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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84 COMMENTS

  1. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the answer to your question: Fidel was envious of Venezuela’s natural riches and despised Venezuelans for their luck, so he “inoculated” Venezuela through Chavez and now Maduro with all the worse crap he could come up with, looted our country and left it to die in a slow and genocidal death…and then he passed away satisfied that his evil mission on earth was successful.

    • Just as greed is the capital sin of Anglo-saxons… envy in the capital sin of Hispanics (Arab legacy BTW).
      A true, undeniable force of culture. I still don’t understand how political (and economic) analysis underestimate passions so much.

  2. Dont think that Cuba ever had control over all the activities of the regime , they had a lot of influence over its leaders but they had to allow the latter a lot of leeway in how they preferred to do things provided it didnt do things that might directly affect their ‘milking’ operations , keeping the host happy was a big part of the deal , they also provided help on the security front , but economically Cuba had no capacity to render economic advise to a regime such as the Venezuelan regime , they themselves run a broken down economy. Our ruin was a homegrown product……..!! When they tried doing things outside the security area like when they were given the task of remedying the electricity generation and distribution problem they botched things up big……..to no ones surprise…..!! Look at the economic mess of Puerto Rico , no one doubts that its a US dependency and yet US influence over the policies of Puerto Ricos government havent helped it avoid ruin ……., what it can due is subsidise the islands finances up to a certain limit , but that is something that Cuban definitely cant do for Venezuela …!

  3. It’s the rampant and unchecked corruption. As you say Bill, the project was doomed to failure because the problem was already deeply embedded in the culture.

  4. Cuban domination of Venezuela was unknown to me until I discovered CC. It is just not reported in the US press which is obsessed with the notion that Cuba is reforming and the economic ruin there is largely the result of the economic blockade and not its ruinous socialist economic policies. So thanks for covering this story Quico and by the way I would challenge you to get this story published in the Washingtom Post. Good luck. That said, my answer to your question is that Venezuela with its oil wealth is a more difficult target for dictatorial socialism than was agrarian Cuba. Venezuela has had independent newspapers and broadcast media and had developed or was in the process of developing a middle class. All this “capitalist” and “democratic” baggage has to be destroyed and Chavismo is only now on the cusp of its destruction. The reason why Cuba has allowed the ruinous economic policies in Venezuela is that it was and still is necessary to secure total control.

    • Greeting Mr Crispin,

      I agree that Venezuela had a “capitalist” and “democratic” baggage that the communist had to deal with.

      One of the achievements of the oil boom of the XX century in Venezuela was the development of a cosmopolitan middle class. Venezuela received huge amounts of European immigrants, it had a thriving American ex-pat community that built the oil business and MOST IMPORTANTLY it invested heavily in higher education, both in local universities and graduate work in elite institutions around the world. I would dare say that many of the commenters in this blog are people that are product of the investment in education.

      In fact the distance and envy that was generated between this thriving middle class and those that were uneducated or did not have a trade was where Chavismo was seeded and festered. While the middle class of Venezuela traveled the world, the poor saw improvements in the form of government benefits such as free healthcare and education. Furthermore, the quality of these services fluctuated with the value of oil, and expanding corrosive culture of corruption.

      However the middle class had an important roll in Venezuelan society, they were the educated class, hence medical doctors, engineers, professional managers, thinkers…, and as such they HAD POWER that competed with Chavismo, and one knows that communist do not share power.

      Moreover, Chavismo needed to seal a ‘covenant’ (I am deliberate in using biblical terms here), they needed a blood sacrifice, a common enemy, a scapegoat. So Chavismo unleashed a war without quarter on escualidos and their institutions, namely PDVSA, the universities, and more generally, the private sector.

      Here is where the ‘capitalist’ baggage comes to play. The middle class institutions were akin to a vital organ to the society. As we now see, without them the oil industry collapses, the healthcare system fails and the political process withers.

      Chavismo had to destroy the middle class in a “Do~na Barbara” style struggle, but in doing so it maimed Venezuela into a failed state.

  5. Because with Marxism, the symbolism is more important than substance.

    Boy howdy, wouldn’t it have been great if Cuba got one of the worlds biggest prizes in Venezuela to exploit? The problem lies in he fact that Marxism doesn’t know how to create, let alone maintain. (See Cuba today)

    Marxism only destroys. It is its nature. There was only one trajectory for Venezuela under Chavism.

  6. I see that no particular knowledge of Cuba, Cuban politics, or even Cuban- Venezuelan relations are needed to pose this “historical” question, other than some assertions, and the kind of prejudice some panas, unfortunately, circulate via WhatsApp groups. I much prefer the informed-Quico writing and not the speculative “political scientist”.

    • Carlos you comment “I see that no particular knowledge of Cuba, Cuban politics,”

      Lets get this right mate, the definition of politics “the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area, especially the debate or conflict among individuals or parties having or hoping to achieve power.”
      Cuba is a communist one party state, they do not practice politics.

      But maybe my “assertions” are “speculation” and “prejudiced”
      Please give us your perspective on this “historical question”

      Did you write that wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt?

