Venezuelan Election and Cuba – The Links that Bind
Mike Carr, Wednesday April 10th, 2013.
Huge stakes in Venezuelan election
Huge stakesare involved in the looming Venezuelan election this Sunday, April 14th. For Venezuelans, it’s a crossroads for the Bolivarian Revolution inspired by deceased leader Hugo Chavez. If the Chavistas win, the continuation of their developing model of a democratic socialism for the 21st century is assured for at least another six years. However, the opposition party Primero Justicia, a coalition of right wing groups, may very well attempt to throw chaos into the revolutionary plans of the United Venezuelan Socialist Party. Their candidate for president, Henrique Capriles, claims his program is modeled on Brazil’s social democratic politics. However, Primero Justicia, and Capriles in particular, supported the right wing military coup in April of 2002 against the democratically elected President Chavez. Moreover many Venezuelans fear the loss of the many social “missions” launched by the Chavistas – health, housing, education, culture, sports and more– subsidized by government control of oil production and profits - if Capriles wins. Capriles has promised to keep the social missions, but because of his anti-democratic past many do not trust him. And today, Capriles failed to commit to recognizing the election results.
Cubans also have a big stake in the election outcome
Most importantly, Capriles has categorically stated that, if he is elected, "Not another drop of oil will go toward financing the government of the Castros." Cuba is a big issue for Venezuelans. Capriles and the old right wing oligarchy who finances him are fiercely anti-communist and anti Castro. They accuse the Cuban state of dire plans to insinuate Cuban “communism” into Venezuela. Cubans, on the contrary, have a great admiration and love for Chavez as I witnessed myself in the days of national mourning here after Chavez died on March 5th. They also very much need the Venezuelan oil. Since the beginning of the agreement between the Chavez government in Venezuela and the Cuban government of Fidel Castro 13 years ago, Cuba has depended on Venezuelan oil at discount prices in exchange for Cuban doctors, nurses, social workers and teachers to assist in the Venezuelan social missions. The deal, launched by Chavez and Castro, is an example of a new type of inter-state trade based not on market profitability, but on economic complementarity. It has lead to an end-run around the old Washington Consensus marked by harsh conditionality agreements under the World Bank and the IMF. It is anathema to market friendly politicians such as Capriles. Under the new arrangement, Cuba gets 100,000 barrels of oil per day. This amounts to an estimated six billion dollars over the life of the current agreement. The Venezuelan oil was a much appreciated life-line for Cubans whose former oil supplies came to an abrupt halt with the collapse of the former Soviet union in 1989.
Poor benefit from free medical care
Cuban doctors, nurses, teachers and social workers are a very controversial issue in Venezuela, according to right wing Primero Justicia supporters. They have been accused of spreading Cuban communist ideology in Venezuela. However, the many poor in the barrios of Venezuela benefit from free medical care given by the Cuban doctors who are also training Venezuelan doctors as well. It is here where Chavez has his biggest support. Capriles has promised to send the doctors back to Cuba.
Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) or return to neo-liberalism
Beyond the oil for doctors issue, there was a deep friendship and comradeship between Fidel and Chavez. Chavez has looked to Fidel as a mentor. Together they launched ALBA, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas in 2004. ALBA now has ten member nations. The oil for doctors deal was arranged under ALBA. Although ALBA is a state to state organization, it encourages and supports peoples participation in its planning and administrative operations. Social movements contribute to forming ALBA’s goals. Given the rabid hatred of anything Cuban by Venezuela’s right wing oligarchy, ALBA too would be threatened under a Capriles government. Cuba would loose a very valuable ally. Venezuelan Chavistas and others around all of Latin American now regard Cuba as a beacon, an inspirational leader in the struggle to free Latin America from the yoke of U.S. imperialism. Cuba stood alone against the US giant and the many Latin American military dictatorships in the 70s and 80s that cow-towed to US policy. On the other hand, Venezuela is now seen by many Cubans not only as an ally, but also as hope for the future, a new model of a democratic Bolivarian socialism. A Capriles victory would represent a return to the horrible past under neo-liberal Washington Consensus politics and economic oppression.
Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean (CELAC)cooperation in question
CELAC, the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean, would also be threatened by a return to the party of the Venezuelan oligarchy under Capriles. Cuba is now the chair of CELAC. Cuba was chosen as the first chair to honor the fact that it did stand alone against neo-liberalism and US imperialism for over 50 years. CELAC is composed of all states in the hemisphere minus the US and Canada. It represents a regional effort of Latin Americans for an independent cooperative approach to common problems in spite of political differences, a forum for dialogue and solidarity. A return to the party of the old oligarchy who supports Capriles with finances and media campaigns (they still control the majority of the Venezuelan media in a free Venezuela).
Another threat to Venezuela: Luis Posada Carriles,well known terrorist
How likely is a Capriles win? Well, according to nearly all polls, not very likely. Nicolas Maduras, the former vice-president under Chavez and Chavez’ pick to follow him if he died is an excellent bet. He holds a commanding 17 point lead over Capriles. Maduras himself is a strong candidate. A former bus driver and trade union leader he is a powerful speaker. However, the right wing, or at least a section of it, has plans to destabilize the country during the elections. These plans have been exposed by the Chavista forces. They include fomenting crime and murder, attacks on the electrical supply system and subway stations, and the assassination of Maduras. These group(A& B) believe they can create an atmosphere of violence and chaos around the elections. In short, they are terrorists. One of them, David Koch Arana, is a retired colonel from the Salvadoran Army. He has links to Luis Posada Carriles, the well known - to Cubans – terrorist who masterminded the bombing of Cubana airliner 455 in 1976 that killed 73 passengers. He lives free in Miami under the protection of the US government after he escaped from jail in Venezuela. The US refuses to send him back to Venezuela under an extradition order of the Venezuelan government. Posada Carriles was also involved in the Bay of Pigs U.S. backed invasion against Cuba in 1961 and fought with the Contras in Nicaragua. All of this and more, combined with the fact that Capriles has refused to honor the results of the election, make for a tense few days that remain before Sundays election. Cubans, of course, are hoping for a Maduras win.