The Cuban elephant in the room

You know what’s weird about MarioSilva-Gate?

Well, several things.

For starters, we’re still not sure who leaked the audio in the first place nor for what purpose, and we’ve yet to hear a  statement from any of the main actors involved.

It’s also weird that the endlessly malleable Prosecutor General announced she would look into investigating the whole scandal. Super weird.

But the weirdest part, in my view, is that no one in the Cuban faction of this intrigue has stepped up to make the case for continuing our unusually close alliance with Cuba, or for Cuba period. Nobody.

We’ve not heard a word from Cilia Flores, nothing from Jorge Arreaza, not even a peep from partisan outfits such as Patria Para Todos or even the Communist Party itself, and certainly nothing from Nicky Ripe.

Is Maduro (sorry, I mean Raúl) going down without a fight?

Maduro es Comandante en Jefe 21Mayo2013

Following the broadcast of his damning audio, in which Mario Silva exposed all the narco-corrupt shenanigans of non-Marxist, decidedly non-Cuban military businessman Diosdado Cabello (which, by the way, included rumours of a coup plot), Cuban sweetheart Nicolás Maduro embarked on a media frenzy aimed at convincing the world that he is, in fact, Commander in Chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. Hell, he even has a placard to prove it!

He’s also gone about his business as acting President, meeting with private-sector reps to deal with food shortages, as well as private media reps to … well, I’m not really sure why he met with them, but that’s besides the point.

He met with El Sistema founder José Antonio Abreu to talk about musical programs for the underprivileged. He presided over a graduation of workers, dropping in a line or two about militias. He led the launch of a missile, wearing a cool headset and all (Diosdado was there). He’s going to Correa’s swearing-in ceremony in Ecuador.

Maduro has definitely intensified his military-related PR agenda, no doubt in order to tacitly reaffirm his leadership over the institution, along with broadcasting his importance over Diosdado. So, as far as MarioSilva-Gate damage control is concerned, the military portion is relatively taken care of, or it would appear to be so.

Notably absent during all of Maduro’s public appearances, though, was any reference to MarioSilva-Gate and its implications. I mean, there was supposedly a PLOT to KILL HIM. Chávez looooved to talk about these assassination plans, with much less evidence around to substantiate them.

Not Maduro.

Maduro does not want to draw attention to any rifts within Chavismo, and he also wants to project a benevolent, non-belligerent foil to his evil archnemesis, Diosdado. That I get.

But it does strike me as strange that not a word has been uttered with regards to Cuba. As in “Cuban doctors are amazing,” or “the fascist opposition wants to turn our people away from Cuban support.” Hell, even a “Chávez really wanted us to love the Cubans” would’ve sufficed. Thus far, no justifications, no derisive defenses, no outright denials. Nothing.

Now, its definitely too early to tell, but if this is, in fact, a power struggle between Diosdado & his merry band of narco-enterpreneurs and Maduro & his Cuban mooches, the latter should have a couple of tricks up his sleeve ready to deploy soon enough.

First of all, he should play the Chávez card. As in “Chávez chose ME to lead you and we must respect Chávez’s will.” Secondly, he could man up as President and lead an all-out assault against government corruption, provided he has the backing to neutralize Diosdado. Thirdly, he should make use of his international networking skills as ex-Secretary of State to rally pro-Chávez governments around his cause.

But I’m left to wonder if the Cuban argument is even a worthy strategy at this point. What is the overall perception of Cuban involvement in Venezuelan government? Do the poor sectors of society support Cuban doctors to such a degree that it would represent a rallying cry around which to band together chavismo? Why has Maduro not yet tapped into this discourse? Is it a hot-button issue? If Venezuelans were faced with the option between a Cubanized government or a Military State, would they choose the latter? Do Cubans vote?

Chávez was known to be deftly shrewd in assessing opinion polls and tracking numbers in order to make political decisions. He always took the pulse of his Venezuelan electorate masterfully. But his responses to popularity were always based around elections. (Unless there was an imminent coup plot that I am not aware of. Otherwise he could rest easy from election to election).

With no immediate elections in sight, but a probable power struggle in the works, I wonder if Maduro is doing the same.

Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.