One day, in the far future, when the secret archives from this dark period are opened and the history of the Maduro era can finally be written, I suspect the big question historians will have to grapple with is “Why did Cuba let Venezuela destroy itself?”

I suspect the big question historians will have to grapple with is “Why did Cuba let Venezuela destroy itself?”

Because, let’s be clear: the Maduro years are product of one of the most shockingly successful foreign influence operations in history. Try as I might, I can’t think of a similar instance of a small, weak state establishing effective control over a larger, richer state without firing a shot. With gobsmacking efficiency, Cuba pressed its substantial leverage over a dying leader to install a fully pliant puppet into the line of succession.

Nicolás Maduro has been a fidelista extremist since he was a teenager. His political education in the Liga Socialista and in Cuba itself was that of an absolutely dedicated cadre, a footsoldier in the Cuban interpretation of Marxism-Leninism. Cuba couldn’t have found a more dependable frontman for its control of Venezuela. In intelligence terms, getting a visibly dying Hugo Chávez to anoint him as successor is winning the Superbowl, the Stanley Cup, the Olympic 100-meter dash and the FIFA World Cup all in one go.

And Cuba’s regime, for all its economic and ideological backwardness, is not given to self-harm. Predictability, dull and dreary, is what fidelismo specializes in, at least at home; instability isn’t good for regime longevity and that’s a truth fidelismo has carried in its ideological DNA since the 1970s.

And yet a regime that obsessed with stability, with that much control over Venezuela, allowed its quasi-colony’s economy to spin out of control. Hyperinflation is the mark of an absolute inability to keep economic control wholly out of character with Havana’s approach.

Hyperinflation is the mark of an absolute inability to keep economic control wholly out of character with Havana’s approach.

From 2005 to 2017, Cuba’s inflation rate averaged 4.2%. It’s what you’d expect from a regime determined to make itself eternal. And yet, between 2013 and 2017, as the warning signs of hyperinflation piled up on Venezuela’s economic radar, Cuba sat around and did nothing.

In this blog, we tend to have quite a bit of fun blaming the appalling Alfredo Serrano for this catastrophe, and it’s clear that the Spanish charlatan’s horrifically misplaced advice has been an important driver of Venezuela’s economic tailspin. But that’s a non-explanation: smitten though Maduro might have been with el Jesucristo de la economía, it’s obvious a single call from Havana would’ve sufficed to end this clown’s influence for good.

Yet that call never came.

Why?

I don’t have an answer, and I suppose that without access to sources that won’t be available for many decades, nobody does. All I can do is note this bizarre anomaly. Having secured complete control over the country sitting on top of the world’s biggest oil reserves, you might have expected the Cubans to be minimally responsible with their loot, if for no other reason than acute instability obviously imperils their outstanding coup. Instead, the parasite seems to have willingly killed its host.

I don’t understand it.

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