  7. Killed it’s host, perhaps? I’m not sure I would disagree, but any plans to revive it? or perhaps it’s been a calculated move by the Cubans, more like treating leukemia. Radiate the patient, killing the leukemia cells (remission induction) the opposition and others leave the country; then comes the donor transplant and remakes the new order in its own image to impose the “maintenance phase” keeping the “leukemia” cells from coming back or squashing those who remain. So, any solutions on the horizon? or hope for the powers to “screw” it up and allow “leukemia” cells to linger for who knows how long, they certainly have done a superb job so far.

  8. Simple: lack of experience managing an economy the size of Venezuela and billions and billions of dollars in oil revenues.

    • Consider corruption. While Fidel had enough mansions or beachfront estates to live his own Dolce Vita, he kept a pretty tight rein on those below him. Yes, the Nomenklatura got their nice housing and access to food that the pueblo could only dream of, but accumulation on a Venezuelan level was definitely prohibido. The author of Insider: My Hidden Life As a Revolutionary in Cuba recounts his experience auditing Cuban Embassy people in Panama. IIRC, owning a VCR – in the ’70s- was considered a red flag for corruption. a VCR!

      While El Finado talked a good game in his 1998 electoral campaign about cracking down on corruption, once in office he turned a blind eye to crony corruption. Let the good times roll! Those different policies on corruption tells us that Cuban control of Venezuela was far from all-encompassing.

  9. Quico, you seem to assume that the Cubans would have had a clue as to how to run Venezuela’s economy. Ie, that for some reason they did apply expertise that they must have had. But What would they know, for example, about maintaining oil infrastructure??

    The Cubans might be adept of political and security ops, but I would imagine that they would be in waaaaaay over their heads in terms of economic policy

    • That’s how I see it. I think Quico is making quite a leap about Cuba’s role in VZ.

      It was all about security (read secret police) and politics, nothing more.

      There’s nothing to question about “Why did Cuba let VZ die?” Not to mention it was going to die anyway under Chavismo, with or without Cuban influence.

  10. Could it be that commies simply want to destroy and sow chaos for the ideological opportunities provided? Maybe they are thinking to provoke an actual military confrontation (with whom it matters not) in order to enter into the fray in a big way claiming to protect the weak? “Never let a crisis go to waste” is a Marxist-socialist idea that is fundamental to exploiting situational weakness. Maybe they think the situation is not yet at criticality.

  11. Why?

    Because that’s what they’ve done all the time, they’ve never done anything different, they’re invaders and plunderers.

  12. In my opinion, I am Cuban, the answer is simple. Castro I and now Castro II had just one goal: “After me, the flood”. Just keep the power until they dye.
    That’s why Cuba have started to make (cosmetical) changes in its constitution and allow now Privat Property. Changes no even thinkable while Castro I was alive.

  13. Surely, Cuba had a more limited set of objectives than a full takeover. It supplied the techniques of repression and agitprop to keep in power a government that would continue to supply free oil. They would get the free oil (and other goodies, like overpayments for medical personnel) and let Venezuela otherwise continue its own way, on the assumption that the oil reserves would take care of its tame government’s stability as it progressed towards socialism. The Cuban government had to believe this, or else it would have admitted that it no longer believed in itself. The Cubans were unprepared for the level of incompetence and thievery at the center of the Venezuelan government, just as the Chinese have been. The only way to get around this situation would have been to push almost all the chavistas aside and put their own men in power – a blatant exercise in imperialism from which they naturally shrank, even if it had been possible in the face of Venezuelan nationalism. And now Venezuela has declined so much, a takeover is not even appetizing.

    • I think in reality, that Cuba had one objective: money

      Cuba needs more than anything cash, (real cash, not their fake stuff) and they saw a cash cow in Venezuela. It had everything they didn’t have in the way of resources. What is Cuba famous for exporting? It isn’t sugar, rum or cigars anymore. It’s their fake doctors, who (for cash ONLY) will go to any Third World shithole and offer their services in the name of “brotherly love”.

      If they could have gotten away with it, they would have named Fidel as El Presidente of Venezuela. But even they wouldn’t have been that brazen. Uncle would have taken that as in invite for a “two for one”, and while Putin (and the Euro-trash leftist bedwetters) would HOWL about it, it would mark the end of leftism in the Western hemisphere.

  14. Remember the old saying: “Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan.”

    Back in the day when Chavez was throwing oil wealth around Latin America and gaining influence and accolades from the lefties worldwide, Cuba wanted a place at the head of the parade.

    Now that Vz is a beggar nation, traveling the world hat-in-hand, Cuba does not return phone calls.

  15. Interesting question Quico poses. But to “let” the hose die implies that Cuba had the wherewithal to prevent this happening, and that. to me, is a stretch. By most any measure, Cuba is vastly out of step with the modern world and while damming free-market economies, or at least functioning economic systems elsewhere, they have always been dependent on them for their survival. Venezuela was useful to Cuba as a doner state, and profited greatly from the fees their received from sending doctors, coaches, et al, to Venezuela. Concurrently they effectively imposed their own economic “system” on Venezuela, as a matter of political principal, thus writing the death warrant to their very source of funds, free oil, etc. They didn’t realize that they couldn’t have it both ways – that they couldn’t continue bilking funds and product from a country that HAD funds and product owing to some modicum of a modern day economy and a semi-functional private sector, while encouraging the destruction of that very system.

