Washington can play the waiting game with Havana and win

Washington can play the waiting game with Havana and win


By Elaine Mendus

Earlier this month, it was discovered that the United States government funded and built a Twitter clone to try to stir dissent in Cuba. The project, “ZunZuneo” held, at its height, 40,000 subscribers. The U.S. government hoped that the project would eventually reach a ‘critical mass’, whereupon it could begin disseminating propaganda with the hope of sparking anti-government feelings, actions, or at least a situation that would “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society.”

It is yet another attempt by the U.S. government to destabilize a government for no reason, and it is unnecessary. Historical precedents suggest that revolutionary governments enter periods of instability, or collapse after the death of a strong leader. This can be seen within the former Soviet Union, as well as the ongoing situation in Venezuela

The Soviet Union was born in 1917 after two violent revolutions against the Tsarist government. The Union intended to be a state where all individuals were equal, worked for the common good, and followed Marxist philosophy. The system wasn’t built as a one-person dictatorship, with a legislative body, as well as a constitution that experienced a number of revisions and reconstructions. That said, leaders ended up in power for long periods of time, and when one died, there was almost always a period of instability.

When Lenin died in 1924, a power struggle took place between the high-ranking party officials. The struggle for power lasted until 1934 – when Joseph Stalin finally cemented his place as head of the party, and state, after exiling and purging the other six competitors. A similar, less bloody period of instability followed after Stalin died in 1953.  The leaders after Stalin however were never entirely secure. Nikita Khrushchev would be ousted from power in 1964; Leonid Brezhnev’s death would be followed by a period of internal turmoil, where all of his successors died in rapid succession, until Mikhail Gorbachev took over. Under Gorbachev, the entire country collapsed.

What can be learned from the Soviet situation is that stability in revolutionary governments with a strong executive branch suffers from intense turmoil. It was not a Soviet phenomenon, either, as is visible in Venezuela.

Nicolás Maduro, successor to Hugo Chávez, has faced a situation not unlike that of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev – a rising level of discontent with the current situation. Maduro entered office to rising inflation, food shortages, inconsistent electricity output, and problems with the state-ran oil industry; as well as rising violence. To the outsiders, though, these problems were not visible, and within the nation, the populist leadership of Hugo Chávez was able to stifle dissent and keep things under wraps, by constantly harking back to the legacy of Simón Bolívar, as well as solidarity toward other socialist governments in Latin America.

The same has not been true for Maduro. Riots have emerged in 2014 over a variety of issues. Food is scarce as well – calling to mind images of the Soviet Union in our culture. Long lines for bread in the cold streets of Moscow are now replaced with bread lines in Caracas. Whether or not Maduro can re-gain control of the country and end the riots is entirely up in the air. Spain has recently stopped shipping riot equipment to Venezuela. Unlike the Soviet Union, a country with locally produced armaments, this poses the question of whether the government has the resources to quell the situation.

That said, the situation the 1980s in the Soviet Union, and the situation in Venezuela resulted from a number of things. There was no single issue that toppled the Soviet Union, and no single issue for the Caracas riots. Periods of transition between leaders, no matter how well received by the people, tended to exacerbate social issues and bring about political turmoil. The same sort of thing is likely to happen as Fidel and Raúl Castro die off.  Social issues will rise up and force some sort of change in the Caribbean, and America does not need to waste taxpayer dollars, or stir further distrust with the Cuban people that it is so desperate to baptize in American style consumerism.