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    ‘Cubazuela’ and Castroism’s three-fold failure

    ‘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
    produce progress.

    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

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