Poster of deceased Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez.
By Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco, GeoPoliticalMonitor.com
Much has been said about the behavior of Venezuela’s Bolivarian regime, its evolving character, its dramatic economic mismanagement, and the impact it has projected throughout the American hemisphere, including its bilateral ties to Cuba.
At a first glance, it would seem that – based on classical international relations scholarship referents when it comes to assessing national power such as population, territory, natural resources, and sheer economic size – Venezuela is the senior partner. Yet a crucial factor is missing to examine how the balance of power truly works in the dynamic framework of said bilateral relation.
Beyond the evident ideological, political, and diplomatic affinities between the rulers of both countries, the crucial factor that has been overlooked even by most experts is the strong presence and operational intensity of Cuban intelligence agencies in Venezuela. A different picture – one that challenges conventional wisdom – might emerge when one considers this angle.
Such a topic is important considering its deep geopolitical implications. It also raises pertinent questions: What if Venezuela is not necessarily the senior partner after all? The fact that it has not been addressed is perhaps a result of the intrinsically covert nature of intelligence activities. Moreover, both regimes are not precisely known for their compliance with basic transparency standards. In practice, that means relevant and reliable information about it is notoriously scarce. Nevertheless, the analysis of what open sources provide is useful to elaborate a more or less accurate – yet broad – situational assessment.
Profile of Cuban Intelligence Services
According to conventional wisdom, effective foreign intelligence capabilities are usually associated with great powers. The American CIA, the British MI6, the Israeli Mossad, the Russian SVR and the like often come to mind whenever the term is mentioned. Of course, such perception is hardly unjustified. In contrast, Cuba is certainly far from being a great power, yet the reach of its intelligence services must not be underestimated.
The Cuban Intelligence Directorate – known as G2 – was initially trained by the Soviet KGB and the Stasi, the East German Ministry of State Security, the strongest intelligence agencies of the Socialist bloc during the Cold War. Moreover, the resilience that has played a key role in the survival of the Cuban communist regime for six decades can be at least partially attributed to its intelligence services’ abilities to monitor internal dissent, consolidate political rule, and keep at bay external rivals. It is even said that Fidel Castro himself was the target of hundreds of unsuccessful assassination attempts.
It is known that the Cuban intelligence community recruits promising college students, especially from social science programs. Its training and methods are based on the development of professionalism rather than improvisation, unlike other Latin American intelligence agencies. Furthermore, a heavy ideological ingredient promotes a strong morale.
Another aspect worth emphasizing is that Cuban intelligence has not just assumed a defensive position. Actually, it has been remarkably active abroad for decades. For instance, it supported several Marxist insurgencies in Central and South America during the Cold War. It has also managed to infiltrate US national security agencies and Cuban American political groups hostile to Havana’s socialist regime.
Last but not least, Cuban intelligence supported the military involvement of the country’s armed forces in extra-regional operational theatres such as Angola, Vietnam, and even the Middle East during the Yom Kippur War.
In short, despite Cuba’s structural limitations – including its precarious economy – the country’s intelligence services represent a big asset in terms of power projection. In effect, they need to be understood as a substantial force multiplier.
Article continues here: Cubans in Venezuela