Is Venezuela the Real Target of Bush's New Cuba Plan?
Cuba calls the shots; and Venezuela pays the bills. That is the major premise
underlying the Report made public last Monday by the U.S. State Department concerning
Cuba. Its findings are as much about the Bush Administration's plans for regime
change in Cuba, as they are about the alleged threat that Venezuela poses to
U.S. national security interests.
The ninety-three page Report was prepared by the Commission for Assistance
to a Free Cuba, co-chaired by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary
of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez. Its recommendations were accepted by President
George W. Bush. They include a budget of $80 million during the next two years
to ensure a transition, rather than a succession of leadership, in Cuba. The
Report also contains a classified attachment that contains a secret plan for
regime change in Cuba.
Although the Commission's Report and its recommendations are ostensibly about
Cuba, Venezuela is a featured star player in the drama. It mentions Venezuela
at least nine different times, always emphasizing Washington's perception that
the Chávez government is bankrolling the Cuban government: "Cuba
can only meet its budget needs with the considerable support of foreign donors,
primarily Venezuela," says the Report.
SUBVERSION IN LATIN AMERICA
Besides keeping the Cuban government afloat, Venezuelan money is allegedly
also responsible for subversion in Latin America. The first paragraph of the
Report boldly proclaims that "there are clear signs the regime [Cuba] is
using money provided by the Chavez government in Venezuela to reactivate its
networks in the hemisphere to subvert democratic governments." We are not
told which countries the Bush Administration thinks Cuba and Venezuela are subverting,
nor are we ever told how.
A good guess may be Bolivia. The South American country recently elected Evo
Morales as President. Washington considers him to be a friend of both Cuba and
Venezuela. What have Castro and Chávez been up to in the Andes?
Cuba has 719 medical doctors in Bolivia. They go where Bolivian doctors fear
to tread. In the most remote areas of the Andean country, Cuban doctors have
treated more than 776,000 patients and saved 326 lives. Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez has pledged $1.5 billion in energy investment to Bolivia. Venezuela
is also investing in projects to produce organic tea, coffee, dairy and legal
coca products there. The Chávez government recently also donated computers
to schools in the remote Chapare region of Bolivia.
Cuban doctors and Venezuelan investments: they are a lethal recipe for subversion
in Latin America according to the Bush Administration.
"THE CASTRO-LED AXIS"
The Bush Administration Commission compares the Cuba´s relation to Venezuela
with its "earlier failed relationship with the Soviet Union, only this
time not as the junior partner: Fidel Castro is calling the shots." It
of course offers no evidence to support its thesis that President Chávez
is anything other than his own man. The Report simply posits the myth as fact.
This "Castro-led axis," the Report finds, "undermines our interest
in a more democratic Venezuela and undermines democratic governance and institutions
elsewhere in the region. Together, these countries are advancing an alternative
retrograde and anti-American agenda for the hemisphere's future and they are
finding some resonance with populist governments and disenfranchised populations
in the region."
From these flawed premises flows the Bush Administration's foreign policy toward
Cuba and Venezuela. The Bush Doctrine is clear: in order to protect its interests
in Latin America, Washington must overthrow the Cuban government and replace
it with one more akin to U.S. interests. To help overthrow the Cuban government,
it is necessary to cut off its money supply. That's where Venezuela comes in.
The Report that the State Department released to the public this week makes
it abundantly clear that Washington considers Cuba and Venezuela to be two peas
in a pod, and that their relationship constitutes an axis of evil that is detrimental
to U.S. interests.
THE THREAT OF USING TITLE III OF HELMS-BURTON AGAINST VENEZUELA
One of the more troublesome of the Commission's recommendations is the threat
to apply Title III of the 1996 Cuban Liberty and Solidarity Act, known as "Helms
Burton", to Venezuela.
Title III gives the United States unprecedented authority over property within
another nation's borders. It permits lawsuits in U.S. courts brought by individual
citizens against businesses that operate on property the Cuban government nationalized
after the 1959 revolution. Concerned about the chilling effect on U.S. relations
with foreign governments if it were to implement it, successive U.S. Presidents
have suspended Title III since Helms-Burton was enacted ten years ago.