  16. This isn’t Cuba’s fault. It is corruption driven by oil revenue.

    Cuba, unlike Venezuela, doesn’t have anything to sell. Or at least anything as easy to sell and as profitable as oil. There simply isn’t enough money to go around. Corrupt people in Cuba are fighting over scraps. Corruption in Cuba doesn’t get you very far. And the corrupt can’t hide.

    Venezuela, on the other hand, has a systemic corruption problem that was being fueled by decades of “free” money coming in from previous oil infrastructure investments.

    Unlike Cubans, corrupt Venezuelans can take themselves and their loot and move to Miami, Panama, and heaps of other places. So they avoid the wrath of their countrymen. And they also used to avoid the wrath of the US Justice Dept. (not so much anymore).

    • In addition, Cuba has reined in corruption. It allocates food and housing to the Nomenklatura that the pueblo could only dream of, but it cracks down on Venezuela-style accumulation from corruption- unless your surname happens to be Castro.
      Venezuelan corruption comes from Venezuelans.

      When there was a fair amount of corruption feasible due to the massive Soviet subsidies from ~1960-1990, Castro cracked down on corruption.

    • “This isn’t Cuba’s fault.”

      Oh, another naive that thinks that “invading a country and fucking destroying it to steal its resources” isn’t to be blamed on the invaders.

      The same bullshit as “the murder isn’t the malandro’s fault, it’s the victim’s because they were there and deserved it”

  17. This idea that Cuba has deep influence in Venezuela is facile and most likely overblown. It’s as silly as asserting that Israel runs the US’ foreign policy.

    I’m sure that when the archives are opened, we’ll see that there was a lot more conflict and disagreement between the two, and that chavismo was a lot more autonomous than the Venezuelan opposition would lead us to believe.

    If I could speculate a bit, I think Chávez and Maduro extracted a lot of political capital from the Castros. To certain segments of the left, and especially with communists, on the national and international level, the Castros (particularly Fidel) represent revolution, redemption, and independence from and resistance to the US and Western imperialism. And taking advice from Fidel with regards to the Missions gave Hugo some legitimacy, but it was also a practical move. But beyond that?!!? I’m not so sure.

    Either way, the relationship between two works because it is all about regime survival (ensuring that the right does not return to power), which means they most likely see eye-to-eye on intelligence/security issues. But as far as day-to-day influence, on what to do with oil money, how resources are allocated, what policies are advanced, how to curtail corruption, I’m sure Cuba’s influence is limited.

    • I agree. I don’t think the “Cuban Masterminds” are all the “masters”, or “minds” that they are sometimes made out to be. It seems to me that chavismo has had a number of outside influences, some overlapping: organized crime, China, and Russia, and of course Cuba. Cuba rented out its revolutionary bona fides, at a very high price, provided some security, did some spying and advising, joined in the corruption party. But I don’t know that there is any reliable evidence of Cuba being in “complete control”, and that assertion runs against the anecdotal evidence that seeps out of this sinking vessel.

      I think the origins and causes of the disaster that is Chavismo are in Venezuela, and not in Cuba.

    • “the Venezuelan opposition would lead us to believe. ”

      Which is, zero, because for the “official opposition”, this is just a “bad gubmint, and all that cuba rubbish is just viejaslocasdelcafetaling”

      castro I has been after Venezuela’s oil since day one, and the cubans infested and destroyed venezuelan society during 40 years until they could finally take over with the election of the rotten doll in 1998.

  18. As many have said here, Cuba never sent, nor was able to send, the legions of trained personnel to manage Venezuela’s oil industry, much less its entire economy, to keep it maintained/running efficiently. What Cuba was capable of doing was to send G2/other spies to keep Ven.’s military from rebelling, as well as to give political/computer advice on how to control elections and the Venezuelan political doofusses, both Chavista and Oppo. While Cuba collected its ample quota of free oil/over-charged “doctors”/trainers/et.al., Venezuelan native rampant corruption/nepotistic “Revolutionary” incompetent management/lack of planning for tomorrow’s vacas flacas took care of running Venezuela’s economy into the ground.

  19. Ultimately, it is a matter of State control over society.

    Has the crisis affected Cuba’s riches from Venezuela, or has it ensured them almost indifinitely?

    • Which, fundamentally, means ignorance and corruption from both leaders and populaces. If the leaders and “pueblo” or “people” were a bit less greedy/corrupt and better educated/ more intelligent, there would be no need for State Control.

    • Yes, they can have a share of nothing almost indefinitely.
      Smart move.
      Having a hard time understanding your point here.

    • “Has the crisis affected Cuba’s riches from Venezuela, or has it ensured them almost indifinitely?”

      Definitely the crisis has been used as the weapon to ensure the cuban domination over the colonized Venezuela.

  20. “Instead, the parasite seems to have willingly killed its host.

    I don’t understand it.”

