Cuba’s Protests Are a Sign of Imperial Overreach

“In 2000, the two countries signed an agreement whereby Venezuela would send Cuba an initial 53,000 barrels of oil per day in exchange for the “gratuitous medical services” of “Cuban specialist doctors and health care technicians.” In 2012, Chávez claimed there were over 44,000 Cuban doctors, nurses, ophthalmologists, and therapists working in seven “medical missions” in Venezuela. Julio César Alfonso, an exiled Cuban doctor, describes such missions, which were replicated at a smaller scale in dozens of other countries, as “a booming business for the Cuban government, and a form of modern slavery.” In fact, the state’s earnings, which accounted for the equivalent of USD $6.4 billion in 2018— nearly twice the amount Cubans received from cash remittances—hinge on allowing the medical personnel to keep, at best, a mere quarter of their wages based on the amount Cuba receives per professional.

The humanitarian facade concealed a silent invasion. In 2018, Luis Almagro, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States, revealed that at least 22,000 Cubans had infiltrated the Venezuelan state, particularly the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. The infamous Helicoide in Caracas, the headquarters of this ruthless spy agency that Chávez created in 2009, is a well-known torture chamber. According to a 2019 CASLA Institute study, members of Cuba’s Intelligence Directorate, commonly known as G2, had their own base of operations in Caracas and were directly involved in the Venezuelan regime’s systematic use of torture against political opponents. Under expert Cuban guidance, Venezuela even turned its intelligence services “on its own armed forces, instilling fear and paranoia and quashing dissent,” as Reuters reported in 2019.

Cuban operatives also have provided security for both Chávez and his successor, Nicolás Maduro. In 2019, when journalist Jorge Ramos and his Univision colleagues were held by Maduro’s forces after an aborted interview attempt in the Miraflores Palace, team members detected the Cuban accents of several men within the dictator’s innermost security circle.

If the two countries had become “a single nation,” as Chávez himself assured in 2007, it was because Cuba, that bastion of anti-imperialist Latin American dignity, turned the far larger and richer Venezuela into a colony. Rich, that is, until Cuban and Cuba-backed communists took over. In 2001, at the outset of Chávez’s presidency, Venezuela was South America’s richest country; recently, it was declared poorer than Haiti.

As Venezuela spiraled toward its humanitarian collapse, colonial policy dictated that Fidel Castro’s successors at the helm of the Cuban regime—initially his brother Raul, thereafter Communist Party bureaucrat Miguel Díaz-Canel—summon all their mastery in the arts of intimidation to keep Maduro in power. The Cubans were instrumental in suppressing the massive protests against Chavismo in 2017; in implementing the “revolving-door” technique, whereby certain political prisoners are set free while new ones are incarcerated; and in luring the hapless opposition into dead-end negotiations each time the regime was against the wall. Over the years, in fact, I’ve seen enough reports about Maduro’s certain downfall so as to take the recent, euphoric assurances about the Cuban dictatorship’s imminent end with a grain of salt.

Whether or not the current protests in Cuba endanger the tyranny, they do contain several levels of irony. Not least since the regime that exports doctors and nurses as if they were commodities and touts its decrepit health care system as a global example, fooling gullible Western intellectuals such as Michael Moore, is now facing popular unrest due, in large part, to a severe health care crisis. Although the media has claimed that the pandemic brought the Cuban health care system to the brink of breakdown, this is nothing new. In 2015, a PanAm Post reporter visited a Havana hospital undercover, only to find shortages of basic medical supplies, improvised stretchers, filthy bathrooms lacking doors or toilet paper, wards staffed only by medical students, and patients forced to supply their own sheets, pillows, and medicine. In recent weeks, heightened attention and a broader use of social media tools have made this reality evident to anyone willing to pay attention.”

Will Peru Become the Next Venezuela?

“Pedro Castillo, a self-described Marxist-Leninist heading the Peru Libre (“Free Peru”) ticket, has secured a spot in the country’s June 6 presidential runoff election. The only person standing between him and power is Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of a former president who assumed dictatorial control in the 1990s and the leader of Fuerza Popular (“Popular Force”), a right-wing populist political party. If Castillo wins, he threatens to impose the same sort of ruinous policies that have decimated Venezuela.

Peru Libre’s platform calls for an economic transformation that would include nationalization of the mining, gas, oil, hydro-energy, and communications industries; agrarian reform which will include land expropriation and might involve land redistribution; elimination of private pensions; voiding contracts with the companies that are currently in charge of managing airports, railways, ports, and highways, and transferring these functions to regional governments and municipalities; and reviewing all trade agreements with an eye toward abrogating at least some of them.”

