Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*

VP Nicolas Maduro is Chávez man to continue the Bolivarian Revolution if he cannot continue in power. Photo: minci.gob.ve

HAVANA TIMES — Since the times of Romulus and Remus, political communication has operated on two pillars: bread and circuses. The bread is for the stomachs, and the circuses for the hearts. This is known by all politicians, even if they don’t know who Romulus and Remus were.

And of course this must be known by Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro, so I imagine he must be trying to figure out how much bread will have to go around with the likely demise of Hugo Chavez, the charismatic leader of the so-called Bolivarian Revolution.

The problem is that Maduro will have to negotiate (which is to say distribute more bread) at a moment when the economic situation in Venezuela isn’t exactly encouraging. The price of oil appears to have stabilized at a level lower than $100 a barrel figure that Chavez considered fair and necessary to fund his continental project.

On one hand, he’ll have to distribute more bread in the direction of the poor, which has been Chavez’s quintessential social base. But it’s a social base in the process of erosion, as indicated by the recent election results in which Chavez — with lots of money and as the office holder — won by a much smaller margin than his previous victories.

On the other hand, Maduro will also have to distribute among the fractious and heterogeneous pro-Chavez elite, where there’s everything from the military, old converted politicians, former social activists and believers to mere fortune seekers.

It’s an elite in which the VP was nothing more than a secundus inter pares and whose centrifugal tendencies will fly apart even before the tears are dry in front of the leader’s coffin.

This is why I think that if Maduro (or whoever becomes the successor) isn’t suicidal, he will be forced to moderate his international approach, both by restraining criticisms against the US and in reducing support to international allies and the blocs of self-interested partisans, such as PetroCaribe. In this way he will have more resources for the domestic political game.

A retraction, even a partial one, of Bolivarian hyperactivity will reverberate in the depolarization of the Caribbean and Latin American theater, and in the creation of a better scenario both for Obama’s unworried olicies as for active Brazilian diplomacy.

The resulting impact on Cuba (a key piece of this geopolitical game) is predictable. Whatever the post-Chavez outcome in Venezuela, Raul Castro — who long ago lost the resource of the charismatic circus — will have to expect worse conditions than those that are currently maintaining him in power.

Even if Maduro manages to stay in office, he will be forced to redefine the country’s relations with the island and obviously pay less. Cuba’s finances — with the Scarabeo oil rig coming up empty handed — cannot take any additional pressure, meaning any reduction in subsidies will cause great hardship.

It’s therefore predictable that if Raul Castro and his inner circle haven’t lost touch with reality, and if they actually want to do what they’ve always shown themselves wanting to do (retain power), they will have to obtain some access to the US market, which will mean accepting the condescending gesture that Obama is holding out.

And of course, they will have to bite the bullet and take more effective steps to attract foreign capital, which presently are available through two principal means: remittances and foreign investments.

Raul Castro’s problem isn’t that he isn’t moving, obviously he is; his problem is that he’s not getting into the thick of things. He’s always wandering around on the margin of what’s really important. This is why he continues to have a centralized economic system in which every step essential for the market seems like a delivery using forceps.

It has taken six long years to understand that farmers need to live on their farms, and that emigration constitutes the most profitable business of the Cuban economy.

I think he still hasn’t come to understand that fresh capital is needed to jump-start an economy that is creaking under the weight of its inefficiencies. It needs large and small capital, for all of these to help in that huge financial hole that is the Cuban economy.

Probably with this contingency he’ll manage to understand, and in passing he’ll comprehend that he has no other choice but to put aside his arrogant slogan “without pauses but without haste,” and start advancing with more haste (although in the rush he’ll have to leave behind his antiquated bureaucracy, symbolized by his seedy vice president [Jose Ramon Machado Ventura].

In the end, Chavez with his subsidies was an unexpected black swan that paralyzed the economic reform that was implemented since the early ‘90s. This gave Fidel Castro the opportunity to engage in his last monumental works that contributed to further economic dilapidation before leaving office suffering from diseases, senility and delusions.

Although in politics you never know exactly everything, nothing indicates the appearance of another black swan with the vocation and money to subsidize a revolution that no longer exists and a socialism that never existed.
(*)This commentary was originally published in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.

10 thoughts on “After Chavez, the Flood?