    When in doubt regarding complex matters, the answer is usually a combination of multiple, even numerous factors. However, as I’ve always said in this and other blogs you can almost invariably narrow it down to 2 main factors: Corruption (or Greed, to be more religious/philosophical) – and Ignorance ( or lack of real education, or, rather, real Intelligence, if you will)

    This is another example where the 2 fundamental causes of all 5th world evil combine: In Cuba, Raulita is a blind dumbass, much dumber than Fidel was, yet less perverse and charismatic. His entourage, the top filthy thugs in Cuban power, are as evil and corrupt as they come: they only care about themselves, power and MONEY. Plus they are not that Intelligent or even well-educated. Ignorance and Corruption, as usual.

    Hope that helps in answering your interesting conundrum here, Quico.

  21. Mr aveledo is on the spot.
    All the wreckage has been promoted and let loose as a means to social control. The uncomfortable critical strata have left or ar in their final preparations, the lumpen wil remain lumpen and are the easiest to fool and control. The ones that are able to remain in the country and survive, do so out of a strong mixture of evasion and opportunity: corruption at all levels have been the key to the conquest of venezuela, using its own wealth to corruptly control military, politicians, and citizens.
    Now venezuela is but a bargaining chip in world geopolitics, the oil that still flows will provide revenues to whomever owns the hacienda.
    Besides, tierra arrasada allows for further impunity.

    I recognize quick’s intelectual honesty to finally allow himself to say, what many here have maintained for a long time. Im my case over 15 years of advocating for the understanding we lost sovereignty and became a vassal to many foreign interests… Kudos

    • Luis
      If you believe oil is going to continue to run here, then you must know something that no one else does.
      By years end PDVSA will cease to run as a company as its production will go to negligible levels.
      With the foreign debt burden and oil for loan agreements that Venezuela has with foreign entities, there will soon be a tipping point were production allows for no government profit at all.
      Everyone seems to speak about regime control, well, once the vast majority of chavista leaning people with their ‘carne de la patria’ stop receiving their free food etc. we will see what happens.
      It was never going to be the opposition that would remove the Chavista Government, it was allways going to be the chavista supporters that would be the catalist to me.

      • Geological risks are relatively low to other jurisdictions. Having said that, the capacity to produce it and sell it has been progressively destroyed by lack of resources ( investment and knowhow!)

        My point being I can see the state managing concessions and proto-concessions ( think arco minero) via the military industries created for such ends, and be Congo- like. It’s not that we are bound by blood-oil constrains much (Kimberly diamonds)

        As long as oil demand exists, there will be some production and revenues for the hacienda owners, more importantly, oil (and gas) and other resources in place will have value in future transactions over the ownership of the Hacienda and its serfs.

        I concur with the thesis they are really good at being bad! The destruction is by design and the “nationalistic” factions, if they even exist, can’t fight back against the corruption and the ideological looters.

  22. Ultimately, it is a matter of State control over society.
    ——–

    If looked at in terms of the most basic, in-born human dynamics, the Chavista’s efforts to “control” society involve attempts to impose a two-pronged system that runs counter to our basic desire to have things for ourselves, accomplished through sustained and honest efforts to get them. By way of Castro and the bunk socialist system, having things (private property and businesses, etc.) and amassing wealth and value is a big negative. But we still need stuff to survive and function so through paternalism, everyone gets what they need – at least in theory. But you still need an infrastructure to operate in the modern world, so people still have to work. But in the socialist pipe dream, yo work not for yourself and your family and friends, you work for El Pueblo – a theory that has never worked in any society at any time in history. Of course the native desire for personal gain gets appropriated by those in power who game the system for the very luxuries the system they promote is established to eliminate. Add to this a moral landscape where corruption is part of the very soil, blended with Homeric ignorance to the ways of the world and modern requirements to running a government, and you have a recipe for a failed state.

  23. Hello Quico,
    It’s been awhile!

    Well, I think your intellectual honesty, admitting that it doesn’t quite make sense, is valuable. It seem to me the answer is that your premise is likely the problem. There are two possibilities here:

    1. That the Cubans DID have “control” in some manner over the Chavez or now over the Maduro government; but the policy they dictated was the one we see – i.e., they don’t know what they are doing. They are incompetent.

    2. That the Cubans are not so incompetent as option #1 supposes, but that they did not/do not have sufficient influence to effect a more rational and pragmatic economic policy for the Chavez and Maduro governments.

    I favor the second, based on my experience in Venezuela, albeit mostly about 10 years ago now; but, also after that as I followed up with chavista/regime contacts working in Venezuela, in the USA and Europe.

    While I was there, doing my Fulbright research, I tried to get to know people both in the opposition and inside chavismo as well (many were not in the oil sector, though that was my focus). I used to talk, sometimes at length, with a few people who certainly were regime insiders; people who either saw, for example, Chavez and Diosdado almost daily, and others who had more episodic encounters. I used to listen with respect to their opinions. I am convinced that the core of these contacts were not corrupt, and were very concerned about how the regime was doing, very worried. (Actually, much of the reason they would talk to me is they were seeking an alternative analysis on international affairs, the oil sector, and developmental history of other countries, etc. )

    So, I say this to try to lend some research-based ‘authority’ to what I want to say:
    Indeed, there was, under Chavez, a group in Miraflores which, in one friend’s words, “lives in Cuba; they are not in Venezuela; they celebrate Cuban holidays, practise santeria” and etc.: I.e., they were sycophants of all things Cuban-revolutionary.

