Castro worked as Moscow’s shield bearer. But, to do that, they had to forge a two-headed state that could act in coordination.

In reality, Fidel saw the skies open when Chávez appeared in his path. El Comandante had found no one among his own people with the capacity for confabulation and the missionary spirit that great political utopias require.

Raúl Castro was certainly not a good replacement, because he lacked the ability to dream while awake and, above all, the urgency to fight Yankee imperialism until victory, always. He was a good administrator, loyal and discreet, capable of maintaining rigid control over society and government, but nothing else. Fidel’s political heir, the man who wouldn’t let his historical feats die, was Chávez. The two hallucinated on the same frequency, with similar intensity.

After the military coup of April 2002 that removed him from power and reinstated him within 72 hours, Chávez came to a conclusion that reinforced Fidel’s approach: the Bolivarian and Cuban revolutions could be saved and pushed forward only if the two men built an international perimeter of protection around a Venezuelan-Cuban axis they would call ALBA and endowed it with a muddled discourse called 21st-century socialism.

Within that logic of survival, in late 2005, then-Cuban foreign minister Felipe Pérez Roque, former vice president of the Council of State Carlos Lage, and Chávez himself ambiguously announced the fusion of both states into a new entity and even appointed a commission of jurists that began to study the coupling within a common legal and institutional framework. However, a few months later, Fidel fell gravely ill, and his ailment took him out of the battlefield.

After precipitously receiving the reins of government, Raúl sidelined the project of a two-nation confederation (though he didn’t discard it) and devoted his time to consolidating his power and partially reforming the catastrophic productive apparatus that had the Cuban people, according to his diagnosis, “on the edge of the abyss.”

However, he acknowledged de facto that Hugo Chávez, by his brother’s design and the Venezuelan’s vocation, was first among equals and the international leader of 21st-century socialism. To Raúl, Chávez meant more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day and billions of dollars in subsidies, so challenging his leadership made no sense.

Instead, Raúl had to maintain the alliance and continue to render political and intelligence services to Chávez and his satellites (Bolivia, for instance), his government’s two specialties.

Now, ironically, it’s Chávez’s life that is in danger, along with Fidel’s. Perhaps 21st-century socialism will find itself without a monarch and Cuba without a protector, which would mean absolute ruin for Havana and the end of the Chavista utopia.

How to allay that danger? No doubt, as the Venezuelan democrats fear, by quickly reprising the project of confederation between the two countries, so “the Cubans” can hold power in a Hugo-less Venezuela, governed in name only by a faithful ally of Havana (Adán Chávez, for example), while Raúl, haunted by the feeling that the entire scaffolding can topple in an instant, remains a parasite of Caracas, anxiously hoping that his slow reforms will start to give fruit and that the island someday may achieve self-sufficiency.

In other words, another utopia.


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