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Column 102014 Brewer

Monday, October 20, 2014

Venezuela and Cuba are still Hemispheric Threats to Democracy

By Jerry Brewer

Venezuela’s approval vote last week by the United Nation’s General Assembly, to join the Security Council for two years, showcases obvious incoherencies, paradoxes, and other amnesia brought forward by this decision.

Under the UN Charter the Security Council  has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, and generally leads in determining the existence of threats to peace or acts of aggression. The Council is tasked to call upon the parties to a dispute and to settle the same by peaceful means, while recommending methods of adjustment.

The Venezuelan government was quick to celebrate. President Nicolas Maduro called it a victory of Hugo Chavez. “This is the victory of Hugo Chavez. He keeps winning battles in the world….  It's a day in which the world has supported our fatherland.”

The irony of Maduro’s statement of loyalty to the late Chavez is that Hugo Chávez probably inflicted more lasting damage on Venezuela’s political institutions, economy and people than any other president in the history of the nation. Even in death a vast world media negatively exploited the Chavez legacy and personal wealth, describing a systematically corrupt administration that squandered billions of dollars of Venezuelan revenues, much of it still unaccounted for.

Chavez’s intense loyalty to Fidel Castro of Cuba, and his lack of decorum and venomous tongue against the U.S., as well as any U.S. ally in support of what he called “The Empire,” included personal verbal attacks while on U.S. soil, having referred to then President George W. Bush as the devil and smelling like sulfur, at the UN in 2006.

The Castro brothers routinely mentored Chavez, the latter called Fidel Castro “a brother,” and he called Cuba "a revolutionary democracy.”  Gifts of oil to Cuba by Chavez, according to 2005 estimates, demonstrated Venezuela providing Cuba oil free of cost for a total "gift" of US$6 to 8 billion until 2020.  This while, then and now under Maduro, the poor continue to live below the poverty line, in squalor and unsafe homes, with little food and rolling blackouts of electricity, among other critical needs.  

The U.S. Government maintained “that both Chavez and Castro were also trying to undermine democracy in the Caribbean,” and portrayed Chavez as a security threat. Critics said Chavez was using petroleum sales under preferential terms to increase his political influence in the Caribbean.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called Cuba an "outpost of tyranny," and Chavez a "negative force" in Latin America.  Chavez was criticized by opponents of trying to establish a Cuba-style authoritarian government in Venezuela – with failures of another bankrupt and tired communist regime that decimated Cuba for decades and inflicted massive harm to its people.

With a U.N. Security Council mandate to “settle disputes with peaceful means,” Venezuela, under Chavez, nationalized major swaths of the South American OPEC nation's economy as part of a socialist agenda during nearly 13 years in power. These included nationalizing organizations in tourism, oil, agriculture, heavy industry and transportation, among others.  Chavez accused many of these companies of "exploiting the country's working class.”

This month Chavez’s mistakes continued to appear. The World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes  has directed Venezuela to pay US oil giant Exxon Mobil US$1.6 billion in compensation for its expropriated assets. Maduro and his government are currently battling more than 20 similar demands at the World Bank, by other foreign companies, over the state's takeover of private assets of foreign companies under Hugo Chavez.

President Maduro has had an uphill battle since his narrow victory last year. There are accusations of endemic government corruption and deep official involvement in drug trafficking, as there were under Chavez. 

In a September 2013 interview with El Universal, Venezuelan's ex-President of the National Anti-drugs Commission, Bayardo Ramirez, criticized the lack of a clear policy to rid Venezuela of drug trafficking, which he said is “deeply ingrained into certain corrupt sectors of the government.”

Venezuelan protests this year have occurred nationwide, as a result of Venezuela's high levels of violence, inflation, and chronic shortages of basic goods. Arrests of student protestors and opposition leaders have become common. And Maduro has characterized the protests as an undemocratic coup d'état attempt, orchestrated by "fascist" opposition leaders and the U.S.

Venezuela’s security forces have been widely condemned for their mishandling of protesters, with methods ranging from the use of rubber pellets and tear gas, to instances of live ammunition and torture of those arrested. As well, incidents of media censorship and violence by pro-government militant groups, known as colectivos, were widely reported.

Both Chavez and Maduro have used the doctrine from Castro's fifty-plus years of oppressive rule against the Cuban people, the same verbatim diatribe of U.S. paranoia used by the leftist leaders to justify enormous defense and espionage spending. Since 2005, Chavez spent billions of dollars for Russian arms and military aircraft.

Evidence of Venezuela’s continuing Chavez deceptive agenda could be attributed to the appointment of Chavez’s daughter, Maria Gabriela Chavez, as Venezuela’s ‘alternate ambassador’ to the UN. She has been described as a “socialist socialite.” And, like her father, “accused of corruption and enjoying the high life, while the Venezuelan people suffer soaring inflation and widespread food shortages.”

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at www.cjiausa.org.

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