Cuba Helped Venezuela Suppress Military Dissent

Reuters recently uncovered documents and other information disclosing how Cuba in 2008 began to assist its close ally Venezuela in suppressing dissent within the latter’s military. [1]

The precipitating event for this assistance was the December 2007 Venezuelan referendum that unexpectedly defeated a proposal that would have enabled President Hugo Chavez repeatedly to run for re-election. [2]

Cuba-Venezuela Agreements

In response to this referendum defeat, Chavez in early 2008 turned to his friend and ally, Fidel Castro, who said that Chavez needed to ensure absolute control of his country’s military and proposed what became in May 2008 two agreements between the two countries that allowed Cuba’s armed forces to:

  • Establish the Coordination and Liaison Group of the Republic of Cuba (GRUCE) of eight Cuban “military experts” to send Cuban advisors to inspect and train Venezuelan soldiers. This training included questioning soldiers about their political beliefs so that they could be the “tip of the spear” in the fight against “traitors.”
  • Review and restructure parts of the Venezuelan military and oversee its “assimilation” and “modernization.”
  • Provide in Havana up to three months of espionage training for groups of up to 40 Venezuelan intelligence agents to enable them to infiltrate and control the Venezuelan military.
  • Restructure the Venezuelan intelligence service’s mission from spying on foreign rivals to surveilling the country’s own soldiers, officers and even senior commanders and preparing the Venezuelan intelligence agents to “discover and confront the subversive work of the enemy.”

Implementation of the Agreements

The Venezuelan intelligence service now known as the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence, or DGCIM developed a system for strict surveillance of Venezuelan military personnel that included the following:

  • DGCIM agents, often dressed in black fatigues, were embedded in military barracks to compile dossiers on perceived troublemakers and report any signs of disloyalty.
  • The DGCIM also began tapping the phones of officers, including senior military commanders, to listen for conspiracies.
  • DGCIM agents interrogated suspected disloyal troops and officials, often aided by torture.
  • DGCIM arrested many soldiers and officials for disloyalty, and today 200 to 300 individuals are in detention.
  • Now there are at least 1,500 DGCIM agents.

The implementation of these agreements, say experts, has enabled the Venezuelan military to stand by Chavez’ successor, Nicolás Maduro, and help “him weather an economic meltdown, widespread hunger and crime, and the emigration of more than 4 million people – more than 10 percent of Venezuela’s population in recent years.” In short, that implementation has “proven crucial for Maduro’s survival as president.”

Conclusion

To date, I have not seen any Cuban or Venezuelan response to this Reuters article. Is there another side to this account?

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[1] Reuters, Special Report: How Cuba Taught Venezuela to Quash Military Dissent, N.Y. Times (Aug. 22, 2019).

[2] In February 2009, however, another referendum approved an amendment to the constitution that enabled Chavez to run for and commence to serve another presidential term starting in January 2013 that was shortened by his death in March 2013.

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dwkcommentaries

As a retired lawyer and adjunct law professor, Duane W. Krohnke has developed strong interests in U.S. and international law, politics and history. He also is a Christian and an active member of Minneapolis’ Westminster Presbyterian Church. His blog draws from these and other interests. He delights in the writing freedom of blogging that does not follow a preordained logical structure. The ex post facto logical organization of the posts and comments is set forth in the continually being revised “List of Posts and Comments–Topical” in the Pages section on the right side of the blog.

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