Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro's Hysteria / Iván García
Ivan Garcia, 16 June 2016 — It was a winter morning in 1978. The
director of Antonio Maceo secondary school — housed in the old Teachers'
Normal School in the Havana burough of Cerro — announced in melodramatic
tones that students at the campus must prepare for an imminent attack by
the United States.
His harangue went, more or less, something like this: "The imperialist
enemy never ceases in its efforts to prevent us from building socialism
and practicing proletarian internationalism with our brothers in Africa.
Therefore, we must be prepared to defend the victories of the
Revolution. Everyone, from the young to the old, must know how to fire a
I was twelve years old and in the seventh grade. The first time that I
practiced tactical military strategy with an AKM assault rifle was in
the park adjacent to the school.
Two years earlier, on October 6, 1976, the principal of my school —
named for Romualdo de la Cuesta and also in Cerro — openly wept as she
decried the "criminal attack on an airliner en route from Barbados in
which seventy-three innocent passengers, among them fifty-seven Cubans,
perished due to fascist Cuban criminals based in the United States."
Before I had learned how to add, understood the value of the family or
fully appreciated the martyrs of the war for independence, I was given
the task of reading aloud in class a paragraph which, among other
things, emphasized Fidel's importance in the lives of Cuban children.
Political drama was ever-present in my student years. On October 26,
1983, a day after "the invasion of Granada by Yankee troops,"
loudspeakers at the René O'Reiné university preparatory school — the
former Vibora Secondary School — blared a news bulletin from an
emotional radio announcer notifying us that "the last Cubans who
remained alive had wrapped themselves in the flag and continued fighting
against the Yankee invaders."
It all turned out to be a blatant lie. When I was in the military, we
were regularly confined to barracks in anticipation of "inevitable
imperialist American aggression against Cuba."
From the early hours of the morning, hundreds of recruits built bomb
shelters in preparation for war. I have a hard time remembering any
point in my life which did not involve Yankee imperialism and its
threats of war, the achievements of the Revolution or the wise
leadership of Fidel Castro.
Everything was embellished with the literature of Soviet realism such as
No One Is Born a Soldier, August 1944 and Men of Panfilov, along with
slogans, loyalty to the revolution and its leader, daily shortages, the
ration book and repeated power outages.
An autocratic Raul Castro has abandoned the trenches and toned down the
hysteria, though every once in awhile nostalgic fanatics give
indications of a return to the past.
Every time I hear a speech by the boorish Nicolas Maduro, I remember
that period of my youth when the military government manipulated us like
A feeling of déjà vu (as the French would say) is unavoidable. Today,
Venezuela is the mother of all crises — social, economic and political —
and Caracas has become a dangerous slaughterhouse.
Murders, kidnappings and widespread violence have transformed the South
American country into a time bomb. As though that were not enough, the
scarcity of medicine, food and electricity, in a nation with more oil
reserves than any country on earth, as well as the polarization of
society and the toxic rhetoric of the governing United Socialist Party
of Venezuela (PSUV) threatens to destroy social cohesion.
Maduro is a reckless guy driving the country off a cliff. Inflation is
out of control, hard currency reserves are depleted, everything is in
short supply and the presence of armed militias which function like
Praetorian guards could be the genesis of a civil war.
Maduro's governmental mismanagement now threatens to destroy Chavezism
as a political movement. The only option is for him to resign. He has no
other choice. But as his mentors in Havana have decreed, "a
revolutionary does not lay down arms."
The silent colonization of Venezuela is the crowning achievement of
Fidel Castro's political strategy. By dint of ideology and without
firing a shot, he conquered a country with a population, natural
resources and a GDP three times the size of those of the island of Cuba.
It involved using tools that ranged from voter rolls, ID cards and
passports to Santeria rituals and intelligence gathering methods.
The bigwigs in the Palace of the Revolution have asked their cohorts in
the PSUV to hold on as they negotiate a way out of their systemic crisis
with the "Yankee enemy" across the street.
During a recent visit to Caracas, Cuban chancellor Bruno Rodriguez said
that the "Bolivarian Revolution," founded by Venezuela's late president
Hugo Chavez, "can always and in under any circumstances count on the
loyalty and presence of Cuba in its battles."
The only enemy these authoritarian systems have is their own inability
to generate prosperity. The rest is a story for suckers. Poor Venezuela.
Source: Venezuela and the Years of Fidel Castro's Hysteria / Iván García
– Translating Cuba -