A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[BRIEF NOTE] A Cuban-Venezuelan Federation?

Over at Now, Gwynne Dyer considers (in “Wanted: One Hero”) the possibility of Cuba and Venezuela federated under the presidency of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez after Castro passes, uniting these two Latin American countries in much the same way that Egypt and Syria were united in the United Arab Republic under Nasser in 1958-1961. The current Cuban regime, as Dyer notes, has quite a few reasons to support a federal link with Venezuela, faced as it is with an uncertain succession, a discontented young population, and continued American hostility towards the Communist regime.

The Cuban Communists fear indirect or even direct U.S. interference in the country to destabilize the regime following Fidel’s departure.

They worry out loud about the loyalty of a younger generation whose nationalism (which in Cuba means anti-Americanism) is at war with its urgent desire for access to all the pleasures of consumerism.

They worry more quietly about the millions of Cubans who really would like to see democracy in their country.

Plenty of reasons, then, to consider the Chavez option.

A formal link between Cuba and Venezuela, with Chavez as joint president, would give the regime in Havana new ideological impetus by appealing to the old Bolivarian dream of a unified Latin America. It would give Cuba more access to Venezuelan oil and financial aid, and perhaps even the modern arms that Venezuela is now buying from Russia.

Chavez would be a sucker for such a proposal, partly because it would appeal to his own Bolivarian dreams and partly because it would drive the U.S. government crazy. As he said last year at a meeting of the Joint Commission on the Comprehensive Cooperation Agreement Between Cuba and Venezuela, “Cuba and Venezuela have joined together, and at this point the world should know that our fate is sealed, that these two homelands, which deep down are one, are opening a new road at whatever cost.”

It isn’t just a pipe dream. The first person to suggest in public that the Cuban regime might be seriously considering such a union was Ana Faya, now a senior analyst at the Canadian Foundation for Latin America (FOCAL) in Ottawa, but for 10 years, until she fled to Canada in 2000, an official of the central committee of the Cuban Communist Party.

“It wouldn’t be outrageous,” she said in an interview last October. “[But] it should take place while [Fidel] Castro is still in charge.”

If she is right, it now will have become a very urgent priority in Havana.

The intensifying Cuban-Venezuelan ties have been greeted with hostility by the anti-Chavez V Crisis site and with praise by the pro-Chavez ZMag site. Myself, I’m inclined to think that a Cuban-Venezuelan federation would fail within a few years, for much the same reason that the United Arab Republic eventually collapsed: great-power hostility, ideological tensions, questions of parity between the two partners. As the success of the European Union and the failure of the Warsaw Pact demonstrates, absent one country’s hegemony over the others federations of nation-states work well only when these federations are created by states with democratic regimes, not by states run by oligarchies.

On a related note, Cuba under the influence of the Platt Amendment and American mass tourism and Venezuela under the domination of its once-prosperous economy by American-based oil firms were, at mid-century, two of the most American countries in Latin America. It’s certainly an interesting coincidence that these two most Americanized countries have become two of the most explicitly anti-American countries in Latin America following popular revolutions, these revolutions motivated by the serious inequities within Cuban and Venezuelan societies.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 10, 2006 at 12:01 pm

Posted in Assorted

Tagged with , , ,

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