  • 45 Tonnes of Drugs Confiscated in Venezuela in 2012

    Merida, December 21st 2012 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – This year Venezuelan security forces have confiscated a total of 45.084 tonnes of drugs nationwide the minister for justice and internal affairs Nestor Reverol informed as he presented the National Anti-drug Office’s (ONA) end of year report.

    The figure is 3 tonnes higher than the amount of drugs confiscated in 2011, almost double the amount confiscated in 1999 (25.52 tonnes), but lower than the peak year of 2005, when 77.53 tonnes were confiscated.

    Of the total confiscated this year, 27.12 tonnes, or 60.15% was cocaine, and 17.85 tonnes, or 39.58% was marihuana. 76.65 kilos (0.17%) was crack, 30.16 kilos (0.07% was heroine, and 14.67 kilos (0.03%) was basuco (cocaine paste).

    According to Reverol, 9,692 people were arrested during the drug confiscations, 220 of which were foreigners, from 23 different countries. Of the Venezuelans, 8,815 were men and 657 were women, while of the foreigners, 196 were men and 24 were women.

    The minister also pointed out that since 2006, 95 drug lords have been captured, including 20 this year. Of the 95, 72 have been deported to other countries, 12 are in prison in Venezuela, and 11 are going through proceedings to be deported. The countries where most drug lords have been deported to are Colombia (33), United States (21), and Holland (4).

    The ONA has carried out 53,450 activities that aim to inform about and prevent drug use, Reverol said. Many of these activities or training programs were aimed at communal council spokespeople or education workers.

    Venezuela is also the “second country in the world” to offer free rehabilitation treatment to drug addicts, something which privately could cost up to BsF. 90,000 (US$20,900) per month, Reverol said. Public services available include 56 Family Orientation Centres, 14 Integral Attention and Prevention Speciality Centres, and 50 Socialist Therapeutic Communities, which this year assisted a total of 7,700 patients.

    In 2005 president Hugo Chavez decided that Venezuela would suspend its cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), accusing it of being engaged in espionage and drug trafficking.

    The US government regularly accuses the Venezuelan government of not collaborating in the fight against drug trafficking.

  • I understood your question.

    I usually take what the US State Department has to say with a grain of salt in most cases and more so when it comes to Venezuela, that is not to say that their is no corruption in the higher echelons of the military and if we are to believe the statements of the military they would side with the people, if not it won’t be Nicolas Maduro from what I understand and there are numerous former military within the bureaucracy and in the electoral sphere .

    Venezuela will probably follow the same course its on now if not more so and the drug trade has little to no baring.

  • Cort, …that didn’t answer the question about the role the drug trade will have in the post-Chavez power struggle. I’ve seen the reports about Venezuelan police arresting drug traffickers. I’ve also seen reports about some Venezuelan military officers being involved in the drug trade.

    “In September, (2009) the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control designated three Venezuelan high-ranking officials, all close aides to Chávez, as “drug kingpins” for protecting FARC drug shipments and providing arms and funding to Colombian guerrillas. They are Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios, director of the military’s Intelligence Directorate; Henry de Jesús Rangel Silva, head of the Directorate of Intelligence and Prevention Services; and Ramón Rodríguez Chacín, former interior and justice minister.”


    So the question remains, to what extent will the control, or suppression, of the drug trade figure in the post-Chavez power struggle?

  • Venezuela at times has been used as a transit point by some with ties to the Colombian death squads FARC, some are involved within the military, oligarchy, police, some indigenous and poor farmers. As far as is known little is in production.

    The government has increased programs for interception, even the UN says its done a good job.Venezuela has not really had cooperation with the US DEA since 2005 and I can understand why.

    The Venezuelan government has deported three fugitives wanted on narcotics trafficking charges to the United States during 2011: Gloria Rojas Valencia, Lionel Harris, and Maximiliano Bonilla Orozco, aka “Valenciano”, one of Colombia’s most-wanted drug traffickers captured in Venezuela in November and deported in December and they have sent some back to Colombia also..

    The Venezuelan government continued to permit USCG boarding of Venezuelan-flagged vessels on the high seas suspected of being engaged in narcotics trafficking. During 2011, the Venezuelan government cooperated with the USCG in three maritime drug interdiction cases, compared to nine cases in 2010.

    The Venezuelan Navy or Coast Guard has made some at-sea drug seizures on its own as also has the military and police.

  • Cort,

    You seem very well informed about the situation in Venezuela. To what extent do you think control of the cocaine trade will figure in the post-Chavez power struggle?

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