To Confront Maduro is to Confront Castro

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Excerpt by Moises Naim in The Atlantic:

The struggles and sacrifices of Venezuela’s young people could have surprising and unintended consequences beyond their nation. To confront Maduro’s government is to simultaneously confront Cuba’s grotesque influence in Venezuela. Absent the massive economic aid that the Venezuelan regime has been giving Cuba, the island’s precarious economy would have already collapsed—and it yet might with any reduction in this support. Such an economic collapse could accelerate the political change that sooner or later will take place in Cuba. It is only natural, then, that for the ruling elite in Havana no other goal is more critical than ensuring the continuity of Venezuela’s economic lifeline. Over its many decades in power, the Cuban government has perfected the art of successfully running a repressive police state. Additionally, the Cuban intelligence services—the fabled G2—has a long history of intervening in Latin American countries, and in politically manipulating and physically or morally “neutralizing” its opponents. It is not hard to imagine that these skills, methods, and capabilities have been put at the service of the nation’s top priority: securing a friendly government in Venezuela.

But repressive techniques are not Cuba’s only exports. The island has long been the source of bad political and economic ideas in Latin America—from the disdain for democracy to the cult of the centrally planned economy. A different government in Cuba, one willing to make political openness and deeper economic integration with the rest of the world as much a priority as “exporting the revolution” has been during the long Castro era, would have significant consequences for Latin America. Cuba’s harmful continental influence would wane without Venezuela’s free oil. And, incredibly, this seminal change may hinge on the success of students who are still in the streets even after more than a week of brutal repression.