Thursday, December 2, 2010

Wikileaks: Indispensable Fidel

In early August 2006, Fidel Castro had just taken ill and delegated his executive powers. President Bush declared that an “effort to build a transitional government” was under way in Cuba and that he would “take note of those, in the current Cuban regime, who obstruct your desire for a free Cuba.” The month before, the Administration had issued the second part of its Cuba plan – here’s the cover page of the classified part of that plan, with a section promoting “TRANSITION NOT SUCCESSION.”

In that spirit, the U.S. Embassy in Caracas wrote to the State Department on August 10, 2006 to request instructions to tell Hugo Chavez that the United States want him to keep his nose out of Cuba’s affairs: “Embassy believes this would be an apt moment to warn the BRV [the Chavez government] against intervening in Cuba during its transition.”

The bulk of the analytical cable, however, is about the Cuba-Venezuela relationship and the possible impact of Fidel Castro’s death. The Embassy saw particular value in “Castro’s steady hand” during crises in Caracas and recounted cases where his interventions literally saved Chavez:

“[Chavez’s] military colleagues were willing to fight on in 1992 when he was holed up in the Military Museum, but he surrendered them all. In 2002, a weepy Chavez was reportedly ready to sign the letter of resignation and flee to Cuba. Castro has proved his worth to Chavez as a proxy crisis manager. It was Castro who told Chavez to fight on in 2002, and it was Castro who worked the phones to reassemble a pro-Chavez consensus in the armed forces. In 2004, as the recall referendum approached, it was Castro who conceived and executed the "misiones" plan to buck up Chavez' popularity. In Cuba, from the Cuban Missile Crisis to Mariel to the Maleconazo to the Special Period, Fidel Castro has proven himself to be a superb crisis manager. Should Chavez confront a thorny crisis, especially a domestic crisis, he may suffer significantly from the loss of Castro's steady hand at his back. This, in turn, could be an advantage for us in our efforts to urge a return to full democracy in Venezuela.”

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