Ocean Press edit at oceanpress.com.au
Tue Aug 30 15:41:53 MDT 2005


By Germán Sánchez

[Germán Sánchez has been the Cuban ambassador to Venezuela from 1994 to
the present. This is the second part from a new pamphlet from Ocean
Press, published in both English and Spanish-language editions. The
pamphlet contains a chapter from the book “Cuba and Venezuela” by Germán
Sánchez, which is forthcoming in English from Ocean Press in early 2006.
A Spanish-language edition of the book will published by Ocean Press in
September 2005. “Cuba and Venezuela” is a comparative historical
analysis of the Cuban Revolution and the process of change and
revolution currently unfolding in Venezuela. Another pamphlet taken from
the same forthcoming book is “Barrio Adentro and Other Social Missions
in the Bolivarian Revolution”. For further information visit
www.oceanbooks.com.au or write to info at oceanbooks.com.au].

14. At the beginning of the 21st century, it is all the more urgent to
find a solution to the drama of Latin America, which endures worse
conditions than at the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. Advances in the
living standards of a minority are relative and in contrast to greater
poverty in virtually the whole region. Neoliberal globalization and US
abuses of power progressively restrict space for those countries’ real
independence. Such realities unequivocally demonstrate the failure of
capitalism in our lands. It is not merely coincidence that as the power
of the region’s traditional governments has eroded, leaders and
political forces with revolutionary positions (Venezuela), or with a
greater commitment to their majorities (Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay),
have triumphed. Diverse popular struggles necessary to create new
societies are growing.

It is the time to formulate and act on genuine alternatives, and in that
process, Cuba possesses many experiences -- including its mistakes --
that are the heritage of all the region’s peoples.

15. Our people have made huge sacrifices -- and will continue to do so
with honor -- for their audacity in being the first truly free nation of
the Americas; for daring to demonstrate that education, health, culture,
sports, employment, social security, citizenship, leisure time,
individual property, dignity, and participation in politics and the
economy can be won for all. The Cuban example, even amid the blockade,
and with its transitory errors and defects yet to be overcome, has
tremendous validity in the 21st century. Furthermore, it stands in
strong contrast to the desolate panorama facing other countries south of
the Río Bravo. Even as an example and an undoubted success, the Cuban
Revolution does not aspire to be a model for other countries: its
history cannot be repeated. It is not feasible to export or import
revolutions as if they were merchandise. With its own ideas and
imagination, and indispensable leadership, each national community will
create the forms of its own liberation and well-being, and a political
system to guarantee the genuine exercise of its rights. The Bolivarian
revolution is irrefutable evidence of this. In Venezuela, while our
bitter enemies seek to discredit and isolate the Cuban Revolution,
accusing it of interventionism and failure, certain “new left”
Venezuelans seem to be afraid of defending Cuba as a historical
reference point and of examining its valid experiences without

16. One such understanding Cuba has gained is in its identification with
Cuban history. In 1953, the launch of a new social and national
liberation movement on the island, Fidel Castro claimed José Martí as
the intellectual author of the assault on the Moncada Garrison. The
revolutionary forces were victorious in 1959 -- their aim was to
vindicate the nation’s history and attain the ideals of the generations
defeated first by Spain and then by the United States. Assigning Martí
that authorial role symbolized the founding of a republic “of all and
for the good of all.” It was only possible to achieve this with the
transformations mentioned above and with much effort, intelligence, and
skill, similar to that possessed by earlier independence fighters. For
Cuban revolutionaries, being a student of Martí in 1953, in 1959, or at
any point, means realizing Martí’s dream of attaining “the second
independence” and creating a republic where “the full liberation of the
people” is uppermost.

The objective in 1868 was to achieve independence. In 1895, Martí
included independence within a new and greater aspiration, in keeping
with his time: preventing US control of the island and blocking its
ambitions of continental expansion and domination. The generation of
1959 maintained these commitments and, in tune with their times, went
further: socialist revolution, the only way to eradicate foreign
domination, to make real Martí’s project, and realize humanity’s most
profound ideas and values. It creatively absorbed the ideas of Karl Marx
and those who followed after him, and of all those who embody
civilization’s inescapable heritage. That generation created an
authentic, fertile socialism, capable of realizing its mistakes and
overcoming them.

17. From the 1960s onward, in conjunction with its ironclad economic
blockade and many acts of aggression, the United States waged defamation
campaigns against the Cuban Revolution, at the same time keeping silent
on its advances, with three evident aims: to isolate and erode support
for Cuba in the international arena, to ensure Cuba’s example did not
extend to neighboring countries, and to create the conditions to defeat
it at an opportune moment.

