Fidel Castro called on the late President Hugo Chávez to stop holding elections, according to a recording of a telephone conversation between a pro-government TV host and a senior Cuban intelligence officer. The TV anchorman agrees with the former Cuban dictator that elections “can bring our revolution down,” according to the tape released by Venezuela’s opposition, which also reveals infighting and corruption within the ruling elite.
During the conversation between Mario Silva (right) , a hardcore government supporter and TV anchorman, and Aramis Palacios, a lieutenant colonel with Cuba’s G2 intelligence agency, El Universal reports:
Silva said: “Speaking of devaluation, the problem is the flight of capital in some enterprises owned by (Congress Speaker) Diosdado Cabello.” The Congress Speaker might “corrupt, together with the ’85 generation” the army.” He added that inside the Venezuelan army “middle-level cadres hate, despise Diosdado’s attitude;” therefore, “not everything is lost.”
Silva commented that President Nicolás Maduro and his partner Cilia Flores skipped a meeting with Defense Minister Diego Molero, who seemingly tried to talk about a “serious internal situation” inside the army caused by rumors going around. Furthermore, he said that the practice of “1 per 10″ ahead of the presidential election of April 14 “did not work.”
“Jorge Rodríguez (the leader of President Nicolás Maduro’s campaign team and Caracas mayor) called to caution me against what I could say, because they could kick the campaign down in a couple of days,” he added.
Silva said that once Fidel Castro lamented that late President Hugo Chávez did not finish elections off. “We put ourselves the Sword of Damocles when saying that the CNE (National Electoral Council) is impregnable. How could I say then that it was hacked?”
“Because people make mistakes and I fully agree with it. Elections here as they stand right now, they can blow us and can bring our revolution down.”
Opposition lawmakers didn’t say where they obtained the recording,
In the alleged conversation, a male voice identified by the opposition as Mr. Silva portrays a sense of crisis in the government of President Nicolás Maduro, who succeeded the late Hugo Chávez. Mr Maduro narrowly won April elections against the opposition and is struggling to cope with growing economic problems, including shortages and inflation.
“This is going to fuel the tension and uncertainty in the country,” said Michael Shifter, president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a think-tank in Washington, D.C.
The exposé came as the regime signaled its intent to crack down on its critics.
“We have identified and have the id numbers of the 900,000 people who did not vote for me,” Maduro reportedly warned.
He recording confirms long-suspected tensions within the regime, notably between Maduro and the armed forces.
According to Silva, Maduro has managed to alienate Diego Molero, the country’s defense minister, whom Silva describes as an “operator” and a “commando.” The strained relationship resulted in rumors circulating in Caracas that Molero was about to launch a coup attempt, leading Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, to dispatch Silva via intermediaries to find out if the rumors were true. They were not.
Despite the explosive nature of the conversation between Silva and Palacios — never mind the crazy fact that he is having in-depth conversations with Cuban intelligence agents in the first place — it is far from clear what repercussions this recording will have on the ground in Venezuela.
Writing at Caracas Chronicles, Juan Nagel says the recording may strip some of the revolutionary veneer off Maduro:
The important thing to keep in mind is that we are not the target audience for this recording. Yes, we all knew that Cabello was a crook, Maduro a nincompoop, Silva a Marxist Cuban mole, Rangel an evil power broker, and Flores a scheming Lady Macbeth. But the important thing is that rank-and-file chavistas … didn’t. Up until now, they have been immune from these facts because of the messenger.
Maduro’s foreign minister, Elias Jaua, announced last weekend that the regime wants to repair diplomatic relations with the United States. But there are at least three good reasons why Washington shouldn’t do so, writes analyst David Cohen:
First, Venezuela last month incarcerated an American filmmaker, Timothy Hallet Tracy, on fabricated charges of stoking the violence which accompanied opposition accusations of fraud against Maduro, following his election victory by a margin of less than two points. Tracy’s arrest was personally ordered by Maduro, who insists that he is a spy, while the State Department maintains that he is a private citizen….
Reason number two: sending an ambassador to Caracas would amount to a complete reversal of the American decision not to recognize the results of the April 14 election. ….Additionally, a climbdown by the U.S. would silence the only significant objection to the election process voiced within the international community. Most of Latin America has already acquiesced to Maduro’s triumph, including countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile, for whom military rule of the sort that now prevails in Venezuela–Maduro uses the sinister term “political-military command”–is a recent memory. There is nothing to be gained from the U.S. joining in with this chorus of hypocrisy.
Finally: given the degree of control the Cuban regime exercises over Maduro, one might reasonably wonder whether diplomatic relations are really being restored with Havana, and not Caracas. Venezuelans have spent much of today glued to their TV screens after the opposition released an audio recording of a conversation between Mario Silva, a prominent television anchor and incorrigible chavista, and Aramis Palacios, a senior official of the G2, Cuba’s secret police. As far as the opposition is concerned, the exchange between the two men amounts to satisfactory confirmation that Cuba is the real power behind Maduro’s throne.
The recording validates earlier revelations by a former confidante of Chavez, Maj. Gen. Antonio Rivero, that more than 200,000 Cubans arrived in Venezuela following Chavez’s assumption of power in 1999, says Cohen.
“Among the projects they launched was the “Strategic Cooperation Team,” which involved a wholesale revision of Venezuela’s military doctrine under the watchful eye of a Cuban commander,” he writes.
Last week, international media outlets got word of Venezuela’s toilet paper shortage and plan to import 50 million toilet paper rolls before supermarkets were totally wiped clean. This is a major setback for Chávez’s successor, who has carried out Chávez’s tradition of controlling markets and setting rigid price controls.
Scarcity is nothing new to Venezuelans, as residents are accustomed to scarcities of milk, sugar, and chicken. The following video went viral in early 2013, showing Venezuelans fighting at a grocery store’s meat counter over chicken.