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Venezuela - Cuba Relations

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro Moros is always identified as "a former bus driver", as though he started life as a bus driver and somehow drifted into politics. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. In 1986 he obtained a scholarship from the far-left Socialist League political party and studied one year in Cuba. Presumably his training focused on political work. Upon his return, with the help of the Socialist League party, Maduro founded a new bus-driver's labor union. So Maduro is not a "bus driver" - he is a Cuban-trained radical labor organizer.

There are thousands of Cuban intelligence operatives in Venezuela helping with spying on opposition elements and internal policing. With most of Venezuela’s neighbors echoing American calls for regime change, Cuba is one of a handful of Latin American countries that stuck by Maduro, with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel calling the US and Guaidó’s efforts “imperialist attempts to discredit and destabilize the Bolivarian revolution.”

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was said to have aspired to succeed Fidel Castro as the ideological figurehead of Latin America. Chavez relied heavily on Castro's advice, particularly during domestic crises. Chavez appeared psychologically dependent on Castro The Venezuelan Government has demonstrated a terrific affinity for the Cuban Government. They have a good relationship. They provide them oil on favorable terms. The Cuban Government provides doctors to Venezuela. Some Venezuelans don't like this and they're concerned that Venezuela is going the way of Cuba. Venezuela is unique in its attitudes toward the regime of Fidel Castro.

In the early 1960s, Venezuela came to share the United States conviction that the Castro regime in Cuba presented the most compelling threat to the stability of Latin America and the Caribbean. Cuban backing of Venezuelan insurgents confirmed this belief. Counterinsurgency training provided by the United States contributed to the successful quelling of the insurgency by the late 1960s.

Fidel Castro was involved in subversion and armed struggle in varying degrees ever since the Cayo Confites expedition in 1947. Almost every Latin American Republic has felt his interference at least once. His involvement has taken many different forms ranging from direct personal participation, as in the Cayo Confites adventure against dictator Rafael Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, to the supplying of arms and ammunition as in Nicaragua in 1959 and Venezuela in 1963. Undeterred by his early failures, Castro continued dabbling in subversion. In the early and mid-1960's, Cuban support--in the form of money, weapons, training, propaganda, and/or personnel--was directed to those rebel groups in Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Central America, and the Caribbean willing to take to the hills and adopt guerrilla warfare.

In 1963, for example, a cache of several tons of weapons and ammunition, much of it traceable to Havana through identification of serial numbers and restoration (through scientific processes) of partially obliterated imprints of the Cuban Army's coat of arms, was unearthed by government officials on a Venezuelan beach where it had been secreted by the Cubans for use by Venezuelan guerrillas. Further proof of Havana's sponsorship of subversion surfaced in May 1967 when four Cuban military officers were captured near Machurucuto, Venezuela. The Cubans were attempting Infiltrate into the Venezuelan interior and had been brought to the infiltration point by a Cuban fishing boat.

When guerrilla leaders in Venezuela complained in late 1969 and early 1970 that Havana had withdrawn its assistance, Castro responded in a bitter attack, promising that revolutionaries "like Che," willing to fight and die, could always count on Cuba's aid but that pseudo-revolutionaries who fumbled away precious opportunities would get nothing.

Since his election in 1998, President Chavez was more leftist and very anti-US, as reflected in many of his administration’s policies. Some believed Chavez aspired to replace Fidel Castro as the leader of Latin America’s radical left and that he was determined to unite the region against the U.S. and the democratic processes and free market systems that the US supports.

Venezuela provided oil to Cuba at prices well below commercial value, apparently inorder to strengthen this relationship and get Cuban support in several areas. Venezuela provides close to 100,000 barrels per day of oil to Cuba in exchange for a host of services including doctors that staff free health clinics in slums and rural areas. Cuba produces about 50,000 barrels per day of oil, and consumes about 185,000 barrels per day, importing a net of 135,000 barrels per day, mostly from Venezuela.

Venezuela had been supplying Cuba with 53,000 barrels of oil a day at reduced prices in exchange for the services of Cuban doctors, paramedics, teachers, workers, and other technicians who participate in internationalist missions. Cuba's petroleum debt with Venezuela's State Oil Company, PDVSA, rose to $266 million by May 2003. The Castro regime had fallen behind on payments to PDVSA repeatedly since Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez signed a trade agreement in October 2002. PDVSA supplies approximately 35% of the island's oil under generous financing terms that amount to a 25% price subsidy over 5 years.

