'Cubazuela' and Castroism's three-fold failure
FABIO RAFAEL FIALLO | Ginebra | 5 de Mayo de 2017 - 00:51 CEST.
Backed by Fidel Castro, and launched by Hugo Chávez, the project of
forging an alliance between the regimes of Cuba and Venezuela, dubbed
"Cubazuela" (or "Venecuba"), began amidst much fanfare. The ideological
firmness of the former and the oil-based riches of the latter would
combine, they believed, to lay the foundations for an indestructible,
booming socialism. Petroleum at the service of the "Revolution".
For Cuba this project was its only lifeline. After having demolished an
economy like Cuba's —which, when Castro took over in 1959, was the third
richest in Latin America in terms of per capita GDP— the "Revolution"
managed to survive thanks only to the lavish aid provided it by the
Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet bloc and, consequently,
the end to that vital funding, the Castro regime subjected the Cuban
people to the stifling deprivations of the grueling "Special Period,"
which were not politically sustainable.
It was necessary, therefore, to find a new benefactor, and they did, in
the form of Hugo Chávez Frías, who exhibited a blind passion for Castroism.
At the beginning of the Cubazuela project, its leaders faced a dilemma:
whether to carry over to Venezuela the failed Castroist economic model,
based on the demonization of private initiative, and nationalization;
or, on the contrary, learn lessons from this ill-fated experience and
try something different, in line with the imperatives of market laws
and, hence, more efficient.
The brothers Castro and Hugo Chavez, succeeded by Nicolás Maduro, chose
the first option. In this decision a key factor was surely the fact that
Venezuela has the largest petroleum reserves in the world, prompting its
leaders to conclude that they would be able to fill Venezuela's prisons
and cemeteries with impunity, ignore the laws of economic profitability
governing a market economy, and assign priority to the consolidation of
hardline, orthodox socialism —even though it has never managed to
Their decision has wrought a colossal fiasco. Venezuela's economy is now
as shattered as Cuba's. A shortage of staple products, three-digit
inflation, and unsustainable external debt are the main components of an
economic collapse that has pushed Venezuela to the brink of a social
breakdown and a political and institutional crisis with unpredictable
Castroism is, unquestionably, partly to blame for the Venezuelan
debacle. How could it not, when thousands of Cuban "advisers" lurk in
Venezuela's ministries and headquarters? It is impossible to conclude,
therefore, that the economic approach of the chavista regime, both under
Hugo Chávez, and now under Nicolás Maduro, was adopted and maintained
without consulting the Castro regime and receiving its approval.
Thus, the economic fiasco of the country richest in oil marks a dual
failure of Castroism, even more spectacular and humiliating than the
collapse of what was once the Americas' third most prosperous economy.
To this two-fold economic disaster we must add a third failure of
Castroism, of a political nature: having believed that it could
reproduce in Venezuela the repressive system that allowed the Cuban
regime to survive for more than five decades.
This scheme has been upended by the mass demonstrations against the
Castro/Maduro regime currently being held in Venezuela.
In its eagerness to replicate the repressive model in place in Cuba,
castrochavismo miscalculated, overlooking historical and geographical
differences, not realizing that conditions in Venezuela today are very
different from those prevailing at the time when the Cuban regime
managed to shore up its power through repression.
At that time Castroism benefitted from the economic and political
protection of the Soviet Union. Under these special conditions there was
no international pressure or internal economic malaise sufficient to
shake the regime in Havana. Castroism could act with impunity, dispense
with international legitimacy, flout the most basic principles
profitability, turn its back on the financial markets, and even renege
on its foreign debt, because it had political protection from the
Kremlin and the inexhaustible manna showered on its by the Soviet Union.
Such is not the case in Venezuela today, and this is for two reasons.
First of all, the capacity for resistance in Venezuela is currently
greater than it ever was under the Castros' tyranny in Cuba. Proof of
this is the fact that castrochavismo failed to prevent the opposition's
overwhelming victory in the parliamentary elections of December 2015.
Also demonstrating this capability is the Venezuelan regime's backing
down from its intended coup against the National Assembly, now in the
hands of the opposition. And, finally, there is the tenacity with which
the Venezuelan people have taken to the streets to demand general
elections and the liberation of more than 100 political prisoners.
Secondly, in contrast to Cuba at the time it received support from the
Soviet Union, and later, during the years of soaring international oil
prices, which allowed Hugo Chávez to sustain Castroism, Venezuela's
economically exhausted regime does not have any benefactor willing to
rescue it. It cannot even welch on its financial commitments (like Cuba
did), or forego new international loans.
In the political failure of Cubazuela's hierarchs, a key role has been
played by brave Venezuelans who have concluded that it is better to risk
their lives, demanding democracy and freedom, than to slowly die of
hunger, repression and uncertainty.
In an attempt to quell the growing indignation and mobilization of the
Venezuelan people, Maduro and his associates have ratcheted up the
repression to appalling levels, triggering widespread repudiation by
governments of the region and other key players in the international
Maduro and his Cuban advisers do not realize that it does them as much
damage, or more, in terms of their international image, to quash
protests, by means of murder and tear gas, than to allow demonstrations
that illustrate the magnitude of popular discontent in the country.
The strength and tenacity of the protests, and international pressure,
are fracturing el chavismo. Some have reacted with genuine moral
repudiation to the repression unleashed by the Venezuelan regime, while
others are simply afraid of being declared accessories to crimes against
humanity (which do not prescribe). Between the two groups, there will be
fewer and fewer chavistas willing to commit to the cadre overseeing them.
The convocation, by decree, of a constituent assembly, recently
announced by Maduro, for the ostensible purpose of circumventing the
National Assembly and preventing free and fair general elections, will
only exacerbate the people's repudiation of the regime and elicit
criticism, even within the ranks of el chavismo.
The Cubazuela project, thus, winds to an inglorious end, doomed to go
down as a historical and moral disgrace.
Its death comes at a critical time for the Cuban regime. With the
economic collapse of Venezuela, and the paltry results obtained by Raúl
Castro's "updates" (confirming that Castroism has still learned nothing
about Economics), the new generation waiting in the wings of power in
Havana will be forced to question the socialist model and —if only to
avoid the surge of popular indignation that a new "Special Period" would
unleash— accept the economic and political opening up that Martí's noble
and suffering are yearning for.
Source: 'Cubazuela' and Castroism's three-fold failure | Diario de Cuba