Must-Read: The Extent of Castro's Control in Venezuela

Monday, March 31, 2014
There's a story in Spain's El Pais this weekend regarding Cuba's extensive control in Venezuela.

Here are some excerpts:

Thousands of Cubans work today in Venezuela's public administration.  In the presidency, ministries and state companies. As bureaucrats, doctors, nurses, dentists, scientists, teachers, computers programmers, analysts, agricultural specialists, electricity technicians, workers and cultural collaborators.  Also, in security, intelligence and even in the Armed Forces.

The majority also serve in the militias. "We have in Venezuela over 30,000 'cederristas' [militias] from the 8.6 million members our organization has," Juan Jose Rabilero, then head of Cuba's Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR), revealed in 2007 at a public event in the Venezuelan state of Tachira. Nothing indicates this figure has decreased. Nearly 70% of the Cuban population forms part of this system of vigilance and delation.

The Cubans run Venezuela's identification system, its passports and identity cards; mercantile exchanges and public notaries. They know who has what properties and what transactions are made. They also co-direct the ports and have a presence at the airports and migration controls, where they act at will. The Cuban firm, Albet SA, of the University of Computer Sciences (UCI), which controls the systems of the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Customs (SAIME), has so much power that it doesn't allow Venezuelans access to the top floor of its headquarters in Caracas. The Cubans also control the computer systems of the presidency, ministries, social programs, police entities and of the state oil company, PDVSA, through a joint venture called, Guardians of Alba.

The Cubans know almost everything about Venezuelans, but Venezuelans are kept unaware of just how many Cubans work in the country, how much they charge for their services and the terms of the agreements for these services, which are kept secret by the Venezuelan government.

According to the latest official figures, in mid-2012, in Venezuela there were a total of 44,804 collaborators in so-called social missions; 31,700 in health care (11,000 doctors, 4,931 nurses, 2,713 dentists, 1,245 optometrists and 11,544 non-specified), 6,225 in sports, 1,905 in culture, 735 in agricultural activities, 486 in education and 54 in handicapped services. Yet, it is believed the actual numbers could be double. There are no officials statistics regarding those who work in the electricity sector, construction, information technology and security advisers to the government, among others.

"The Cuban doctors are sent in a form of modern slavery," according to the NGO, Solidarity Without Frontiers.

Retired General Antonio Rivero, a former Chavez collaborator, assures that there are currently more than 100,000 Cubans in Venezuela, among them 3,700 in the intelligence services, the G2. "Just in security and defense, we estimate there are around 5,600 of them." And he confirms that there are Cubans in the most important military bases in the country. "In the Armed Forces, there are some 500 active Cuban military officers serving as advisers in strategic areas, such as intelligence, weaponry, communications and military engineering. Also, in operations and in the office of the Minister of Defense, which has a permanent Cuban adviser with the rank of General."

According to Rivero, which served chief of communications for the presidency and was the national director of Civil Protection, the presence of Havana goes back to 1997, when 29 undercover Cuban agents established operations in Margarita and in 1998 helped Chavez's electoral campaign with intelligence, security and information technology.