Friday, April 11, 2014

Televised Mediations Are Unlikely to Solve Venezuela’s Problems

In response to the intercession of Colombia, Ecuador, Brazil and the Vatican, the leaders of the opposition embodied in a group called the Table of Democratic Unity (MUD) have agreed to mediate their disputes with the government of Nicolás Maduro. The mediation is to be televised continuously. Chief among the opposition is Henrique Capriles, who was the MUD's opponent to Maduro in the last election, "losing" by a paper-thin margin. The problem is that Capriles and his friends historically have not truly been opposition and have silently accepted Maduro’s usurpation of the presidency and his control over the judicial and legislative powers.  

I am reminded of the Russian revolution’s concept of “useful idiots” or “useful innocents.” The phrase describes employing a phony opposition to give the illusion that decisions are being made in democratic fashion, since there is alleged discussion and compromise achieved after democratic debate and voting, when in fact the party in power dictates everything, and the elections are rigged.

What leads me to conclude there is no hope for real success is that the students, who are the ones who have manned the barricades, and who have borne the brunt of the attacks from the colectivos and the National Guard, are not part of the process. Leopoldo Lopez is still in jail with trumped up charges. The students, particularly in the western part of the country, appear unfazed by the televised circus of the mediation.

I can only suspect that if the Castros are watching, they are grinning like cats that swallowed the canary.

Sunday, April 6, 2014


A month ago when the protests in Venezuela began I was skeptical if they would be sustained. In the past four years there have been many eruptions of protest, characterized by "cacerolazos," the public banging of pots and pans, for the most part during the night. However, it appears that the protests have reached a critical mass and the government’s violent attempts to suppress peaceful protests has only served to stimulate further demonstrations.

The protests go beyond the general unhappiness with food shortages, high crime (murder rate is the highest in the world), inflation, and abridgements of basic human rights. The protestors have called attention to the black and silent hand of the Castro brothers at their control of the Venezuelan government. When Maduro took office, I wrote of the suspicious circumstances under which Chavez’s body was moved from Havana. It seemed pretty clear that the Castro brothers were not happy with the idea of Diosdado Cabello, the speaker of the Assembly taking over as president of Venezuela as required by its constitution and instead helped Maduro usurp power. Mr. Cabello is a smart man and posed a threat to Raúl’s ability to control Venezuela from Havana. Maduro is not-so-smart bus driver who had training in Cuba when  he was a young man, and his sole qualification for public office was his blind loyalty to Chavez and to Fidel Castro and a willingness to be a puppet to managed from Havana.

Now the bus driver is in charge and his attempts at governance is pathetic and repressive and he has only succeeded in emboldening the students who have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands., which purports to be a neutral reporter of events in Venezuela features an article about Maduro’s announcement of the government dedicating Bs40 million for a national eco school to help combat eco vandalism by the opposition and its alleged destruction of more than 5000 trees. There are more murders each year in Venezuela than in the United States and all of the countries of European Union combined. The population of Venezuela is 29 million, with 3 million living in Caracas. In Caracas, the murder rate is 200 per 100,000, roughly 6,000. 

With all these killings and thousands rioting in the streets, the bus driver thinks that priority should be given to spending Bs40 million ($6,349,206 USD) to counteract the destruction of 5000 trees. There is no toilet paper in the stores and the government this week started issuing cards that will track what shoppers can buy in the supermarkets, a short step away from rationing (shades of Cuba). The bus driver needs to reexamine his priorities and realize it is time to get off the bus.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

70 Ladies in White Arrested

Here's a posting from concerning a mass arrest this past Sunday:
I suppose the Cubans who "like" Castro approve of this, but it's hard to imagine any rational person thinking that this is a sign of healthy society.

I wish the demonstrators luck today in showing that the regime must change.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Can Cuba Follow in the Footsteps of the Brave Students and Opposition Forces in Venezuela?

