The Cubazuela Problem

Lt. Col. Geoffrey Demarest, JD, PhD, U.S. Army, Retired

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Former Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez (left) and former Cuban President Fidel Castro

For years, a form of irregular war has been underway in the Western Hemisphere.1 The war’s initiators refer to their method as a “combination of all means of struggle,” a long-in-the-tooth expression of Marxist-Leninist provenance.2 In the case of this war, “all means” includes violent applications of power by regular, guerrilla, paramilitary, clandestine, and surrogate forces orchestrated over an extended period of time and geographic expanse. The struggle’s lead strategists also inspire and sustain sophisticated jurisprudential, diplomatic, informational, and economic operations. We would be inaccurate to suppose these latter, nonviolent enterprises support the former, or vice versa. The two categories of effort, violent and nonviolent, form a fluid whole intended to take, increase, and concentrate power in the proponents’ organizations. The identity of those organizations is not a mystery. They are armed political parties that, among other features, loudly announce themselves as anti-United States in tone and message, and behave accordingly.3 Prominent in the mix are the Partido Comunista de Cuba (Communist Party of Cuba, or PCC) and the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV). These Marxism-inspired parties and their allies self-style as “Bolivarian.” The PCC/PSUV couple has dispossessed so many persons who call themselves Venezuelans that Venezuela itself retains little meaning as a collective political identity. It is nevertheless a unique place with immense potential wealth from natural resource exploitation, a long if interrupted tradition of democracy, and an educated population with a tenaciously hopeful attitude.

Venezuelans can justifiably claim a tight cultural weave with both South and North America. Misery in their country did not just happen; identifiable persons caused it, imposed it, and will continue to do so as long as they can maintain their impunity and ability to grant impunity to their followers and agents. All this considered, Venezuelans opposed to domination by the Bolivarians can retake their country and turn things around, but not without outside help.

Figure 1. The Circum-Caribbean

In this article, we look briefly at what the Bolivarians have done and consider how action or inaction against the Bolivarians matters. The single environmental condition most conducive to the preservation and expansion of Bolivarian impunity is the near-total absence of any effective physical pursuit. So long as there is no physical threat to Bolivarian leaders, there is no reasonable likelihood that their dominance and abuse of power will ameliorate. Therefore, any action proposed to restore Venezuela as a liberal republic will necessarily include some amount of physical coercion. Venezuela, however, is not the geographic locus of the strategic mens rea of the region’s aggressive Marxism—Cuba is. Venezuelan territory is but one of the venues and prizes in the war, the future of the entire region perhaps inextricably connected to its fate. Colombian territory, however, may be the geographic fulcrum. (See figure 1; the principle actors and primary lines of communication in the irregular war unfolding in the Circum-Caribbean are located within this extent.)4 Political power in Colombia is on the precipice of sliding toward Bolivarian domination, and avoiding that domination may be the key to many Venezuelans’ material salvation.5


Generalized societal failure continues to deepen in Venezuela such that any detailing of worrisome events would be unimpressive by the time this article is read.6 By the end of September 2017, however, a political stasis was reached, as all potential for electoral or legislative change or opposition to the government had been effectively suppressed.7

Notably, Venezuela’s collapse is not of recent origin; things have been on a steep, steady slide for years, and for some time now, the country has excelled in several dubious categories. Its government runs the least efficient oil company in the world.8 That same government is a major illegal narcotics trafficker.9 “Since 2005, the U.S. government has determined annually that Venezuela’s Bolivarian government has ‘failed demonstrably’ to adhere to its obligations under international counternarcotics agreements and to take certain counternarcotics measures.”10 It has had a miserable record of human rights, including transnational trafficking in humans. “The government of Venezuela does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.”11 It has been a direct supporter of the Colombian Ejército de Liberación Nacional (National Liberation Army, or ELN) and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC), both of which are on the U.S. State Department list of terrorist organizations.12 It became the worst economic performer in the hemisphere years ago and now vies for worst in the world.13 “A country that was once the richest in Latin America is now a basket case, and the Bolivarians are to blame.”14

On the 2016 Corruption Perception Index, it rated 166th of 176 countries and worst in the hemisphere.15 At some point, being worst in so many ways has to be viewed as some kind of accomplishment. It is unmistakably a Bolivarian accomplishment, and the mens rea of that accomplishment is as much Cuban as it is Venezuelan.16