“Chavez nationalized Venezuela’s oil industry in 2005. Not only did state mismanagement prove fatal, but the lack of private investment also contributed to the demise of the once-mighty Venezuelan industry. Castillo’s plans to nationalize Peru’s powerhouse copper industry will lead to similarly tragic results. If Castillo wins, expect both government mismanagement and an output collapse that will cripple the nation’s copper production.”

Colombia Is Giving Legal Status to Migrants Fleeing Venezuela

“Hernandez is one of 5.4 million Venezuelans that the United Nations estimates have fled their country due to violence, insecurity and threats; a collapsed economy; and a lack of food, medicine, and essential services. The International Monetary Fund expects that number to nearly double, to 10 million, by the end of 2023. As of January 2020, more than 1.7 million of those migrants were currently in Colombia.

Colombia will soon be offering migrants a full welcome. Duque’s announcement means Colombia will give nearly 2 million immigrants—almost 5 percent of Colombia’s total population—the ability to work legally and have access to education and health care systems. Those who register with the government will be put on a path to full citizenship.

Colombia’s choice stands in sharp contrast to the United States, where migrants from Central America must wait months on the Southern border in squalid conditions, where mass deportations (even amid a pandemic) are commonplace, and where even immigrants who have lived in the country for 20 years might find themselves ripped away from their families and banished from their new homeland for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

How Socialism Wiped Out Venezuela’s Spectacular Oil Wealth

“Venezuela has the world’s largest proven oil reserves and yet the country has run out of gasoline. The socialist government has lost the capacity to extract oil from the ground or refine it into a usable form. The industry’s gradual deterioration was 18 years in the making, tracing back to then-President Hugo Chávez’s 2003 decision to fire the oil industry’s most experienced engineers in an act of petty political retribution.

The near-total collapse in the nation’s oil output in the ensuing years is a stark reminder that the most valuable commodity isn’t a natural resource, but the human expertise to put it to productive use.”

“Chávez sought control of the nation’s oil wealth to fund his political ambitions, but first, he had to dismantle the mechanisms that were put in place to protect PDVSA’s autonomy.

In a move intended to begin that erosion, Chávez began appointing military leaders to PDVSA’s board. The conflict between PDVSA’s top management and Chávez culminated in a national strike, which took place from December 2002 to February 2003. Chávez proceeded to fire 18,000 state oil workers, including 80 percent of its top engineers, handing control of the industry to the military.

The workers who were fired had “an average of 15 years of experience,” Toro says. “In a sense, he threw away 300 thousand years of experience.”

“Now, instead of producing five to six million barrels of oil [a day], which is the amount we should be producing, last month’s report from OPEC showed that our production, based on external sources, was 339 thousand barrels per day. After once having been a major player in the oil industry, we’ve become nothing. An insignificant exporter of oil,” he says.”

Biden will allow Venezuelans who fled the Maduro regime to live and work in the US

“The US will offer temporary legal protection to an estimated 320,000 Venezuelans who came to the US after fleeing the brutal dictatorship of Nicolás Maduro, fulfilling one of President Joe Biden’s campaign promises.

A senior Biden administration official said Monday that Venezuelans currently residing in the US will be able to apply for Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which is typically conferred on citizens of countries suffering from natural disasters, armed conflict, or other extraordinary circumstances.

For an 18-month period, it will allow Venezuelans who pass security and background checks to continue to live in the US free of fear of deportation, and to obtain work permits. Those who arrive after March 8, however, will not be eligible.”

“Former President Donald Trump previously offered Venezuelans in the US the opportunity to apply for another kind of humanitarian protection called “Deferred Enforced Departure,” shielding them from deportation and allowing them to apply for work permits for a period of 18 months starting in January. Biden’s decision to also extend TPS status to Venezuelans gives them another way to seek protection.”

Venezuelan Migrants Are Returning Home, Forced to Choose Between Ruinous Socialism and Colombia’s Pandemic Authoritarianism

“According to the U.N. Refugee Agency, the projected number of displaced Venezuelans—6.5 million people, or as much as 19 percent of the country’s total population according to another estimate—could soon surpass that of Syria, where civil war has unleashed a humanitarian calamity.

As I wrote when I visited the Colombian border city of Cúcuta, an uninformed observer might think that the hundreds of Venezuelan evacuees sleeping in parks or pedestrian roundabouts were escaping war or natural disaster. They had actually escaped a man-made catastrophe”