05 July 2011 ~ 0 Comentarios

What Chavez’s illness means for Venezuela

By Carlos Alberto Montaner*

Chávez y Castro leen el Granma

(THE MIAMI HERALD) The Castro government in Cuba assumes President Hugo Chávez will die soon and is making its plans accordingly, moving rapidly in a state of full alert. Cuba’s priority is to shore up the ailing leader’s power at any cost. When Adán Chávez, the Venezuelan president’s brother, became aware early on of the ailing chief executive’s cancer, he returned from Cuba and declared that supporters of Chávez’s revolution must prepared to defend it by any means necessary, giving voice to Havana’s desperate strategy.

It was all too predictable. Raúl Castro and his brother have good reason to fear that Chávez would take the Cuban revolution to the grave with him. Those 100,000 barrels of oil that Venezuela supplies to Cuba every day, along with fat subsidies, are the regime’s chief means of support. If that current stops flowing, Cuba would find itself in a worse predicament than the situation it faced when the Soviet Union collapsed. That caused the Cuban economy and the supply of goods to consumers to plunge by 40 percent. This would be steeper.

The scenario they fear is likely to play out: The caudillo’s inner circle, taken by surprise, turns to infighting and is swept from power at the polls. That’s what the Castro brothers want to avoid at all costs. No one in Chávez’s clique can attract popular support like the leader himself. Chávez did not create a political party, but rather a circle of sycophants. Whether dead or in a period of prolonged agony, he has no viable substitute. That’s why his brother warned supporters to prepare for the path of violence.

They will try to impose their rule by resorting to force and repression, using Castroite cadres to carry out the mission, more or less in the manner that Moscow used its proxies during the Cold War to dominate captive nations. Far from trying to make a peaceful deal with the opposition, they are going to "radicalize the process," to use their jargon. They know their own lives and wellbeing are at stake.

The end of collaboration between Havana and Caracas has other grave consequences for the Castro brothers. Some 60,000 Cuban workers are in Venezuela. If Chávez were to lose power suddenly, they would have to be repatriated quickly, and many would opt to stay behind. Plans exist to evacuate them on short notice in a kind of Dunkirk-style operation if that’s what it takes.

But before it comes to that, the government of Raúl Castro is determined to do whatever is necessary to maintain its lucrative colony in South America.

Naturally, democratic Venezuelans aren’t going to take this lying down. They’re not fools. The message they’re already whispering in the ears of Chávez’s legislative followers and military officers who command troops goes in the contrary direction: It’s useless to try to convert Venezuela into a pro-communist dictatorship. That goes against the will of 80 percent of Venezuelans, including Chávez supporters, according to public opinion surveys. Any such effort would produce a bloodbath.

You can’t have chavismo without Chávez, and his "Bolivarian revolution" is hodgepodge of incomprehensible nostrums that no one can figure out, though they know it has wasted about $1 trillion in petrodollars while shredding the fabric of private enterprise.

The time has come to extinguish the flame that could light this ticking time bomb. All parties in Venezuela must make a deal: honest and fair elections coupled with a promise to avoid reprisals for the 12 failed years of Chávez’s rule.

Some Chávez supporters, so they say, will not subordinate Venezuela’s interests to the interests of Cuba.

For them (at least those who are still on speaking terms with their political adversaries), the solution is to consolidate the two great political currents in the country — the right and center-left — to take power via elections and restore Venezuela’s stability after Chávez leaves the stage.

In the end, Cuba will likely find it impossible to impose its will in Venezuela, no matter how hard it tries. When Moscow dominated its vassal states in Central and Eastern Europe, several divisions occupied the region and the Soviets made sure to subsidize energy supplies to keep the economy going. Cuba’s relationship to Venezuela is different. Moscow shored up the smaller economies to ensure political control and stability. Here, the situation is reversed: Cuba feeds off its Venezuelan satellite.

Venezuelans don’t need anything from Cuba. That relationship will prevail and determine the outcome.


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