Venezuela’s Descent into Communism:
– Chavez Hails Personal Victory over Cancer ahead of October Re-election Bid, Bolsters Regime with Cuban-Inspired “Territorial Militia”
– Cuba Responsible for Food Shortages in Venezuela: Chavez Transferred Control of Venezuela’s Busiest Port to ALBA Front Company in 2009
– Retired Venezuelan General: Cuban G-2 Military Intelligence Operating in Venezuela’s Ministry of Defense; Strategic Operations Command; Joint Chiefs of Staff HQ; Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard Command Centers; Military Intelligence Directorate; and Internal Security Service
Pictured above: President Hugo Chavez (left) escorts his Belarusian counterpart, Alexander Lukashenko, and the Belarusian president’s son, Mykalay, at a welcoming ceremony at Miraflores Palace in Caracas on June 26.
We have returned from our summer vacation and, after spending several months focusing on the Syrian civil war, have prepared another round-up of political developments south of the Rio Grande. There Latin America’s “New Left” has resuscitated the old Leninist ideal of regional and world government in the form of international federations such as the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) and the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA).
In yet another example of international communist solidarity more than 20 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, open and “ex”-communists from around the world have congratulated retired red dictator Fidel Castro on the occasion of his 86th birthday. Gennady Zyuganov, general secretary of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), and the first female cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, who sits as a CPRF deputy in the State Duma, telegrammed congratulations to the “Comandante.”
For his part, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Moscow “ex”-communist, wished Fidel “success in his scientific and literary activities,” as well as “robust health and boundless energy.” Fidel’s literary activities include his regular “Reflections” column, which is linked to many leftist websites, including that of the ruling Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). Fidel’s “scientific” ventures, however, are a bit of a mystery. Maybe, Comrade Yanukovich knows something we don’t
The birthday greeting sent by Bolivian President Evo Morales, a self-avowed Marxist-Leninist and Hugo Chavez groupie, was highlighted by state media. “Evo Morales has said that [Fidel] has been one of the most caring leaders he has known in his life,” Bolivian Communications Minister Amanda Davila told Cambio newspaper. Pardon my classist bourgeois ignorance, but I didn’t realize communist thugs like Fidel and his younger brother Raul could be characterized as “caring.”
In Mexico, Castro-lovin’ leftist leader Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is once again charging the victorious presidential candidate with fraud and demanding new elections. Obrador contested both the 2006 and 2012 elections, losing in the first case to National Action Party (PAN) candidate Felipe Calderon and, in the second case, Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) candidate Enrique Peña Nieto. The latter took place on July 1.
In 2000, after 71 years of unbroken rule, the PRI lost the presidency to Calderon’s predecessor Vicente Fox. For his part, Obrador represents the Democratic Revolutionary Party, which coalesced in 1989 through a merger of disaffected leftists within the PRI, which, in turn, had abandoned its socialist roots by moving to the political center, and assorted far-left groups, including the Mexican Communist Party.
As a result of Obrador’s agitations, Mexico’s electoral officials have promised a partial vote recount but, in spite of some irregularities, Pena’s win appears legitimate. Still, this has not prevented Obrador form accusing the PRI of laundering drug money. In comments aimed at federal government officials, he ranted:
We’re talking about billions of pesos of illicit origin directed to the PRI’s campaign to buy at least five million votes. The whole truth can be ascertained. If we’re providing this evidence [of illegal activity], imagine what officials with the Finance Secretariat and [the CNBV banking regulator] would be able to find out, if they don’t know already. In the federal government, they already know what this was about. Hiding information isn’t going to work because we’re very persistent and aren’t going to give up.
Obrador expressed surprise that the outgoing Calderon administration does not “reveal what they know about the use of illicit funds for the benefit for Peña Nieto.” On June 14, the ruling Panistas approached electoral authorities with a request to freeze the PRI’s accounts with Monex bank, on suspicion of violations of campaign finance law.