There were many Cubans working in Venezuela, including hundreds of Cuban “volunteers” recruited by Chavez to provide literacy and health care programs for the poor. Despite the high cost of the program (salaries are well above Venezuelan averages), Cuban doctors practicing without local licenses, supply shortages, mismanagement of funds (at the municipal level) and mediocre vaccination rates, those who use Barrio Adentro, according to a Datanalysis poll, are highly satisfied with it.

The claim that Hugo Chavez wanted to copy Fidel Castro, repeatedly denied by the government, received fresh impetus in July 2003. The catalyst was the launch of a nationwide literacy campaign designed in Cuba. There have also been renewed allegations that Cuban doctors and sports instructors, as well as teachers, sent in the hundreds by Fidel Castro, are part of an indoctrination scheme aimed at introducing communism by stealth.

Chavez made a deal with Cuba's Fidel Castro, though many of the deal's provisions - like bartering Venezuelan goods for Cuban doctor and other professional services - were questionable in the norms of international trade. Details of the deal were suppressed from traditional Venezuelan media, but those details did leak out via the Web.

The poor barrios of Caracas were the scene of a new pilot program aimed at improving health care for the poor. Cubans described as "volunteers" have moved into private homes, where they offer free consultations and medication, often in open competition with clinics run by the metropolitan authorities. Caracas health officials said their budget had been cut by over 50-percent, with the result that their already over-burdened clinics were facing collapse. They suggested that this may be part of a plan to shift resources to the Cuban cooperation project. Adding to the controversy are accusations that the Cubans are neither qualified to practice medicine nor familiar with modern pharmacology or treatment methods. There have been claims by Venezuelan doctors of serious malpractice that allegedly placed patients' lives in danger.

There had been similar complaints by the teachers' unions about the Cuban-designed literacy campaign. Over 70 Cuban teachers were brought in to train Venezuelans to use the audio-visual material. The opposition was unable to prove its accusations of indoctrination.

According to the Ministry of Finance, from 2003 to 2006, President Chavez had spent US$12.9 billion to create 24 "missions" - government funded social programs - in a variety of areas. Mission Robinson I (2003), a literacy program, and Robinson II (2003), a primary education program, reportedly have more enrollees than any other mission. Both benefit from an extensive Cuban advice and are based on Cuban literacy campaigns. Perhaps the most visible mission internationally is Barrio Adentro (BA), a network of primary health care modules staffed by over 20,000 Cuban medical personnel.

President Hugo Chavez received Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage on 24 January 2007 with fanfare but without pubic announcement prior to Lage's arrival. Speaking to the press alongside Vice President Lage, Chavez responded to President Bush's January 23 State of the Union address. Chavez acknowledged that Bush did not directly refer to Venezuela or Chavez, but said that, in regard to Bush's comments on Cuba, "when you threaten Cuba, you are threatening Venezuela." Motivations for the lightning visit were unclear, but the Cuba's recognition of its dependence on Venezuela's - and Chavez's - oil wealth certainly played a role.

On 13 October 2007 President Chavez visited aging Cuban leader Fidel Castro and reportedly spent over four hours with him. This was at least Chavez' seventh visit to Cuba since Castro had surgery and turned over day-to-day management of Cuba to his brother Raul in 2006. Chavez broadcast his 298th weekly Alo Presidente television program on October 14 from Santa Clara, Cuba. This was the second time he had broadcast from Cuba, the first time from Pinar del Rio on August 21, 2005 where he was joined by Fidel Castro. The program was in honor of the 40th anniversary of the death of Che Guevara.

The program was notable for Chavez' return to his early remarks about a Cuban-Venezuelan confederation. He asserted that Cuba and Venezuela each had two presidents and were moving towards a "Bolivarian confederation", implying other states would also be subsequently included. This is an assertion Chavez has made in the past, and there are even walls painted with joined Cuban and Venezuelan flags in both countries.

Venezuelan opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles on 18 March 2013 vowed to end the OPEC nation's shipments of subsidized oil to communist-run Cuba, slamming acting President Nicolas Maduro as a puppet of Havana. "The giveaways to other countries are going to end. Not another drop of oil will go toward financing the government of the Castros," Capriles said, referring to Cuba's present and past leaders, Raul and Fidel Castro. "Nicolas is the candidate of Raul Castro; I'm the candidate of the Venezuelan people," Capriles said during a speech to university students in the oil-rich state of Zulia.

Ties to Cuba are likely to remain a central part of the campaign. Capriles for months accused authorities of compromising the country's sovereignty by letting Chavez govern for two months from a Havana hospital. Supporters say it has helped expand access to health care, while critics call it a mere subsidy to the Castro government. Maduro's frequent visits to the island during Chavez's two-month convalescence there led opposition leaders to joke that he had picked up a Cuban accent.





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