The Cubanization of Venezuela
Castro works to keep Chávez in power and the cheap oil flowing.
Mar 8, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 24 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
Preserving the Bolivarian strongman is thus a top priority for Havana, which is why the Castro brothers have been flooding Venezuela with highly accomplished practitioners of repression and censorship. Chávez is relying on them to fortify his revolution. With each passing day, the two countries become more and more interdependent, and Venezuela gets more and more Cubanized.
Does the Chávez-Castro relationship affect American foreign policy? As the U.S. intelligence community notes in its 2010 threat assessment (which Dennis Blair presented to Congress in early February), the Ven-ezuelan and Cuban governments—along with their allies in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Nicaragua—“are likely to oppose nearly every U.S. policy initiative in the region, including the expansion of free trade, counterdrug and counterterrorism cooperation, military training, and security initiatives, and even U.S. assistance programs.”
But even if Valdés and his henchmen help stabilize Venezuela in the short term, they can’t undo the heavy consequences of Bolivarian socialism. Surveys show that Chávez is increasingly unpopular; he will grow even more so if the electricity and water shortages persist. Venezuela’s infrastructure is crumbling, as is its public health system. Crime has reached unimaginably high levels—especially in Caracas—and inflation is having a devastating impact on the economy.
Yet Chávez aggressively plows forward, aiming to create a Cuban-style dictatorship. And what is the response from Latin America’s democratic leaders? Silence. Rather than stand up for democracy, most have stayed quiet and sought to accommodate a dangerous autocrat. In that sense, they bear a share of responsibility for what is happening in Venezuela.
Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for Latin American Studies at the Hudson Institute.
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