The recent arrest in Spain of a cousin of the billionaire boss of the Sinaloa drug cartel, along with a politician with the party of President-elect Pena, lends credibility to Obrador’s assertions. The arrested politician, Rafael Celaya Valenzuela, was a mid-level figure in the PRI in the state of Sonora. Newspapers published photographs that Celaya had previously posted on his Facebook page, showing him with Pena.
Pena’s advisers quickly disavowed any knowledge of Celaya’s alleged criminal activities. The candidate posed for “hundreds of thousands” of photographs during the campaign, the PRI said in a statement, and thus the pictures with Celaya were “meaningless.” Celaya had applied to become the PRI’s Sonora candidate for the federal legislature in the July 1 vote, but the party rejected his bid, the statement added.
Celaya was arrested in Madrid along with a man identified by Spanish police as Jesus Gutierrez Guzman, cousin of fugitive Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. Two other alleged members of the cartel were also captured. The Spanish El Pais newspaper quoted authorities as saying the men were tasked with expanding the cartel’s distribution of cocaine into Europe via Spain. The arrests were part of Operation Dark Waters, conducted by Spanish police in cooperation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The fact of the matter is all of the major parties in Mexico, including Obrador’s, are tainted with narco-corruption, some of which originates from the Communist Bloc.
In 2010, the mayor of Cancun and former PRD candidate for the state governorship of Quintana Roo, Gregorio Sanchez Martínez, was detained on charges of money laundering and trafficking in illegal immigrants. More ominously, Sanchez’s wife, Niurka Alba Sáliva Benítez, is none other than the daughter of Cuban Ministry of Interior Colonel José Ángel Sáliva Pino. Niurka was involved in infiltrating Cubans, Russians, and Chinese illegals into the USA via Mexico.
One of Sanchez’s advisors, moreover, was Boris “El Boris” del Valle Alonso, an ex-Cuban soldier who is linked to the Mexican criminal organization Los Zetas and who worked with Niurka in human trafficking. El Boris is also the son of an ex-Cuban Minister of the Interior by the name of Sergio del Valle, who, in turn, is the brother-in-law of Sánchez because Sergio is Niurka’s half-brother. El Boris is also related to Fidel Castro’s wife, Dalia Soto del Valle.
Meanwhile, the neo-Sandinista regime in Managua is doing its best to suppress reports of revitalized Contra activity in the hinterland of Nicaragua. “’Emilio’ was only 12 when he joined the US-backed contras in 1984,” writes Tim Rogers, “to wage war against Nicaragua’s revolutionary government of the Sandinista Front for National Liberation (FSLN)—seen by the Reagan administration as a Soviet ally, and therefore a Cold War foe for the US.” Rogers adds: “Twenty-eight years later, the former child soldier says a ‘second dictatorship’ of President Daniel Ortega has prompted him to take up arms again.”
Emilio alleges that re-armed Contras, or “Recontras,” angered by Ortega’s unconstitutional re-election bid last year, have grown to a fighting force of 1,600 men who operate in small cells throughout Nicaragua. “We’re repeating the 1980s,” Emilio said in a phone interview from an undisclosed location along the Nicaraguan-Honduran border. “It’s 2012 and we are still fighting the FSLN.”
With a bare plurality in the 2006 election, the KGB-trained Ortega returned to the presidency after 16 years in the political wilderness but, after absorbing more than US$1 billion from ideological buddy Hugo Chavez, attracted a resounding majority of votes in his 2011 re-election.
Emilio, whom Rogers reached on a Honduran cell phone number provided by a contact in Miami, claims to be one of two dozen Recontra “comandantes.” The re-armed Contras’ US front is registered in Florida as a non-profit organization known as the “Comando Central Resistencia Nicaragüense USA.” Emilio maintains that the Recontras have engaged in a six gunfights with the Nicaraguan Army since 2011, resulting in 20 casualties, all of which have been denied by Nicaraguan Army Colonel Juan Ramon Morales.