    At the same time, there was a constant tension between Chavez and the Cubans. They, for example, had long advocated he start a political party, complaining bitterly that “you only know how to throw money at problems.” And, they’d contrast this to their own long-time poverty at home, which, they would say, forced them to take control of their destiny via organization, and in the first place, via their party and all the organizations that go with that.

    Remember, it was not until 2007(!) – fully eight years after he came to the presidency – that Chavez finally gave in and did like the Cubans (and others, like Lula) told him he had to do. He organized the founding congress of the PSUV over at the grounds of the Bolivarian University, in the old PDVSA complex near “la bomba” in los Chaguaramos. And, it did not go so well as he hoped. Chavez never was able to get all the parties aligned with chavismo to dissolve their individual identities into his own, one PSUV. (Well, neither did the MUD 🙁

    Another example of very many (I’ll leave aside the oil sector): It became obvious by about that time (with the December 2007 constitutional referendum debacle, and then the Nov. 2008 regional elections) that “you can’t even turn out your own ‘soldiers’ in the barrios” for elections, as one guy I know told Chavez to his face, and as the Cubans would repeat as well.

    Finally he got on this issue of organizing his party … at least the get-out-the-vote aspect; but it was the Brazilians who especially organized that aspect — consulted and even did the election ads – all sent by Lula.

    What I’m saying is that, it appeared to me, from numerous indications, that neither the Cubans nor the Brazilians had great respect for Chavez. Whatever his politics, he was supremely incompetent at dealing with policy issues, avoided problems, and put off addressing failures in policy matters like those you are referring to.

    When people who worked close to Chavez complained (bitterly) about how the Cubans were on all of Chavez’ flights and always around, advising him all the time, I’d ask, “Then why do you put up with them?” The answer was, “We Venezuelans are not well-formed” (i.e., educated). “The Cubans were taught by the Russians, and they know international relations” and they know about big economic and political matters. They would say they did not know how to run things without them; “what can we do?”

    And, Chavez had problems with the Cuban doctors. At one point, I remember he put them al lon “lockdown” as he had neglected to pay them and they were pissed and he made them stay in (was it the Alba?) hotel so they would not be ‘on the street’.

    At one point, I’d say in 2009-2010, there was a push in the central group of chavismo (well, there were factions, of course), to ditch the Cubans, at least on many issues, or so I was told. But, there were several other indications of this. There was suspicion that the Cubans were cheating the Venezuelans – e.g., like telling Chavez et al not to make a certain deal and then going home and apparently doing the deal themselves, etc.

    So, there was a push to move to the Chinese as the new advisors/mentors. They seemed much more impressive, etc. Well educated, and able to stand up the the Americans in international arenas and in economic matters, etc. This was a serious process, and people started to go to China instead of Cuba to get training, etc, etc.

    The problem here is that, already, as early as about 2006 or 2007 (don’t remember now; I’d have to look at old notes) the Chinese themselves had ALSO lost all respect and confidence in Chavez. He simply did not and seemingly could or would not carry through on agreements. They saw him as not being a serious person. Contacts I had with both Venezuelan and Chinese officials both made this eminently clear. This is a long and complex story; however, one could also wonder, as you wonder in your blog post about the Cubans, why the Chinese didn’t get Chavez or Maduro to adopt better economic policies?

    I am going on here – not sure if I am making this clear, but the point is that all his foreign ‘mentors’ and ‘backers’ lost confidence and respect for Chavez (not to mention Maduro!) as he was simply unable to carry through on anything in a timely manner, and he avoided dealing with problems, or was so organizationally dysfunctional that he simply could not deal with deadlines and problems. There were exceptions, of course.

    I must say, there is probably another aspect to this behavior by Chavez/chavismo: it is that they always thought they could game the foreigners and make a better dear down the road by re-opening whatever agreement they had already made. They would make very clear that they had all the oil and the price would never again go down, and the Faja was the “last coke in the desert” (they constantly told me these things .. though so did some people at times from the opposition, but nowhere near the way chavismo would!). This gave them some sort of arrogance to ignore all rational political and economic policy making; and it combined with some traditional Venezuelan rentist governance attitudes, to which was added a sort of revolutionary arrogance as well – an aire of invincibility and destiny, which all led to a sort of incompetence and stubborn ‘independence’ from any rational advice from others.

    So, yes, the Cubans had their hand on a lot of stuff; but they also were extremely frustrated with chavismo and its stubborn, incompetent, arrogant “¡Soberania!” ways.