According to the Commission's Report, the White House is now prepared to apply,
for the first time, Title III to individual countries that are "engaged
in a process of support for regime succession (with Cuba)." This is a not-so-veiled
threat to Venezuela, as well other nations who maintain normal relations with
Were the United States to apply Title III to Venezuela, it would have profound
and long-lasting implications on U.S.-Venezuela relations. Trade between the
two nations in 2005 amounted to almost $39 billion. The specter of Miami Cubans
suing Venezuela over nationalized pre-1959 property will loom heavily over any
future trade ventures between the United States and Venezuela.
President Chávez, reflecting on the U.S. threats against Venezuela contained
in the Report, said that "there are no threats that will discourage Venezuela
from supporting the Cuban revolution and the Cuban people." "Rather
than thinking of a transition plan for Cuba, he added, "the United States
ought to elaborate a transition plan for themselves because this is the century
that will see the end of the U.S. empire."
THE BUSH DOCTRINE FOR REGIME CHANGE
The Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba lays down the gauntlet to Latin
America. Under the Bush Doctrine, Cuba's government must be overthrown. Moreover,
the United States foreign policy towards other nations in the Hemisphere will
be measured by whether these nations support U.S. efforts for regime change
in Cuba. Governments that support Cuba risk the wrath of the U.S. government
and may be overthrown as well.
The Bush Doctrine makes it clear that legal, political and military options
remain at the disposal of the United States government to overthrow the government
of Cuba, as well as the governments of the "friends of Cuba." Some
of these options are sealed, and we can only suppose their magnitude.
We don't know whether they include another coup d'état such as the one
the U.S. launched in 2002 that almost succeeded in deposing President Chávez,
or whether Washington intends to activate its Miami-Cuban "assets"
to carry out terrorist attacks, or whether an outright invasion is a possibility,
or even whether the assassination of President Hugo Chávez is in the
The Bush Doctrine is premised on arrogance and mendacity, but it is consistent
with U.S. "diplomacy" in the region. Recent history tells us that
it is the United States, not Cuba or Venezuela, that subverts democracy in Latin
America. The United States overthrew the elected government of Jacobo Arbenz
in 1954 in Guatemala and replaced it with a military dictatorship that left
more than 200,000 dead and disappeared. The United States is now shamelessly
promoting Guatemala as a prime candidate for a seat on the United Nations Security
The Pinochet government with which the United States replaced democratically
elected President Salvador Allende in Chile left a bloody trail of terror from
Santiago to the streets of Washington, D.C. where Cuban-American terrorists
working for the Chilean secret service murdered Chilean exile Orlando Letelier
in cold blood.
Who have been Washington's friends and allies in Latin America? The Salvadoran
governments that brutally murdered over 75,000 of their own citizens, the Argentinean
military junta that tortured, disappeared or murdered over 30,000 men, women
and children, the Uruguayan and Paraguayan dictatorships that participated in
Operation Condor with zeal, even kidnapping the babies of some of the clandestine
prisoners they were torturing.
To help subvert democracy, the United States recruited, trained and employed
terrorists such as Luis Posada Carriles, known as the Osama Bin Laden of Latin
America. He was "our man in Latin America," as he helped train the
Nicaraguan Contras, as well as the Guatemalan and Salvadoran death squads. In
violation of its own international legal obligations, Washington refuses to
extradite him to Venezuela to stand trial for 73 counts of first degree murder
in relation to the downing of a passenger plane. Instead, the Bush White House
shelters Posada in Texas, as the terrorist threatens to tell how he was just
The Bush Doctrine was formulated by politicians who are not listening to the
winds of change in America. The banana republics of yesterday are being replaced
by independent and sovereign nations, free of U.S. interference. This continent
will soon see a monumental regime change, but that change will come in Washington--not
in Havana or Caracas.
José Pertierra is an attorney. He represents the
government of Venezuela in Washington, D.C.
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