Morales scoffs at stories of the Recontras as “fantasies peddled by desperate political adversaries who don’t understand or accept the reality of the country today.” However, the good colonel acknowledges Nicaragua’s mountainous northern border is too vast to patrol completely. “We have very good sources of information and haven’t picked up any information about armed groups,” he says, but admits: “We’ve only detected bands of common delinquents.”
By contrast, Roman Catholic Bishop Juan Abelardo Mata has warned about the reappearance of armed groups in Nicaragua since 2010. The clergyman says the situation is “getting worse” and that the second Sandinista regime’s continued denial of guerrilla activity exposes a “terrible deafness” to the problems in the countryside. “The situation is delicate,” he says. “The government knows it has generated this problem, but they don’t want to admit it.”
“The risk [of renewed civil war] is real,” confirms former Contra commander Guillermo Miranda. “The army and the police are selectively executing various members of the resistance who have opted for armed struggle.” Indeed, two self-proclaimed Recontra commanders have died since last year. “Comandante Yahob” was a CIA-trained covert operations commando who in 2010 vowed to “remove Ortega from office with bullets.” He was bumped off by an unidentified sniper last year. In early 2012, Yahob’s successor, a former guerrilla known as “Pablo Negro,” was found murdered in a ditch in Honduras. The Nicaraguan Army denied responsibility in both cases.
The Recontras’ new leader is codenamed “El Sheriff,” who alternately goes by the nom de guerre, “Walter.”
Last December, in the rural community of Mulukuku, Autonomous Region of the Northern Atlantic, eight uniformed gunmen dragged FSLN political secretary Carlos Ali Garcia out of his home and shot him dead—with 11 bullets. Then they spray-painted his house with an old Contra slogan, “God, Country, Democracy, Liberty or Death,” and a new one: “This is the result of stolen elections.” Four days later, separate armed attacks in the rural north-central mining towns of Rosita and Siuna killed two police officers and left two others injured.
In early March, eight people were killed and two others seriously injured in a Contra-style ambush in the rural municipality of La Cruz de Rio Grande. None of these incidents has been resolved. The government of President Ortega persists in blaming the violence on “cattle rustlers” and “bands of delinquents.”
In Miami, Nicaraguan exile Enrique Castillo is one of the few public faces of the mysterious Recontras. The 55-year-old is remembered by some as the singer-songwriter who composed “Comandos de la Libertad,” the Contra anthem of the 1980s. In the past two months, Castillo has sent letters to several Republican lawmakers, including Senator Marco Rubio and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, to inform them about the Recontras’ efforts to oust Ortega and to solicit support in Washington. Several US officials told Rogers they have received overtures from “former Contras,” but are not interested in revisiting Nicaragua’s civil war years.
In what amounts to a mini-Cold War with Bogota, the Nicaraguan Army has released a 22-minute video narrating how a convicted Colombian spy was tasked with stealing Managua’s military secrets. In the recording, Luis Felipe Rios admits that “his primary mission was to ascertain the Central American country’s defense capabilities and the strategic projection of its military.” According to the footage, the Colombian national also tried to obtain information on Nicaragua’s possible plans to form alliances with Iran and Venezuela, buy weaponry from Russia, and modernize the country’s Soviet-built artillery, tanks, and combat helicopters.
In July, a Nicaraguan court sentenced Rios to 16 years in prison for crimes related to espionage. The 34-year-old Colombian was arrested in Managua the previous month after authorities shadowed him for over a year. Rios entered Nicaragua in 2010, apparently presenting himself as a Spanish citizen working for a publication that reports on security issues. In June, the Nicaraguan Army also dishonourably discharged Rios’ two accomplices, Amuro Alvarez Granera and Leonidas Castillo, after convicting the soldiers of “revealing military secrets together with the crimes of espionage and disobedience.”