    Here’s another indicator, albeit anecdotal: When Chavez was diagnosed with cancer, he was abroad and told his cabinet and their wives about it via twitter. I was told by someone who clearly was in a position to know, that they decided, among themselves, in Miraflores to “keep this news from the Cubans.” They said this “is OUR” business, it is “our country” and etc. The message I got was one of deep resentment at the Cuban’s. Of course, no one can keep a secret in chavismo, and it soon leaked out. And, besides this, it is to me simply unimaginable how they thought somehow the Cubans didn’t already know! After all, Chavez was then in Cuba getting his treatment! This is a perfect example of both the “sobrenia” attitude and the muddled intellectual mentality the exists within chavismo, that no doubt time and again deeply frustrated the Cuban, Brazilian and Chinese leaderships despite whatever reasonably pragmatic advice they offered.
    Saludos, Tom

    • Tom
      From my experience you are bang on the money, and you reinforce why i put more credence on the comments section here, than the actual article most times.

    • Thanks for the insider’s perspective.

      There was suspicion that the Cubans were cheating the Venezuelans – e.g., like telling Chavez et al not to make a certain deal and then going home and apparently doing the deal themselves, etc.

      Not mere suspicion. For an example of how Fidel made out like a bandit with Chavista petrobucks, consider the “professional assistance” Cuba extended to Venezuela.
      The Brookings Institution published this in 2014:The Cuba-Venezuela Alliance: The Beginning of the End?

      By most accounts, there are 40,000 Cuban professionals in Venezuela, 75 percent of whom are healthcare workers. 14 ……..
      Venezuela reportedly pays the Cuban government approximately $5.4 billion per year for the Cuban assistance. 16 Since 2003,Cuba also provides advanced medical care for tens of thousands of Venezuelans in Cuba itself and hosts thousands of Venezuelan university students, particularly for the study of medicine. 17

      It is important to keep in mind that Cuban professionals are paid much less than their government receives from Venezuela in payment for their services. As of 2010, Venezuela paid Cuba approximately$11,317 per month on average for each professional it provided. 18 By contrast, Cuban doctors reportedly receive $425 per month, although this is more than double what they received six years ago and similar to what they earn on medical missions to Brazil. 19 Cuban doctors would be earning only up to $64 a month back home. 20 It is clear that these services are both a major item in the Cuban-Venezuelan trade balance, as well as a significant source of revenue for the Cuban government and for Cuban workers abroad.

      Cuban physicians in Venezuela were a cash cow for the Castro regime.
      What Cuban physicians in Venezuela bring the Castro regime in 2018 who knows?

    • ———

      “however, one could also wonder, as you wonder in your blog post about the Cubans, why the Chinese didn’t get Chavez or Maduro to adopt better economic policies?”

      ———–

      The millon dollar question that perfectly sums it all up.

      You can’t change stupid, and it didn’t take long for China to realize this.

    • Tom: thanks for sharing your insight! Truly a fascinating read. Hopefully you will comment here often, or maybe contribute some writing to the blog

    • That was a great comment Mr. O’Donnell. I wish you would make more. And Quico would write here more.

      I remember hearing anecdotes, around the same time you refer to above, of the high-ups at one particular Ministry going for walks to discuss important issues, to keep the Cubans out of the loop. It suggested that tension you are talking about. They knew the Cubans were around, they resented their presence, and they didn’t trust them.

      One compelling point of connection between Cuba and Chavismo – maybe the most important one- was the personal connection between Chavez and Fidel Castro, which some smart Venezuelan commentators have speculated was based in Chavez’s particular and compelling psychological needs. Chavez found in Fidel a father substitute (Chavez was raised for a good part of his childhood by his grandparents), as well as someone adept at playing on his extreme insecurities and narcissism. THAT is where I think the Cuban “influence” operation probably really happened, but not the kind people often suggest. The relationship was authentically personal, and their passion for each other was not fundamentally around Marxism but their particular psychologies and personal interest in self-glorification and family enrichment.

      I imagine that the Chavez-Castro relationship was probably very volatile, like all of Chavez’s relationships; not one of strict Marxist-driven mind-control. They shared a love of track suits, in later years.

      In many ways, it reminds me of another relationship between two current world leaders that occupies a bizarre intersection between the pathological and the corrupt.

        • Canucklehead is a psychiatrist now, didn’t you know?

          Drawing conclusions based on total stupidity and no facts.

          And kissing O’Donnell’s ass, although O’s post has nothing at all to do with supporting Shmucklehead’s distorted views.

          We’re not talking about a rational human being here. Canucklehead is a fucking idiot.

          Every time. Without fail.

          Stay on topic, okay? What the fuck is wrong with hm?

        • He can’t help himself. He’s Canadian as… well… whatever Canadians think they are.*

          *The standard response is, “As Canadian as possible, under the circumstances.” Perpetually the feckless, ugly, untalented sister who never gets asked on a date, but always has time to take a dig at her attractive, popular sister.

          It’s their nature.

          • Ouch, that was racist. Why do you gringos think it’s ok to slam Canadians all the time. I know, I get it, it’s just a joke.

          • Racist? Not in the least. I wasn’t aware that Canadians were a race.

            My world view is from an American living next door, in Minnesota. (aka “South Manitoba”) If I slam anything, it is the culture of moral superiority espoused by many of my northern neighbors who always seem to want credit for shit they haven’t done, or worse, credit for something that is expected of any citizen.

            That being said, Americans are almost as guilty of the same offense.

