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Nicolás Maduro’s Strengthened Alliance With the Castro Regime

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Oct 2, 2013, 10:47 am

The diplomatic relationship between the United States and Venezuela is in a disastrous state, and the tension has only heightened recently. First, the United States banned flying over Puerto Rican territory for the Venezuelan president’s plane, and then the United States rejected a visa for an official member of the presidential entourage.

Although perhaps under the radar, this impasse is indicative of and reveals the extent to which the Castro brothers and Nicolás Maduro governments have reinforced their collusion — which has taken a priority over any relationship with the United States.

The airline incident has made it public that the Venezuelan president travels the world on Cubana de Aviación, the national airline of Cuba. Maduro even surrounds himself with Cuban security and intelligence agents when he attends the UN Assembly. According to the renowned Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda, he arrived with six Cubans with foreign IDs and Venezuelan passports. Not surprisingly, then, the Cuban minister of foreign affairs recently rushed to Maduro’s defense against the “new attack from the Empire” on Venezuela, Cuba, and the region as a whole.

Many analysts thought the alliance hatched between Cuba and Venezuela in the last 14 years would weaken with Chávez’s death and Maduro’s arrival. The analysts claimed that the divisions and conflicts within Chavismo, the rough economic situation in Venezuela, and the Cuban pragmatism would chill the relationship.

But what actually happened was the exact opposite. Chávez’s successor had been trained by the Cubans since the 1990s, and they chose him as the best successor for the late Bolivarian leader. Both administrations, each weakened for their own reasons, have clung to one another to better survive politically and economically the difficult current scenario.

However, there is another important reason we should not ignore. The Castro and Chavismo regimes have not worked for a simple bilateral alliance based on economic gains — almost exclusively for Cuba — and political convenience. Rather, they have formed a sort of marriage whose ultimate aim is to merge into one nation state and consolidate both regimes’ power and the neo-communist hegemonic project — now euphemistically referred to as Bolivarian Socialism for the 21st century.

Also, from the beginning they have both sought sufficiently influential power to destabilize and transform the democratic states in the hemisphere, together with their associated international institutions. In addition, they have collaborated to build strategic networks with like-minded extra-territorial governments, particularly in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

This is why both the Venezuelan and Cuban flags have waved for years in the public institutions and armed forces of both countries. Many of Chávez’s and now Maduro’s speeches, in unison with those by the Castro brothers, have referred to the Cuban-Venezuelan bond as the epicenter of a future “Patria Grande Americana” (grand motherland of America). During Nicolás Maduro’s visit with Fidel Castro in July, for example, he repeated what Raúl Castro had said in Caracas in 2010: “The brotherhood between Cuba and Venezuela grows stronger and stronger; every day they are more the same.”

There is no doubt that, in this marriage, it is the dictatorial Castro regime that benefits most, to the detriment of Venezuelan national interest and sovereignty. Still, Cuban support has been foundational to the whole process undergone by Chavismo. It is highly probable that the Bolivarian revolution would not have prospered for so many years without the political and military assistance and the intelligence and propaganda contributed by the Cuban revolution. Fidel and Raúl Castro were Hugo Chávez’s great trainers, and now they are Nicolás Maduro’s. Chavismo would also not have attained such international influence without the Cuban expertise. Cuba has not only been behind the destruction of Venezuela’s democratic institutions, but of the whole of Latin America’s, beginning with the OAS.

The Cuban influence on the Bolivarian regime has been essential for the rise to power and the stability of like-minded parties and governments in the region, such as Daniel Ortega’s in Nicaragua, Evo Morales’s in Bolivia, and Rafael Correa’s in Ecuador — and the creation of “alternative integration blocs,” such as Petrocaribe, Petrosur, Petroandina, and the ALBA. Since their inception in 2004 in La Habana, they have offered political and energy support not only to their members but also to governments in other regions, such as Gadafi’s in Libya and Al-Assad’s in Syria. Cuban support has also brought the formation of the so-called “strategic liberation axes” in Latin America, such as the Peoples’ Bolivarian Congress, the Bolivarian Continental Coordination, and the Bolivarian Liberation Front, to destabilize the region and establish a “Patria Grande Americana.”

Thus, both governments’ roles have always been clear and well distributed in the alliance; they are different but complementary regarding their joint ideological and power goals. Chávez’s and Maduro’s administrations have been the international protagonists and the ones to contribute the funding, whereas the Castros’ administrations have carried out the surreptitious political work. Actually, this Cuban role was the one Fidel Castro always dreamed of regarding Venezuela.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.