Venezuela soon became an active staging ground for its propaganda
offensive and, since 1959, some of its governments have acted as US
accomplices in strangling Cuba.

When peoples in the region decided to rebel against their governments
and the dominant classes that were preventing them from exercising their
democratic rights -- by handing over national wealth to foreign capital,
sovereignty to the empire to the north, and steadily generating more
inhumane inequality -- our revolution held on to Bolívar and Martí’s
principle of solidarity with their struggles.

With the exception of Mexico, Latin American governments broke off
relations with the island in the 1960s and obeyed the US order to expel
Cuba from the OAS. Ten years later, when Cuba had gained international
prestige and plans to destroy its revolutionary process had failed,
various governments decided in common accord with Cuba to renew
diplomatic links, and a group of Caribbean nations that had just
attained their independence established such links for the first time.
The anti-Cuba policy of the United States suffered a heavy setback.

During that period (1972–75) the Venezuelan government of Carlos Andrés
Pérez was among the first to normalize relations with our country. A
period of mutual respect and progress in commercial, cultural, and other
fields began between Cuba and Venezuela. Not long afterwards, in 1976,
the criminal sabotage of an Air Cubana passenger plane, and the impunity
afforded its authors [by Venezuela], led to the freezing of relations.
During his second administration, Carlos Andrés Pérez proposed their
reactivation. From that point, in 1989, Cuba-Venezuela relations have
continued to develop, despite certain tensions during Rafael Caldera’s
administration (late 1994 to mid-1995), that resulted from a lack of
respect for Cuban sovereignty.

It should be clear that lies and infamies against Cuba are not a recent
event in Venezuela, but they do not have their principal origin in this
country. From 1959 the slander campaigns here echoed campaigns drawn up
and orchestrated by successive US administrations and the powerful US
media. Naturally, Venezuelans also invented their own lies, out of an
interest in creating problems between the two countries and preventing
Venezuelans from seeing how Cubans live and think.

After more than 40 years of US influence in Venezuela and other
countries, images, opinions, and information circulated about our
country have almost always tried to demonize Cuban socialism. Cuba is
presented as a dictatorship where hunger and poverty are rife, whose
economy is in terminal collapse, where there are violations of human
rights, a lack of democracy, citizens fleeing en masse, and where
violence is utilized against opponents, among other negative
representations. Some images have come and gone in line with the times:
when the Soviet Union existed, Cuba was one of its satellites; in the
1960s, Cuba exported revolution; and currently, it is charged with
supporting terrorism.

Until February 1999 those campaigns found some popular hearings and
local targets in Venezuela. There is the example of the
de-contextualized “landing of Cuban guerrillas at Machurucuto” in the
1960s; or the participation of certain Venezuelans in the Sao Paulo
Forum (a grouping of more than 60 left-wing political entities), which
has been defamed as a “subversive forum” headed by Cuba and the Workers
Party of Brazil. Certain media outlets sporadically published
“intelligence reports” spinning falsehoods about the Cuban embassy and
Cuban officials, accusing them of committing subversive activities --
these campaigns also involved naming left-wing Venezuelan political
leaders, with the aim of intimidating them. Of course, no one assumed
responsibility or could prove such infamies and no government refuted

18. The electoral triumph of Hugo Chávez in 1998 and his inauguration in
February 1999 provided a new stage for the anti-Cuba campaigns. During
the 1998 elections some of Chávez’s adversaries decided to portray him
as a puppet of Fidel Castro. They supposed this would cost him votes,
believing that the Venezuelan people had been deceived for so many years
by lies painting the island as a kind of hell, and that they would
reject any candidate attempting to create the same situation in
Venezuela. They failed to take into account the history and distinct
character of relations between the two countries, or the instinct and
wisdom of Simón Bolívar’s people. Chávez won.

But they didn't learn their lesson. From 1999 onwards Cuba practically
became an obligatory pretext for which to hurl darts at President
Chávez. Even politicians who had previously maintained constructive and
respectful relations with Cuba were dragged into sordid, crude, and even
ridiculous campaigns to convert our country into a phantom, present in
the background of almost all aspects of Venezuelan life and politics.

Once again, their intention was to prove Cuba was in all senses
bankrupt, and to charge President Chávez and Fidel Castro with acting in
league to convert Venezuela into “another Cuba.”

