Cuba is suffering an economic crisis so severe that the island nation has run out of toilet paper, according to recent news reports.
Another recent news report from Miami said the Cuban regime is getting about $5 billion a year from Caracas in oil, cash and kind – or, say, $25 billion since 2004.
We estimate, conservatively, that the Bolivarian organized crime groups entrenched within the government of President Hugo Chavez have skimmed about $100 billion of the almost $1 trillion of oil revenues Pdvsa has earned since 1999.
Chavez’s generosity to the Castro regime represents about one-quarter of the money stolen overall by the Bolivarian crime groups.
Revolutions are expensive, but at least Venezuelans still have access to toilet paper, for now anyway. But where’s all that money going in Cuba?
Obviously it’s not trickling down to the general Cuban populace, which currently is largely reduced to choosing between banana leaves and pages of Granma or Juventud Rebelde to wipe their butts.
Most likely, it’s going into the pockets of the Cuban revolution’s elites, starting with the Castro brothers and including its military chiefs, and the members of its defense and interior ministry state security and intelligence services.
These Cubans are not only among the elites of the revolution, but also run its state-sponsored/tolerated organized crime groups.
What’s most important from the perspective of a casual observer in Caracas is that these Cuban state organized crime groups have certainly set up shop in Venezuela at the invitation of President Hugo Chavez.
In previous posts, we have described how transnational organized crime groups have flourished inside the Bolivarian revolution, with current and former Cabinet officials actively leading groups which are snapping up banks and other financial assets with funds of opaque origin, or else engaged in criminal enterprises ranging from bribery and rigged public contracts, to money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and the like.
These Bolivarian organized crime groups – which also include current/former directors/members of Defense Ministry military intelligence (DGIM), Interior & Justice Ministry political police (Disip), the National Guard, armed forces and CICPC – have explicit strategic, political and business alliances with elements of the FARC and ELN engaged in drug trafficking, arms smuggling, money laundering and kidnapping.
They also have alliances with paramilitary and other Colombian organized crime groups engaged in smuggling drugs, gasoline and people.
The Bolivarian crime groups we have been tracking are deeply entrenched in the institutions of the Bolivarian revolution, inside the Chavez regime.
In addition to their control of the Bolivarian state’s key intelligence/counterintelligence and other law enforcement entities, these crime groups also control key Venezuelan government institutions like the Seniat tax authority and the banking system regulator Sudeban.
They also have influence at senior levels of entities like Onidex (passports and identity cards), and the national civil and mercantile registries.
They also have a lot of clout inside Pdvsa and the Central Bank.
Now they are consolidating control over the state-owned telcom system concentrated at CANTV, Movilnet and ABA, which reportedly have been entrusted to the “management talents” of former Disip director General Henry Rangel Silva.
It’s not a coincidence that the Cuban regime also has human assets in all of these Venezuelan state entities and enterprises.
The Cuban regime is present in Venezuela in very large numbers. At least 50,000 Cuban nationals are in Venezuela on various official missions. They blend into the Venezuelan populace very easily. And they are everywhere in the government, intelligence & security services, and the armed forces.
There are some interesting parallels or similarities between Bolivarian and Cuban organized crime groups:
*They flourish in the shadow of the Supreme Leader, both tolerated and even encouraged actively by El Supremo.
*Many of the Bolivarian and Cuban revolution organized crime groups are led by individuals with professional military backgrounds.
*The Cuban revolution is 40 years older than the Bolivarian revolution, but viewed objectively in real time, it’s fairly obvious that both “revolutions” are at the point where they could continue without their respective Comandantes.
*The supreme leaders of the Bolivarian and Cuban revolutions always disavow corruption, but have practiced corruption systematically to enrich themselves and their families. The Castro brothers are easily worth a combined $2 billion, and the Chavez Frias family in Venezuela has amassed wealth on a similar scale since Chavez became president in 1999.
*Venezuelan and Cuban military officers on active duty simultaneously serve their respective revolutions in senior positions as cabinet ministers, presidents of state-owned companies and other government entities, and also command/control all the key state intelligence/counterintelligence and law enforcement entities.
*Bolivarian and Cuban revolution organized crime groups have explicit strategic, political and criminal alliances with groups like the FARC and ELN, and other Colombian and Mexican organized crime groups.
*Military and law enforcement entities at the service of both revolutions are actively engaged in the drugs and arms smuggling trade, with very close ties particularly to the FARC.
*The Bolivarian revolution historically has been flush with cash, while the Cuban revolution is cash starved. But both revolutions are extraordinarily corrupt at all levels, with government officials always seeking to supplement their state salaries with “negocios.”
*The Bolivarian and Cuban revolutions preach a people’s mantra of socialist revolution and opposition to the United States, but the elites of both revolutions are avid practitioners of western capitalism and consumerism.
Cuba’s Interior Ministry has a security and intelligence machine estimated at over 20,000 officials. A substantial portion of those assets are now focused on Venezuela.
Cuba’s Direccion General de Inteligencia (DGI) is one of the best intelligence agencies in the world today.
The DGI was trained during the Cold War by the KGB, and by East Germany’s foreign intelligence service (Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung, or HVA) and its national police (Stasi).
A former colonel in the old Soviet Glavnoye Razvedovatel’noye Upravlenie (GRU) – the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff – who Caracas Gringo had the pleasure of working with a few years ago, says the DGI is one of the world’s top two or three most effective and dangerous intelligence services. “The DGI routinely runs the CIA and FBI in circles,” our friend says.
When the Soviet Union imploded, the KGB went into business and organized crime on a global scale. Miami became a hub of Russia organized crime in the 1990s, as did other US cities like New York and Los Angeles, and Canadian cities like Vancouver and Toronto. From Miami, Russian mafiya engaged in drug trafficking with Colombian and Mexican cartels, did drugs-for-weapons trades with the FARC, and even tried to sell a Soviet submarine to a Colombian drug cartel.
The DGI, says our amigo the former GRU colonel, is way better today than the KGB ever was.
And the DGI currently has a very substantial operational presence in Venezuela.
The DGI also has longtime relations with the FARC and ELN, and maintains ties/works with the armed forces and intelligence services of countries like Iran, Syria, North Korea, China, Vietnam, Belarus and Russia, among others
President Chavez and his Iraqi Baathist Interior & Justice Minister Tareck al Assaimi may deny it to hell and back, but the new Bolivarian National Intelligence & Counterintelligence Service and the new Bolivarian National Police which currently are in the process of being created are receiving substantial “technical advice,” “training support” and “technology transfer” from the DGI and from the Cuban Interior Ministry’s state security apparatus.
When Fidel and Raul Castro die, the DGI, the Interior Ministry’s state security apparatus, and the Cuban armed forces will be well-positioned to transition/expand their criminal enterprises in a post-Castro era.
The same could happen in Venezuela. President Chavez may believe he is indispensable for the Bolivarian “revolution.” But he is not. Chavismo without Chavez is not a myth.
It’s likely that if Chavez were to lose power unexpectedly there would be a violent and bloody convulsion in Venezuela.
But the Bolivarian organized crime groups entrenched within the regime have the power, thanks to strategic alliances with Venezuelan military leaders and their Cuban counterparts, to transition to a post-Chavez Venezuela in which the reality could easily be as bad or worse than it is now.
After all, as Jose Antonio Gil Yepes so famously put it in his doctoral dissertation many years ago, Venezuela is fundamentally “a society of accomplices.”