Colombia’s pro-Washington, center-right government is at odds with Nicaragua, over the disputed San Andres Islands in the Caribbean Sea; Venezuela, which offers haven to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC); and other leftist regimes in the region.
Elsewhere in Central America, the Sandinistas’ ideological kin in El Salvador, the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), elected to power in 2009, has finally launched its assault on democratic institutions in that country. Earlier this year, the FMLN extra-legally appoint five judges to the Supreme Court and illegally nominated the next attorney general, who will be responsible for investigating government corruption.
When these widely unpopular moves were challenged before the Supreme Court’s constitutional panel, the FMLN lost, but the party, which was a guerrilla army until 1992, and President Mauricio Funes refused to back down. On July 1, the government employed locksmiths, under the aegis of public security forces, to break into the Supreme Court building and allow the unconstitutional judges to take their posts. The attorney general is not scheduled to take office until September.
In an attempt to legitimize its actions, the FMLNista regime referred the matter to the Central American Court of Justice (CACJ), but Funes’ domestic opponents countered that the outcome of the CACJ’s deliberations is irrelevant. El Salvador’s constitution states clearly that the Supreme Court is the final arbiter in such matters as staffing.
In response, the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation, which disburses funds to newly democratized states in Latin America, withheld US$450 grants from San Salvador.
Although Funes has attempted to portray himself as a “moderate” center-leftist, vis-à-vis his battle-hardened Marxist-Leninist vice president, Salvador Sanchez Ceren, Mary Anastasia O’Grady, writing for the Wall Street Journal, flat-out states: “Today El Salvador is ground zero in the Chávez revolution.” O’Grady also makes other important points, namely that if the White House cuts off grants to El Salvador, then it would signal that President Barack Hussein Obama, who is admired by Latin American socialists, disapproves of “power grabbing,” even when his ideological affections align with those of the “grabbers.”
“The Millennium money is crucial if the FMLN is to retain the presidency in the 2014 election,” she concludes in the second of a two-part article, adding: “It is also the best leverage Washington has to influence the outcome of what has become a broad-based Salvadoran struggle to save the young democracy from a militant FMLN takeover.”
In Venezuela, where Chavez’s 13-year-old Bolivarian Revolution offers inspiration to other leftist regimes in the region, the ruling United Socialist Party (PSUV) plans to finish assembling its one-million-man territorial militia by next year. Venezuela’s militia corps was established in 2005 and, while part of the armed forces, reports directly to the president.
Under “Plan Sucre,” opposition politician Maria Corina Machado told El Universal newspaper, Chavez intends to form a revolutionary army that, if necessary, could resist a US invasion with guerrilla tactics. The former presidential candidate said she obtained a copy of the plan printed by an institution affiliated with the national army. “The strategic objective is to build a new Bolivarian military doctrine that would prepare Venezuela to be successful in a prolonged popular war against ‘the empire,’ or the United States,” Machado said, citing the document. “This is clearly a proposal with Cuban inspiration and advice.”
By 2019, the Chavez regime expects to double the size of the territorial militia to two million. President Chavez’s paranoia regarding a potential US invasion of Venezuela echoes similar fearmongering from Cuba’s Castro Bros. and Nicaragua’s Ortega, who carefully followed the US-led overthrow of Grenada’s Marxist regime in 1983.
Most polls give Chavez, who recently declared himself free of cancer after a year-long medical ordeal that included frequent trips to Havana, leads of up to 35 per cent to win the election.
To further bolster the communist takeover of Venezuela, Chavez has surrounded himself with hundreds of Cuban military and intelligence advisors, a fact that has been well documented with the testimony of retired or purged Venezuelan generals. “Intelligence officers in Colombia,” reported the Washington Times in 2010, “have said that Cuba has established a ‘parallel chain of command’ within the [Venezuelan] military.”
Cuban teams also maintain and operate much of the US$4 billion worth of advanced military hardware that Venezuela recently acquired from Russia, including radar-guided anti-aircraft systems, Su-30 multipurpose fighter jets, Kilo-class submarines, Mi-24 and Mi-35 attack helicopters, as well as tanks and armored personnel carriers.
