Che’s Battle Comrade Becomes Maduro’s New Economic Adviser


EspañolOn Tuesday, Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro announced a new economic adviser for his cabinet, Orlando Borrego. Unlike the rest of his presidential team, Borrego’s appointment has caused quite a stir. His past as Che Guevara’s battle companion during the Cuban revolution, along with high-level posts under the Castro’s regime, has fueled speculation of an eventual radicalization for Maduro’s socialist model.

With an implied annual inflation rate of 140 percent, Maduro has had little choice but to shuffle the staff of his economic bureau. With former Minister of Planning Jorge Giordani out of the picture, the potential for a less-orthodox socialism arose. However, such hopes faded with Maduro’s most recent appointment:

Orlando Borrego (Alex Crawford)
Orlando Borrego. (Alex Crawford)

“Orlando Borrego … is assigned to a special team alongside the minister for planning, Ricardo Menéndez, Jesús Martínez [minister for labor] and other colleagues who are preparing a set of plans… to execute a complete and deep revolution in the public administration, in the state administration, a revolution inside the revolution,” the president stated on Tuesday during his weekly radio show, In Contact With Maduro.

Borrego, a 77-year-old economist who acquired his education in Havana and Moscow, “was a peer of Ernesto Che Guevara in the battles of the revolution,” Maduro explained.

Among promises of restructuring the whole regime, Venezuela’s president has had to battle to recover after harsh accusations from hard-line Chavistas, such as former Minister Giordani and former Minister Navarro.

Two weeks ago, after Giordani was dismissed from Maduro’s cabinet, he wrote an open letter denouncing acts of corruption, lack of leadership, and bad economic management. Ultimately, he believes there has been a loss of bearings in the Chavista revolution since Chávez’s death.

“It’s painful and concerning to see a presidency that doesn’t give the impression of any leadership, and seems to repeat, without any coherence, the proposals made by Commander Chávez,” the letter said.

Giordani was not only a close ally of the late Hugo Chávez, but his mentor in economic policy. After the letter was published, the Chavistas didn’t take long to react. However, the reception was mixed: some backed Giordani, and even called for an open debate on his claims, while others criticized his actions calling him “anti-revolutionary.”

Just a few days later, another high-profile Chavista, Héctor Navarro, issued his own letter in support of Giordani’s claims, and calling for an open investigation into the alleged acts of corruption.

“I believe it’s our responsibility to discuss what is important, and I think the president must; he needs to reflect in front of all of us, act according to his responsibility as statesman, and take on this challenge.”

Navarro was soon suspended from his party, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and called to attend a disciplinary hearing.

Even though Maduro dismissed these accusations, calling the complainants part from an “outdated left,” he has announced a “deep revision” within the regime. From July 1 to 15, according to Maduro, the government is leading a restructuring process to “improve the socialist efficiency” in the public administration.

“We will revise everything; we will have meeting sessions with vice presidents, and all the ministers, minister by minister; they will all be accountable for how their projects are progressing, their level of achievement, the budget execution on all the projects, and how each mission is moving forward.”

Orlando Borrego (left) with Che Guevara (right). (Che Guevara Siempre)
Orlando Borrego (left) with Che Guevara (right). (Che Guevara Siempre)

For this “renovation” process, Maduro has resorted to Borrego, a Cuban with an extensive curriculum in communist Cuba. He was at the forefront of the junta as prosecutor in the revolutionary trials. He was also vice minister in Cuba’s Ministry for Industries, and later an adviser in the Executive Committee of Ministers (1973-1980).

With a PhD in economic science from the Institute of Mathematical Economics in the former Soviet Union, Borrego appears to be the perfect man to radicalize Maduro’s communist agenda.

The PanAm Post had the opportunity to interview Huber Matos Garsault, grandson of Huber Matos, who was a prominent Cuban dissident and another leader in the Cuban revolution alongside Fidel Castro. Garsault also works as a representative for the nonprofit Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID).

According to Garsault, “Venezuela is yet another chess piece” for Raúl Castro in his match against the White House. The fact that a Cuban communist such as Orlando Borrego is assigned as economic adviser in Maduro’s cabinet is “a decision that publicly shows the influence the Castros have on Nicolás Maduro, and the rest of the Chavista regime.”

Garsault believes this can imply two things: “the Castros are giving Maduro a sign of support, among all the internal fractures in his political bureau, or it can be a message to Washington that the Cuban government has the capacity to politically and economically dominate Venezuela.”

In the end, the Castros’ regime is no longer interested in keeping its influence in Venezuela a secret. On the contrary, Garsault explains, they want to make it public that whatever happens in Venezuela will depend on what the island’s regime decides and what’s best in their interests.

Vice Admiral Rafael Huizi, president of the Venezuela’s Military Institutional Front (FIM) — a military-veteran NGO that watches over the institution’s performance — also weighed in with the PanAm Post.

“Indignation” was the word used by Huizi when he heard Borrego’s appointment. “As a Venezuelan and military man, I believe it is disrespectful to the Venezuelan people.”

For the veteran, the decision comes as “more of the same Leninist-Marxist model that has failed after 15 years. This only proves that there’s no political will to change, nor to reestablish the rule of law in the country. But beyond that, this confirms that we are being ruled by Cuba; Venezuelans’ fate and future is decided there.”

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