    • Epa Tom,

      No, I think this is a very fair description of the state of play while Chávez was alive. Cuba was *one* influence group out of a bunch, and had all the frustrations anyone who dealt with Chávez faced.

      What I’m saying is that the relationship changed massively once Maduro came to power, because Maduro’s primary political identification since his teens has been as a Fidelista hard-liner.

      We track regime factional dynamics closely for our consultancy reports and it’s *super* clear to me that Cuba has gone from “one faction among many” to the overwhelmingly dominant force in the last few years. Every reshuffle ends up bringing more pro-Cuban hardliners into more and more powerful positions. Look at the trajectories of an Erika Farías (who went from the nothing post of Yaracuy Governor to Chef de Cabinet for Maduro), look at the Rodríguez brothers, look at the core of guys around Tareck and Reverol. Close association with Cuba and Cuban-backed initiatives (Frente Francisco de Miranda especially) are now *the* key qualification for high office under Maduro. And a similar dynamic replays itself again and again lower down the bureaucratic totem pole, with mid-ranking officials alligned with the FFM getting a hugely disproportionate share of the plum promotions.

      They took over, dude. They hadn’t when Chávez was alive. Now they have.

    • Tom

      Thanks for taking the time to provide this insightful comment.

      Regarding Chavez not being a “serious person” and other countries he worked with coming not to respect him and view him with contempt and derision behind his back….it reminds me of an article by Christopher Hitchens years ago. Hitchens and a few other writers/persons were invited to visit Chavez for an afternoon. In the course of that day, Chavez seemed to Hitchens be somewhat out of touch with reality and have an “idiotic weakness for spells and incantations, as well as many of the symptoms of paranoia and megalomania”. Hitchens paints quite a vignette, such as the following.

      [After all, “there is film of the Americans landing on the moon,” he (Chavez) scoffed. “Does that mean the moon shot really happened? In the film, the Yanqui flag is flying straight out. So, is there wind on the moon?” As Chávez beamed with triumph at this logic, an awkwardness descended on my comrades, and on the conversation.]

      http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/fighting_words/2010/08/hugo_boss.html

      Regards

  24. Thomas, thanks for sharing your insights into the relationship between Cuba and Venezuela. Your comment was very interesting and informative. I hope you will continue to share your perspectives as time allows…..thanks again!

  25. Thomas, I just read your “resume” online and am very impressed. After reading that it makes me even more appreciative that you took time to share your thoughts with us.

  26. Venezuelan IQ has a mean of 83 and a stdev 15.
    19% of the population have IQ of 70 or less
    70 is borderline defficiency:
    http://www.assessmentpsychology.com/iqclassifications.htm
    The working adult population with IQ above 70 is only
    2/5*81% = 32% Can 32% feed the remaining 68%?
    Perhaps the answer is yes, with robotic production
    but in the present international economic milieu, I doubt it will happen soon.
    To my mind, Venezuela’s periodic genocides may not be accidental but a reflection of its deeper condition resulting from multiple genocides in the past
    Oil subsidies just increased the distance between the last genocide (federal war)
    and this one (chavismo)
    And this genocide will not make the IQ of the Venezuelan population go up.

      • I sense that a common mistake in our evaluation of the Chavistas is to conclude that they are stupid because they persist with policies that have brought Venezuela to economic ruin and yet the Chavistas dont change course. I actually think that the Chavistas and their Cuban friends have a common purpose, namely to tear down and destroy Venezuela to allow for its socialist rebirth. Now along the way they are looting the old Venezuela as did the Cubans their country. Once the Chavistas have finished their work they will engage in the socialist reconstruction under a one party state. The targets are democracy and any vestiege of capitalism that can compete with their one party rule. This is not idiocy: this is their plan and I would say they have made great progress in advancing their plan.

        • The Venezuela-Cuban plan is to starve-depopulate the country (genocide or expulsion, it is the same in terms of the result) so as to keep the real estate and a serf population with as low an IQ as possible to provide basic services like prostitution.

          Seems to be the new way forward for revolutions everywhere.

          • I agree with Crispin. Nonetheless, my point is about the fact that even now 83.8% of Venezuelans want Maduro out of power, so there is still between 15% and 20% of Venezuelans do NOT, apparently. And THAT statistic coincides with the 19% who KNOW that somebody had better taking care of them because they CANNOT survive on their own. There is a statistic I read long ago: a dictator’s rule is eternal (barely any effort needed) with army support plus 30% population support. With 20% support plus the army, well…in that case some repression is required. But the army may be willing to do it because the reward is that they get the entire Venezuelan real estate for themselves, condemning half of the population to exile.

  27. oo many Pamplinas Fritas in these answers. It is a very simple system, in Cuba, there are not PRICES nor SALARIES in a way a market economy has them. These “prices and salaries” were substituted for a strong rationing of some 30 goods, distributed administratively by the government, disregarding any scarcity and arbitrage. These categories are only indicators which tell administrators the level of inventories, including corruption costs. In the particular case of food goods, for instance, these goods are rationed considering an average of human needs for proteins, calories, and energy, the perfect system for Maduro.

  28. Well, hyperinflation hasn’t toppled this government, and it doesn’t seem likely in the near future, so Cuba is still winning.