Meanwhile, ahead of Chavez’s re-election bid, Venezuela is facing unprecedented food shortages due to the PSUV’s nationalization (communization) of farms and grocery stores, such as Mercal. “We are going to make Venezuela an agricultural power and food exporter,” crowed Chavez to supporters in late July during a campaign stop. However, Venezuela continues to import about 70% of the food it consumes and, for the first time in recent history, there are shortages of basic staples such as corn meal, coffee, black beans, cooking oil, beef, and powdered milk. The artificial ceiling on prices, though, as farming expenses rise, has prompted farmers to leave their fields fallow.
“The last decade has been good for increasing agricultural production and exports throughout the region, save for Venezuela,” says Carlos Machado Allison, agriculture professor at Caracas’ IESA graduate school. “Venezuela is the exception, thanks to obstacles such as price and foreign exchange controls. The bureaucracy is daunting, and the government is now involved in all links of the chain from production to processing to retailing,” explains Allison.
The president’s other economic policies are just as “injurious,” critics accuse. The country’s largest privately owned farm supply store, Agro Patria, was taken over two years ago by the government and its managers replaced with inexperienced cadres from the ruling PSUV. Not surprisingly, Agro Patria went from a profitable operation to suffering frequent supply shortages.
One of the main reasons Venezuelans are suffering from food shortages is because in 2009 Chavez transferred control of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela’s busiest port, to Puertos del Alba, an ALBA front company that is 51 percent owned by Venezuela and 49 percent by the Castro regime. The Chávezista regime also granted concessions to Cuban enterprises to acquire products abroad.
“[The Cubans] control everything that comes in and goes out. We are importing meat from Nicaragua. Yet often that container does not come from Nicaragua and it is subject to a triangulation whereby a Cuban food enterprise buys the meat at a certain price and later sells it to Venezuela at a higher price,” explained Henrique Salas Feo, opposition governor of the state of Carabobo, where Puerto Cabello is located.
This past June, Paraguay’s first-ever center-left president, former Catholic priest Fernando Lugo, was impeached when the formerly ruling Colorado Party ganged up with Lugo’s fairweather allies in the Liberal Party. In response, a few thousand Lugo supporters milled about in the streets, but his ouster failed to inspire the overwhelming reaction seen in Venezuela in 2002, when a mass mobilization of Chavezistas thwarted a coup attempt against the self-avowed communist, and in Honduras in 2009, when the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya inspired widespread popular protests.
Critics say Lugo’s tenure in office has been marked by his failure to tackle corruption, suppress a new, FARC-linked rebel group known as the Paraguayan People’s Army, and fulfill campaign pledges to redress Paraguay’s unequal land distribution. Among politicians of the once-dominant Colorado Party, there was a lingering suspicion that Lugo, once called the “Red Bishop” of San Pedro, was a radical who distanced himself from more revolutionary leaders like Chavez and Evo Morales for purely tactical purposes.
At the international level, the Union of South American Nations and Southern Common Market (Mercosur) expelled Paraguay from their ranks, rejecting the appointment of Liberal Federico Franco to the Paraguayan presidency. “Democratic” and “transparent” elections, slated for April 2013, are the requirement for readmission to these organizations. By contrast, after a fact-finding mission by the Organization of American States, Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza suggested there was no “congressional coup.” Paraguay’s de facto president has downplayed the seriousness of Paraguay’s suspension from Unasur.
In December 2006, Lugo resigned from the priesthood since the Paraguayan constitution prohibits clergymen from standing as political candidates. At first, the Vatican refused to accept his resignation, but in July 2012 Pope Benedict XVI finally granted Lugo an unprecedented waiver to permanently remove his clerical status. Among devout Catholics, Lugo’s popularity waned when he admitted to fathering two children, by two different women, while bishop.