Juan Manuel Santos’ last poker game

Santos (and, with him, many Spanish-American rulers) can't understand that Raúl Castro is, as Fidel was, a communist tyrant, serious and committed, with a clear sense of his loyalties.

I read in La Patilla, a vibrant Venezuelan website, that Nicolás Maduro called Juan Manuel Santos a “traitor” for having gone to Cuba to recruit Raúl Castro into canceling the Constituent election that Maduro proposes to hold on July 30.

That seems to me excessive. If he had described him as “foolish” or “naive,” the adjective would have been more reasonable. Nicolás Maduro is a creation of Raúl Castro’s. He and Fidel hand-picked Maduro as a viceroy for the wealthy South American colony, “sold him” to a dying Hugo Chávez with the aid of Lula da Silva and will defend him to the last Venezuelan. Santos’ action was ridiculous.

Santos (and, with him, many Spanish-American rulers) can’t understand that Raúl Castro is, as Fidel was, a communist tyrant, serious and committed, with a clear sense of his loyalties. Raúl didn’t serve as a bridge to save the Colombians from violence, something that probably pleases him, but to rescue the FARC in their worst moment, after the successive deaths of Raúl Reyes, “Mono Jojoy” and Alfonso Cano. In an age of surgical air raids and deadly drones, it was a matter of time before the entire leadership was exterminated.

Raúl can be a polite and cheerful person with his interlocutors, but that means nothing. With that same attitude, hand in hand with Fidel, his brother and emotional father, he sent his friends Gen. Arnaldo Ochoa and Col. Tony de la Guardia before a firing squad. His priority is “the Revolution,” which demands that he remain in power at any cost and try to prop up his most obsequious suppliers — like Maduro, the first of them all.

I remember, with some astonishment, a meeting I had with Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari at his office at Los Pinos. I was joined by Juan Suárez-Rivas, then vice president of the Cuban Liberal Union. Next to Salinas sat his advisor José de Córdoba Montoya. Salinas told us that, not long before, he had brought together in the Mexican Caribbean Fidel Castro and presidents César Gaviria (Colombia) and Carlos Andrés Pérez (Venezuela) to try to help the Cuban dictator in his worst economic and social moment, after the disappearance of the USSR, the subsidies he received, and the symbolic burial of Marxism-Leninism.

To the surprise of Salinas, who is an educated and rational economist, Fidel Castro accused them of lending themselves to the CIA’s discouraging game, whereas what really was about to happen was the collapse of the western capitalist world. In his fiery communist militancy, the Cuban ruler was indifferent to reality. So is Raúl, even though he’s known for a long time that the system is a total disaster. The ideological blinders are just that: an exoneration of common sense and of the need to act coherently.

The most interesting thing was that none of them — neither Salinas nor Gaviria nor CAP — perceived the Comandante as what he objectively was: a communist adventurer intent on imposing, at the point of a gun, the regime in which he believed. An enemy of the republican ideas with which the Latin American nations had been forged, a man who had not hesitated to encourage the creation of guerrilla movements in half the planet, but especially in Colombia and Venezuela, not forgetting the African wars in Angola and Ethiopia, wars that involved half a million Cuban soldiers in the 15 years of battles and occupation.

Juan Manuel Santos is only the latest of the Latin American presidents who have fallen into the trap of believing that the Cuban rulers — including the Comandante, who died last November — were his friends. Raúl Castro listened to him and immediately ordered his disciple, Maduro, to resist on his knees.

The big mistake of any statesman is not to know how to identify his true enemies. Santos has made that mistake (which, of course, was not made by Rómulo Betancourt, Luis Alberto Lacalle, Washington Beltrán and a few other well-prepared leaders). They say Santos is a great poker player. He doesn’t act like one. Raúl and Maduro have a better hand. At least for now.

Published in Spanish by El Blog de Montaner on Saturday July 22nd, 2017.

*The opinions published herein are the sole responsibility of its author.*