In no country besides the United States -- and particularly in Miami --
had such a furious, intense, and perverse public campaign been unleashed
against Cuba, a campaign, moreover, operated with complete impunity.
They claimed the new 1999 constitution was a copy of Cuba’s own, but
this colossal lie was promptly deflated, aided by an instructive press
conference given to the Venezuelan media by our president. Inventions
proliferated in the run-up to the 2000 elections. One allegation made by
[the supposed Cuban agent Juan Alvaro] Rosabal was that he, along with
another 1,500 Cubans, had infiltrated Venezuelan military barracks and
were training soldiers. Fidel offered $1 million for each Cuban soldier
identified. A few days later, Rosabal himself acknowledged this was a

>From 1999 and particularly in the 2000 elections, the most common claim
against Chávez involved a manipulation of a speech he made in Havana, in
which he used the metaphor of a “sea of happiness” to describe the
shared aspirations of the region’s peoples. Opponents immediately
claimed and reiterated -- without ever quoting the text -- that Chávez
had described Cuba as a “sea of happiness” and accused him of wanting to
bring that “infernal sea” to Venezuela. They wished to generate an
atmosphere of rejection of Chávez, constantly reiterating that old
chestnut: “Cuba is synonymous with disaster, it is the worst country in
the hemisphere, it is a horror.”

In 2001, a large part of the opposition and in particular those who
supported a coup, raised the Miami-manufactured slogan of “Cubanization”
on a daily basis, carrying it to xenophobic and paranoid extremes.

The angry and fanatical authors of this campaign wrongly believed they
could fool people by trying to confuse cooperation between the two
countries with the alleged “Cubanization” of Venezuela. They were also
seeking to boycott the growing solidarity between the two peoples, which
has been firmer and more fruitful since October 2000, when both
presidents signed the Integral Cooperation Agreement. Solidarity has
risen to great heights with Barrio Adentro, Mission Robinson, and other
social missions. A new phase in this process was launched in December
2004, with the signing by Fidel and Chávez in Havana of Bolivarian
Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), on the 10th anniversary of Chávez’s
first visit to Cuba. ALBA is a project toward Latin American and
Caribbean integration, and is the idea of the Venezuelan president.

During these tense years neither Cuba nor Venezuela has slowed their
pace toward understanding and mutual aid. President Chávez and the
Bolivarian people have not allowed themselves to be terrorized by
pressure or the “sea of lies.” These excesses have only found their
target in fascist or disoriented groups, groups that went to the extreme
of besieging the Cuban embassy during the days of the April 2002 coup,
and groups that supported the oil strike of December 2002.

19. We should be grateful to those individuals who futilely attempt to
deceive Venezuelans with the myth of “Cubanization.” They are
contributing to people’s greater understanding of the Cuban
revolutionary process. Venezuelans have rejected the image of Cuba as a
nation disruptive of Venezuela’s internal affairs, and are more critical
of the posturing of the authors of such slanderous campaigns. They have
wanted people to reject my country and, in fact, the outcome has been
that more people are discovering the essential facts. Not only have
people been seeking out objective information on Cuba, but they have
also had contact with Cuban doctors and nurses, who provide medical
attention freely and in a cooperative spirit. They can see for
themselves the professionalism and enthusiastic dedication of Cuban
sports coaches, educationalists, technicians, and others. They are
receiving the benefits of vaccines, medicines, and hi-tech equipment
from the island. Venezuelans have received only affection, admiration,
solidarity, and support from the Cubans. That will be the case forever,
in line with our sacred principle of respect for Venezuela’s sovereignty
and self-determination.

I asked the owner of an opinion poll company for his view on
“Cubanization.” He had this to say: “When we ask people if they want
Venezuela to be like Cuba, most say no.” Given his unscientific
response, I inquired: “If you did a similar survey in Ghana, the
Philippines, the United States, Colombia, or Switzerland, would the
response vary?” I answered the question myself: “No people with history,
identity, and a love of what is theirs -- and Venezuela stands out for
these -- just like any self-confident human being, would allow
themselves to be negated and transformed into another country or
character. Venezuela could never be Cubanized -- such a thing only
happens in media campaigns -- just as Cuba could never be

Venezuela is and will be Venezuela, to the pride of Venezuelans. Cuba is
and always will be Cuba, to the pride and satisfaction of Cubans. The
singularity of each country, however, does not prevent us from
describing the multiple similarities and relationships between our two
communities. It must also be said that the overwhelming majority of
Latin Americans are less concerned about “Cubanization” than they are
about the subjection of their countries to the United States and
transnational capital.

Copyright © Ocean Press and German Sanchez

“The Cuban Revolution and Venezuela”
ISBN 1-920888-41-1
also available in Spanish

“Barrio Adentro and the Other Social Missions in the Bolivarian
ISBN 1-920888-40-3
also available in Spanish

“Cuba y Venezuela”
Spanish edition available September 2005
ISBN 1-920888-39-X

“Cuba and Venezuela”
English edition available February 2006

info at oceanbooks.com.au


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