A Venezuelan general who participated in a failed coup d’etat alongside Hugo Chávez in 1992 published a video this week urging soldiers to rise up against dictator Nicolás Maduro and suggested the communist government in Cuba killed Chávez to install Maduro as their puppet.
General Ramón Rangel says in a video posted by his attorney to social media Sunday – and hitting major Spanish-language publications on Monday – that he lived in Cuba for six years supervising a “mixed enterprise” project that Chávez established with the Castro regime on the island. Living there made it clear to him, he says, that the oligarchy presiding over Cuba was sucking its resources dry and leaving the people to suffer.
He goes on to accuse the Castro regime of exporting its policies to Venezuela with the intent of using its resources to enrich the Castro family and its hangers-on even more than their repression in Cuba had.
“Who says it wasn’t them [the Cuban communist regime] who killed Commander Chávez to get him out of the way and leave [the leadership of Venezuela] open to the occupation of anyone who would … serve to send their riches to Cuba – not to the Cuban people, but to continue contributing to the enrichment of the same people?” Rangel asks in the video. Chávez died in 2013 of what the Venezuelan government said was advanced cancer in Havana, where he had gone for treatment.
Rangel says that he lived in Cuba for six years, which helped him “grasp the reality of all that the Cuban people live, the Cuban people who have been subjected to the yoke of the Castro-communist dictatorship for over 60 years.”
“They live in conditions of poverty that they blame on the embargo and it is false,” he says of the Cubans. “They have created a cocoon for those at the top of the Castro communist regime that does not allow the resources of the country, which are many, to trickle down to the Cuban state.”
Rangel goes on to accuse the Castro regime of using “psychoterror tactics” in Cuba “similar to what they are doing to Venezuela … they have planted in us all that psychoterror that has caused fear of participation in seeking the change we need in the people and the military.”
Rangel concludes urging Venezuelan soldiers to, like him, publicly renounce Maduro, as not doing so is a betrayal to the Venezuelan people. He cites Article 328 of the Venezuelan constitution – which he holds in the video – as the legal basis for them to no longer take orders from the dictator.
“In executing its functions, [the military] is at the exclusive service of the Nation at in no circumstances at that of any person or political faction,” the article reads. As Maduro’s orders are adverse to the interests of the Nation, Rangel argues, obeying him is treason as per this article.
Rangel is far from a conservative, having served decades under Chávez, the architect of modern socialist Venezuela. He helped Chávez attempt a coup against then-President Carlos Andrés Pérez, which failed, and became part of the government when Chávez won the presidential election in 1999 despite his anti-democratic record.
The Pan-American Post contends that the significance of Rangel’s proclamation is that, unlike many who have called to remove Maduro, he specifically calls for the removal of Cuban agents in the country.
“The meaning of the pronouncement of the Division General Ramón Rangel is very important; he knows about the Caracas-Havana business plot, the secrets of the treatment of Chavez’s illness and death in Cuba, and the strategy that Chavismo is taking in its rupture with Maduro,” Rocío San Miguel, Rangel’s attorney, said following the video’s publication.
Maduro is heavily dependent on Cuban regime agents to control the country. According to a defecting Venezuelan soldier, Maduro has imported nearly 100,000 Cuban government soldiers and other officers to help repress political dissidents, ship Venezuela’s crude oil to Cuba, distribute food and medical supplies only to Maduro supporters, and torture opposition leaders in political prisons. Those who have survived being prisoners of conscience have repeatedly stated that those torturing them while inmates possess distinct Cuban accents, easily identifiable to any fluent Spanish speaker.
Maduro’s reliance on the Cubans has been so pervasive and distrust of his own soldiers so great that reports have surfaced for years claiming that he only uses Cuban soldiers in his personal protection units and “only trusts the Cubans,” a marked departure from his appearances jogging alongside Venezuelan soldiers in propaganda videos.
Cuba has denied having any military presence in Venezuela, claiming that the only Cuban nationals in the country are slave doctors. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla called American National Security Advisor John Bolton a “pathological liar” this month for advising Cuba to remove its troops from Venezuela.
Maduro retains control of much of the Venezuelan military despite not being the country’s legal head of state since January, when the country’s National Assembly appointed Juan Guaidó to be the nation’s president. Guaidó announced in late April that he had finally secured support from the nation’s military and called for an uprising at all the nation’s military bases, but Maduro sent his forces into crowds of protesters to repress them and continues to control the military. Reports from inside suggest that many soldiers are confused, unsure of whether to take orders from their immediate superiors as it is not clear who is taking orders from Maduro and who is listening to Guaidó.