Cuba prepares for Venezuela disruptions
Posted on Sunday, 03.16.14
Cuba prepares for Venezuela disruptions
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
As political violence in Venezuela rolls on, Cubans say they are hearing
reports that Havana is making energy or military preparations for a
possible disruption of its tight alliance with the South American nation.
Cuba’s stagnant economy depends overwhelmingly on Venezuelan subsidies
estimated at well over $6 billion a year — even more than the former
Soviet Union once provided to the Caribbean island.
“If something ugly happens in Venezuela, we are fried like in the
Special Period,” said Havana teacher Yadiel Ramirez.
The end of Soviet subsidies in 1991 plunged Cuba into a brutal crisis,
shrinking the economy by 33 percent and sparking widespread hunger.
Former top Cuban government economist Jesús “Marzo” Fernandez said close
Cuban friends working in Venezuela for that country’s state-owned PDVSA
oil company have told him Havana has prepared for a sudden stop in
Venezuelan oil imports.
The friends said all oil storage facilities on the island, including
those set aside for military, government and strategic reserves, were
full to the top as of March 4, Fernandez said. Caracas sends Cuba abour
115,000 barrels per day, two-thirds of its consumption.
“They are preparing? No. They are prepared,” added Fernandez, who now
lives in Miami. “They won’t be surprised. The Cubans work with a
Most analysts remain skeptical of claims by the Venezuelan opposition of
Cuban troops arriving in the country in recent weeks to defend President
Nicolas Maduro and quell the anti-government protests that have left 25
dead and more than 300 injured.
Opposition activists have published long-distance photos of unidentified
soldiers landing in a military airport, and reports of people with Cuban
accents beating up anti-Maduro protesters.
But Venezuela already has many Cuban military and security advisors
—about 5,000, by some estimates —and the resistance to Maduro was all
but predictable after the death last year of his charismatic mentor and
Cuba ally, former President Hugo Chávez, analysts said.
“It doesn’t make sense [Cuba] would need to send in more people” after
the anti-government protests erupted, said Chris Simmons, a retired Cuba
counter-intelligence expert at the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.
Cuba’s usually secretive government has said nothing about any security
assistance to Venezuela’s leftist-populist “Bolivarian Revolution,”
launched by Chávez.
But two Cuban dissidents who have provided good information in the past
said they have received reports that military reservists in six
municipalities around the country were contacted this month to be ready
for trouble in Venezuela.
Guillermo Fariñas, who served with a commando unit in Angola and
underwent military training in the Soviet Union until he suffered a
training accident, said three supporters told him about call-ups in his
home province of Villa Clara.
The Military Committees in the municipalities of Santa Clara, Ranchuelo,
Sagua La Grande and Manicaragua have asked several reservists with
combat experience in Africa and Nicaragua and under 50 years of age if
they would be willing to deploy to Venezuela.
If they answer yes, the reservists are told to consider themselves
“pre-mobilized” and stay in touch with the committees, Farinas told El
Nuevo Herald. If they say no, they are told to keep the meetings secret.
Farinas said that was much the same way Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed
Forces (FAR) started its deployments to Africa in the late 1970s,
quietly calling up experienced reserves rather than relying on young
conscripts whose political loyalty was untested.
The Military Committees at the municipal and provincial levels handle
the military draft and coordinate exercises — usually held in June in
preparation for the hurricane season and at year’s end to mark the
founding of the FAR.
Farinas, spokesman for the dissident Cuban Patriotic Union and winner of
the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience in
2010, started to make the information about the call-ups public earlier
this month on Twitter.
He said he had not heard of any call-ups in the nine other
municipalities in Villa Clara, and was skeptical of the reports of elite
Cuban troops arriving in Venezuela.
Independent Havana journalist Roberto de Jesus Guerra said he received
similar reports of reserve activities linked to the Venezuela crisis
from in the eastern city of Manzanillo, the town of Güines southeast of
Havana and the Havana neighborhood of Calabazar.
Six sources he trusts reported that the Military Committees in those
places told veteran reservists earlier this month that there would be
military exercises in coming days to generally prepare for any
emergencies related to Venezuela, Guerra said.
“We have [exercises] every year but not in these months,” added Guerra,
who runs the Hablemos Press independent news agency in Havana. “This is
Source: Cuba prepares for Venezuela disruptions – Cuba – MiamiHerald.com