 If Orestes Matacena has anything to say about it, the answer will be a resounding “YES!” The Hollywood actor and filmmaker has called for a national day of civil disobedience on April 1st in Cuba. Matacena’s uncle, Orestes Ferrara was a "mambí" colonel, hero of the Cuban War of Independence against Spain; a contemporary of José Martí, from whose poetry my novel derives its title. He was also one of the signers of the Cuban Constitution of 1940, the same constitution Castro promised his revolution would restore. Matacena hopes that Cubans will emulate Venezuelan students by going out on the streets in defiance of Raúl Castro's government and show that the people demand an end to the Communism that has brought the Cuban economy to a state of shambles. With wages among the lowest in Latin America, Cuba’s standard of living has steadily deteriorated under the communist yoke of the Castro brothers. The Castro régime is a cancer that is spreading throughout Latin America. One of those places is Venezuela.

Since February 12, demonstrations in Venezuela against the communist régime of Colombian Nicolás Maduro have intensified. Daniel Ceballos, the mayor of San Cristobal, Táchira State, and Enzo Scarano, the mayor of San Diego, Carabobo State, were both detained in Caracas on Thursday, when they arrived there to attend a meeting of opposition mayors, according to the local newspaper El Nacional. Their states have been the hardest hit with protests, where demonstrators have been able to disrupt the streets and everyday life, Arab Spring style. In a country with the highest crime rate, and where thousands of violent crimes go uninvestigated and untried, both mayors were tried, sentenced and imprisoned all in one day. Furthermore, both mayors, who were elected by popular vote, have been removed from office and new elections ordered. Their only crime was to respect the rights of people to protest. Meanwhile, Chavista governor of Táchira State, José Gregorio Vielma Mora, has not been able to put down the unrest or the barricades in his state, even though he has sent National Guards and recruited government-paid terrorists called "Colectivos" to attack protesters and murder them. In contrast, he has not been arrested or removed from office.

Maduro's régime is following an all too familiar pattern of injustice that has characterized Cuban "justice" since January 1, 1959. It should come as no surprise that the government of Venezuela, since Chávez became president, has been following orders from Cuba. It's no wonder that Alina Fernández Revuelta, Fidel Castro's daughter who lives in the US, said last February 21, in an interview in Miami's Diario las Américas that Venezuelans have taken too long to yell "Cubans Go Home." She also said, "Students who are protesting today, are paying for the confusion, the lack of interest or the ignorance of the preceding generations".

While April 1st in the U.S. is a time for practical jokes, there is nothing funny about the call for massive civil disobedience in Cuba. It is fitting that the demand for a popular uprising to demonstrate the desperate need for freedom should happen in the advent of the Jewish holiday of Passover, which commemorates the Jews’ exodus from the oppressive land of the Pharaohs. Many believe that until Cuba frees itself of the Castro family and their henchmen, there will never be peace south of the U.S. border. This is why it is important for Cubans in the island to take to the streets on April 1st and let the world know that they are no longer willing to live as slaves.

It is past time for the modern Pharaohs, Raúl and Fidel Castro, to depart the scene and let their people go!

Friday, January 31, 2014


This week is a time of celebration in Cuba for the opening of the new port of Mariel, a huge development funded with considerable help from Brazil. The Cuban government hopes that the port will ignite the country’s floundering economy. At the ribbon cutting, Raúl Castro extolled the virtues the port’s ability to support the newest and largest ships in the world. The U.S. embargo continues to stymie the growth of the economy, and it remains an open question whether its provisions, which prohibit any ship that calls on a Cuban port from visiting an American port within six months, will affect how well the new port will fare.

At the time of the official ceremonies, there was only one ship in port—a U.S. ship delivering chickens. Food is exempt from the embargo and its import is limited only by the fact that it must be paid for in cash. I wonder if Raúl noticed the Stars and Stripes flying from the ships masthead, and if he noted the irony.