Mary Anastasia O’Grady
In a video posted on the internet Sunday morning, former Venezuelan National Guard captain Juan Caguaripano, along with some 20 others, announced an uprising against the government of Nicolás Maduro to restore constitutional order. The rebels reportedly appropriated some 120 rifles, ammunition and grenades from the armory at Fort Paramacay in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state. There were unconfirmed claims of similar raids at several other military installations including in Táchira.
The Cuba-controlled military regime put tanks in the streets and unleashed a hunt for the fleeing soldiers. It claims it put down the rebellion and it instructed all television to broadcast only news of calm. But Venezuelans were stirred by the rebels’ message. There were reports of civilians gathering in the streets to sing the national anthem in support of the uprising.
Note to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson: Venezuelans want to throw off the yoke of Cuban repression. They need your help.
Unfortunately Mr. Tillerson so far seems to be taking the bad advice of his State Department “experts.”
The same bureaucrats, it should be noted, ran Barack Obama’s Latin America policy. Those years gave us a rapprochement with Havana that culminated with the 44th president doing “the wave” with Raúl Castro at a baseball game in 2016. Team Obama also pushed for Colombia’s surrender to the drug-trafficking terrorist group FARC in a so-called peace deal last year. And it supported “dialogue” last year to restore free, fair and transparent elections in Venezuela. The result, in every case, was disaster.
Any U.S.-led international strategy to liberate Venezuela must begin with the explicit recognition that Cuba is calling the shots in Caracas, and that Havana’s control of the oil nation is part of its wider regional strategy.
Slapping Mr. Maduro’s wrist with sanctions, as the Trump administration did last week, won’t change Castro’s behavior. He cares only about his cut-rate Venezuelan oil and his take of profits from drug trafficking. To affect things in Venezuela, the U.S. has to press Cuba.
Burning Cuban flags, when they can be had, is now practically a national pastime in Venezuela because Venezuelans understand the link between their suffering and Havana. The Castro infiltration began over a decade ago when Fidel sent thousands of Cuban agents, designated as teachers and medical personnel, to spread propaganda and establish communist cells in the barrios.
As I noted in this column last week, since 2005 Cuba has controlled Venezuela’s citizen-identification and passport offices, keeping files on every “enemy” of the state—a k a political opponents. The Venezuelan military and National Guard answer to Cuban generals. The Venezuelan armed forces are part of a giant drug-trafficking operation working with the FARC, which is the hemisphere’s largest cartel and also has longstanding ties to Cuba.
These are the tactical realities of the Cuba-Venezuela-Colombia nexus. The broader strategic threat to U.S. interests, including Cuba’s cozy relationship with Middle East terrorists, cannot be ignored.
Elisabeth Burgos is the Venezuelan ex-wife of the French Marxist Regis Debray. She was born in Valencia, joined the Castro cause as a young woman, and worked for its ideals on the South American continent.
Ms. Burgos eventually broke free of the intellectual bonds of communism and has lived in Paris for many years. In a recent telephone interview—posted on the Venezuelan website Prodavinci—she warned of the risks of the “Cuban project” for the region. “Wherever the Cubans have been, everything ends in tragedy,” she told Venezuelan journalist Hugo Prieto. “Surely we have no idea what forces we face,” Mr. Prieto observed—reflecting as a Venezuelan on the words of Ms. Burgos—because, as she said, there is “a lot of naiveté, a lot of ignorance, about the apparatus that has fallen on [Venezuelans]: Castroism.”
Cuban control of citizens is as important as control of the military. In Cuba this is the job of the Interior Ministry. For that level of control in Venezuela, Ms. Burgos said, Mr. Maduro must rely on an “elite of exceptional experts” Castro grooms at home.
Cuba, Ms. Burgos said, is not “simply a dictatorship.” For the regime it is a “historical political project” aiming for “the establishment of a Cuban-type regime throughout Latin America.” She noted that along with Venezuela the Cubans have taken Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, and are now going after Colombia. “The FARC, turned into a political party and with all the money of [the narcotics business], in an election can buy all the votes that it wants.”
Mr. Tillerson is forewarned. Castro won’t stop until someone stops him. To get results, any U.S.-led sanctions have to hit the resources that Havana relies on to maintain the repression.
Write to O’Grady@wsj.com.