    I don’t understand all this talk about the economy being this dark cloud that will wipe away Chavismo. Maybe this is what Cuba wanted all along…if only they could get PDVSA to produce a bit more oil again!

  29. Hi Quico! Was talking to my mom today about this.

    Cuba had absolute control of Venezuelan intelligence, propaganda and ideology. Not, however, of the military or the drug business, so ovelapping they may as well be one, I think.

    These are feudal lords who don’t depend on the executive enough to bow to cuba and they are the ones who run the economy and PDVSA.

    Sure, Cuba could have at least freaked and try something, but guess what? USA bitch. They much prefer the gringos and their highest priority is their opening to them.

    Not worth inmersing themselves in the inevitably very messy affair of dealing with conquering the fiefdoms, the conclusion of which would be far from foregone.

    And anyway, they don’t need it! They have uncle Sam now.

  30. One Gringo resident joke about Venezuela, heard occasionally repeated by some better-educated Venezuelans, explains Quico’s conundrum: “When I die, if I go to Hell, I hope it will be a Venezuelan Hell–the person who hauls the coal doesn’t show up for work; if he does show up, he forgot to bring a wheelbarrow; if he shows up with a wheelbarrow, the one he delivers the coal to didn’t bring any matches; if that person brought matches, ….as Ira/T said, you can’t fix stupid/low IQ–but, it’s more than that–you can’t fix cultural IRRESPONSIBILITY, especially after the Gringos/Europeans started to exit Venezuela beginning with early 80’s currency devaluations, and somewhat earlier with Ven. laws forcing businesses to employ 90% or so Venezuelan nationals

  31. On second thought, the cubans aren’t “killing the host”, they’re actually PLUCKING THE FLIES OUT OF THEIR PREY, which in this case is, as other user pointed out, genocide through the chabizta tyranny, they are reducing the population as much as possible so they can loot whatever resources they can, which can be precious minerals, refuge for drug lords and terrorists, and back in a far distant last, slave workers.

  32. It was always about the drugs. Controlling a country with multiple boarders. A country that is a free for all as long as you can pay is a drug dealers dream.

  33. None get it, with the Soviet tit gone Venezuela was Plan A, the Iraq warring half a world away gave the opening, the US was too busy and no Republican would have dared heading South when the commiecrats blared day and night about dead marines (as if they cared). In the 90s, many here forget, Cuba was experiencing such famine people were going blind, cats and dogs disappeared, even rubber condoms were made into pizza, it was Venezuela or done. Perfect confluence of events, by the way we are still in the Middle East, if that ever dies down then Uncle Sam will look South.The Castro dynasty had their Plan A and into execution it went, masterfully or clumsy, there they went, it worked more or less, Fidel died in his bed, the Castros resold Venezuelan oil worldwide, it came free after all so who cares about University of Chicago dogma, they sold it cheaper than anyone else, kept the Family and associated bastards in high cotton, the machinary creaked and turned, men in their 80s just want to tie into what’s left, plain biology. Then came better than Plan A= Barak Hussein Obama. Heck they said to themselves, we may even stretch another 8 years out of the simpatico comunistica americano, we’ll take all he gives, we’ll give nothing. For a while Hussein gave, they even half dreamed of another 8, easily corruptible RICO Clinton Foundation will take donations, what’s a couple of mil compared to the return? Gringo packed beaches, whores galore, our slave labor, all tourism owned by the FAR (Don Castro Siciliano Inc.) WE ARE MADE!. And then one November early morning better get rid of these gringos by blowing up their brains with weird blasts, this Trump is not Hillary, we gave nothing so let’s not risk something: right after the election gringos started dropping sick in Havana, sorry sons, daughters, bastards, all we have again is Venezuela, we pimped our way for 60 years, with Venezuela and with its decrepit oil pumps and that cretin Maduro and his drug cartel we live or die, had a good run. By the way no one here mentioned that Cuba maintains formal military units in Venezuela, from buck privates to generals.

  34. Not that sticky or complicated, no coincidences, Simple Survival of The Castro Species, as darwinian as it gets, pimp the Soviets, pimp the credit markets and never pay, pimp to whatever measure old decrepit Mao, pimp Venezuela, pimp easily pimped and willingly pumped Barak Hussein Obama, chulea Venezuela again. They Castros and blood bastards survive (there are many more than known). The problem with that is that the blood line gets diluted, thinned out, while proxy puppets get appointed only on account of their lack of spinal cord (Diaz Canel), in-laws and out of wedlock bastards multiply proportionally and their free loading, so really the question left is not which one expires first, Cuba or Venezuela or Cubazuela, but when?

  35. The Castro regime has always been a parasite; it is incapable of surviving otherwise. However, the fact it has always managed to find a suitable host or hosts (the Soviets, Cuban emigrants, Venezuela, numerous idiots who loan it money or do business with it though it practically never pays its debts) does not mean it can make the host productive or economically successful–if it knew how to do that, it could and would have done it for itself and would not need a host. A parasite only takes or sucks; it does not produce or give. Again, it’s not a question of wanting or not wanting, but of what a parasite can and cannot do.

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