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Exclusive: Cuba expert says Fidel Castro targeted Venezuela, saw oil rich nation as the "jewel in the crown"

Werlau’s book, “Cuba's intervention in Venezuela” explains how the Castro regime devised a perfect plan to penetrate the strategic areas of the South American oil country

Valla de Fidel Castro y Hugo Chávez en La Habana - Cuba | Shutterstock

May 2, 2024 10:53am

Updated: May 3, 2024 8:52am

In dialogue with ADN América, famed researcher María Werlau, executive director of Archivo Cuba – a non-profit organization that promotes human rights through studies and publications – told us about the most important aspects of her book “Cuba's intervention in Venezuela,” which explains in detail how the Castro regime devised a perfect plan to penetrate the strategic areas of the oil country.

ADN: How did the research for the book begin?

Maria Werlau: I was not planning to write a book, but I had written a work on the medical brigade in Venezuela, since since 2010 we have been dedicated to that topic, so I was accumulating research on many topics related to Cuba.

A few years ago, in New York, I met Diego Arria, former Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N., and Antonio Ledezma, a prominent Venezuelan politician and lawyer, and I asked them why they didn't emphasize Cuba’s influence in Venezuela more and they responded that the country was dealing with many problems at once and that the Cuban intervention had not been documented.

That's when I decided to search my files and give them information on the subject. So, preparing a document, I began to question how serious and influential Cuba's intervention in Venezuela is.

I realized that there was not enough information in English about this problem, and in Spanish there were only pieces scattered. That's how my book started, questioning myself and exhausting the different parts of the research.

From the beginning I knew that the book had to be published in both languages. It was published in English in August 2019 and in Spanish in December of that year. Now, a publishing house in Argentina published the book with a new prologue that updates what has happened since then.

María Werlau, autora del libro "La intervención de Cuba en Venezuela" | LinkedIn

ADN: How did Cuba manage to occupy Venezuela?

Maria Werlau: Fidel Castro considered Venezuela the jewel in the crown. Their plan, with which they came to power in January 1959, hid the communist alliance that they already had planned.

The Cuban Revolution came to power with the promise of restoring democracy and, in addition, Fidel sought to expand said revolution throughout the continent. Three weeks after being promoted, he had already traveled to Venezuela because some university students had invited him to celebrate the anniversary of the fall of the Venezuelan dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez. At that moment he meets with Rómulo Betancourt, asking him to join his plan to spread the revolution and to provide economic support to Cuba, but Rómulo refuses.

Years later, Fidel watched Chávez's speech after his failed coup in 1992 and thought, “This is the man.” Upon leaving prison, Chávez met with Fidel in Havana in '94 and he offered him help to win the elections, financing his campaign.

Chávez comes to power with the same lies that Fidel Castro came with, and openly shows his collaborative relationship with Cuba after having accused it of being a dictatorship.

Cubans begin to arrive to the social brigades (educational, sports, medical, among others), the Babalawo arrive, the armed forces begin to be trained through a change in military doctrine, introducing the military into business to preserve the regime. The last piece was to control the Directorate of Military Intelligence, which is the one that monitors the military themselves.

"La intervención de Cuba en Venezuela" - María C. Werlau | Shutterstock y Amazon

ADN: What are the tools that Cuba has managed to develop?

Maria Werlau: The book develops, in its most important chapter, the tools that Cuba has managed to deploy due to the very totalitarian nature of its system, which are: first of all, an intelligence body that is at the level of the best in the world and that has all the resources to influence and recruit people. Cuba has more embassies in the world than the vast majority of countries. These buildings are the core, not only of intelligence, but of influence.

Secondly, the propaganda of the regime, which has a gigantic press and communications apparatus. Cuba has two press agencies and one of them is Prensa Latina, which works in six languages, so Cuba's propaganda reaches the entire world; They exploit the same narrative with the same theme in different countries with all their agents convinced of the radical ideology.

Finally, there are the friendship groups with Cuba, which number almost 1,700 in the world, managed by the Institute of Friendship with the People. All this is an arm of the propaganda office that marks the ideological line that must be followed, and these guidelines reach an army of subjects who cannot question anything.

ADN: How did Cuba, being a smaller country, manage to play the dominant role in its relationship with Venezuela?

Maria Werlau: First, Cuba had a clandestine and secret plan since 1959 to take over Venezuela. Second, he managed to manipulate the Venezuelan leadership, mainly Hugo Chávez. And, finally, he managed to place his man to replace Chávez, that is, Maduro. All this, together with the tools that I mentioned above, based on a very well designed plan, allowed us to reach all of Venezuela.

In fact, I describe in the book one of the most important tools: Cuban Santeria. Its objective was to weaken historical, religious and institutional traditions. It was a way to create a religion of revolution in a non-hierarchical way.

Raúl Castro y Nicolás Maduro en Porlamar, Venezuela -17/09/16 | Shutterstock

ADN: How serious is the Cuban intervention in Venezuela?

Maria Werlau: From what I understand, since I wrote this book, it remains as insidious as ever. The only difference is that, since Venezuela adopted the Cuban model, the economy has been impoverished and production destroyed at all levels.

As there is more collapse (in Venezuela), there is less aid for Cuba, which means there is much less to distribute, not only for Cuba, but also for its other partners in the region.

This has weakened the two States but has strengthened them with more activities of a criminal nature, including drug trafficking, illegal mining trafficking, money laundering, etc., and has stabilized their relations with Russia, China and Iran. All this has compensated for the economic collapse of the two countries.

Cuba has been a parasitic state for decades and Venezuela ceased to be an economic power in which oil wealth was wasted. But they are still there, because they are narco-states, whose leadership has mafias in power.

ADN: To which other countries, besides Venezuela, can the Cuban model be expanded?

Maria Werlau: It is in Nicaragua, but with certain differences. (Daniel) Ortega has always been a man from Cuba, but, when he returned to power, he did not destroy capitalism completely, he even associated with businessmen to create interests and stay in power. Then is when the repression radicalizes.

The occupation in Nicaragua is very different from that of Venezuela, but, without a doubt, it is part of this complicity of ALBA, an alliance that follows the Cuban model. Bolivia is going down this same path and, in addition, they managed to destabilize Chile, the most successful economy in Latin America.

There are also different partners in Latin America, such as Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Gustavo Petro, Xiomara Castro, Ralph Gonsalves, who are direct parts of ALBA.

La XXIII Cumbre ALBA en Caracas - 24/04/2024 | EFE

ADN: Finally, if the Venezuelan opposition wins the presidential elections on July 28, what do you think would happen with the Cuban intervention in Venezuela?

Maria Werlau: I think that Cuba has a significant economic dependence on Venezuela and, anything that alters the aid and subsidies that enter Cuba, will affect an economy that has already been bankrupt for a long time. This could be the final piece that ends the Cuban regime.

I have always said that María Corina Machado is the star person for this moment, she is a brave, intelligent, upright, eloquent woman with tremendous leadership. The regime never imagined it would have an opponent like her.

On the other hand, I think the government has never been willing to have a truly free election and accept the result. At this point, the trap would have to be something very obvious, but I hope the elections can be respected, because it would be the end of them and, probably, that of the Cuban dictatorship.

Fast-File Reporter

Marielbis Rojas

Marielbis Rojas is a Venezuelan journalist and communications professional with a degree in Social Communication from UCAB. She is a news reporter for ADN America.