AFTER THE BERLIN WALL FELL and the Soviet Union collapsed, U.S. policy toward Latin America degenerated into a condition of smug complacency and benign neglect. The policy apparently stemmed from the assumption that Leninist-style socialism had failed and that democratic capitalism had permanently prevailed as the Latin American system of choice, able to come into full bloom without further nurturing. This was naïve and, for a nation that depends in large part on Andean Ridge oil to fuel its economy, also foolhardy and dangerous.
U.S. complacency went hand-in-hand with the apparent assumption that Cuba's Fidel Castro had shriveled into permanent irrelevance, having devolved into a mere anachronism of the cold war, an obsolete curiosity and relic of failed Socialism on the junk heap of history. Unfortunately, to the unpleasant surprise of many in the U.S. government, it is now quite apparent that Castro was cleverer than anyone had given him credit for. Not only has he survived the widespread collapse of global communism to become the virtual ideological world leader of what remains of the communist faithful, but he has emerged as the leading ideological leader in the Western Hemisphere. As such, he plays an increasingly dominant shaping role in hemispheric politics, aided and abetted in large measure by continuing U.S. indifference to the region. This is evidenced by resurgent regional interest in his methods for taking power and for governing, both of which are being emulated and promoted to ever wider and more sympathetic audiences as alternatives to "democratic capitalism" linked to "international trade agreements." The most notable current champions of Castroism are Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez and Bolivia's President Evo Morales.
Nevertheless, in the face of clear evidence that fledgling democracies in Latin America are foundering on the rocks of entrenched oligarchies, enduring class stratification, widespread official corruption, and persistent, widespread poverty, U.S. policy continues, as it has over the last 15 years, tepidly hoping for the best. Meanwhile, disillusioned with democratic capitalism as a solution to Latin America's social and economic problems, Chávez, Morales, and other prominent Latin leaders are closely studying how to incorporate major elements of Castro's ideology and methods for governing in their own nations. Today, they are actively seeking to promote alternative forms of socioeconomic and political systems that they assert will be better suited to Latin American culture and ethnic "temperament" than democratic capitalism. As a result, much of what Chávez is now doing, and Morales has openly committed to do, mirrors the measures Castro took to consolidate control not only over the government of Cuba, but over the hearts, minds, and souls of the people.
As a former member of Castro's Cuban government apparatus charged with implementing measures of social and political control in the aftermath of Castro's takeover, my purpose here is to broadly outline what it takes to control populations in general, with special emphasis on the principles and measures which were implemented by Castro to consolidate control over the Cuban people, and which he still uses today to control every aspect of Cuban life. It is hoped that highlighting these will help alert U.S. policymakers and military leaders to the measures pro-Castro, anti-American leaders like Chávez and Morales can be expected to employ on the Andean Ridge in their attempts to implement similar social, political and economic programs of social and political control.
A Reality of Governance
Setting aside Utopian egalitarianism governed by wishful thinking, the cold hard facts of life are that the art of politics in some way hinges to a lesser or greater degree on employing effective measures to guide, influence, and control populations. As a result, control over people as a legitimate objective of political practice has been the subject of multiple theoretic and philosophical studies throughout history. …