R. Evan Ellis, a scholar at the U.S. Army War College, asserted that the situation can be understood as “the capture and systematic looting of a state, achieved by first capturing its institutions through mass mobilization and bureaucratic machinations, then increasing the control of the state through military force.”17 Whatever the particular sequence of efforts, the capturing and looting of a central government apparatus for the purpose of increasing the power of a party faction is not a unique or unprecedented formula in the region. Rather, it is a well-understood rubric that has been and is being tried in numerous countries, and has succeeded in several.18 The overtaking of Cuban central government functions by Marxist revolutionaries, who in 1965 would form the PCC, is the region’s exemplar. Venezuelan revolutionary Douglas Bravo was an admirer of the Cuban Marxist method and a central figure in failed Venezuelan guerrilla attempts in the 1960s and 1970s. He was also an early, influential mentor of then Lt. Hugo Chávez. “The trick, Bravo and others believed, was to gain power by force, then take on a populist disguise to present your uprising as the will of the masses.”19

The PCC, however, not only served up the takeover model, but it also has been serving up takeovers. In his 2008 The Cuba Wars, author Daniel Erikson relates an observation made to him by Teodoro Petkoff, a well-known Venezuelan politician, journalist, and former communist guerrilla. “Hugo Chávez adores Fidel Castro,” Petkoff said. “And for Fidel Castro, who truly cares for nobody, he saw Chávez as naïve, and he threw a lasso around him and roped him in. … I believe that this whole path that the Venezuelan state is traveling—of being authoritarian, autocratic, and militaristic—comes from Fidel.”20

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro (<i>left</i>) listens to then Cuban President Raul Castro

In a recent editorial, Mary Anastasia O’Grady reminded her readers of the complete takeover by Cuban intelligence of the Venezuelan national identity papers and passports office in 2005.21 That takeover was a significant milestone in structural influence by the Cuban Communist Party, an influence that Fidel Castro had sought for decades. Perhaps Castro had not captured the loyalties of the earlier generation of Venezuelan Marxists like Douglas Bravo.22 Nevertheless, as early as the late 1980s, Cuban communist operatives were laying organizational foundations that led to the creation and empowerment of the notorious motorcycle colectivos that today serve (if loosely) as one column of coercive control for both the Cuban and Venezuelan parties.23

Today, the firmament of pro-socialist political parties in Venezuela presents some organizational and ideological differentiation. In a way, however, it is differentiation without difference. Party leaders who would call themselves “Chavists” are likely also to consider themselves “Castroists,” that is, adherents to the principles and guidance of the Cuban Revolution, which Cuban and Venezuelan party leaders adaptively recode as the Bolivarian Revolution. Most of those who tag themselves Bolivarians (Castroists, Chavists, and Marxists) follow with evident discipline the policies and messaging of the PCC and of its Venezuelan partner, the PSUV.

It would be imprudent to allow our hopes to exaggerate the potential consequence of disagreements within the Castroist-Chavist-Marxist revolutionary movement, including resistance to Nicolás Maduro’s presidency.24 Meanwhile, disagreements within what briefly surfaced as an opposition electoral coalition called the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (Democratic Unity Table, or MUD) did prove consequential.25 Disillusionment and lost resolve reflected ideological heterogeneity within that coalition. Leaders of Chavist socialist parties in the MUD showed their willingness to negotiate with and ultimately to submit to the continuing dictate of the PSUV and PCC.26 In any case, the PCC is the locus of mens rea for a lion’s share of the organized violence in the region over the past few decades. It is not a lone hierarchal peak nor is it able to discipline all components of the region’s Marxism-inspired revolutionary movement, but it is and has been the author, motivator, and guide for much of the “struggle” and especially that part of the struggle causing widespread Venezuelan woe. While being careful to identify the PCC and PSUV as principal organizational culprits, we should be careful to avoid wishful thinking as to the role of the regular armed forces in Venezuela. Emblematically, they are the “Bolivarian” National Armed Forces, not the “Venezuelan” Armed Forces. From the widow of Marxist writer Régis Debray,

>Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino speaks 1 August 2017 during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela.

What I see is that they [the Venezuelan armed forces] are a copy of the Cuban institutions. For example, ceding to the officers the most important Venezuelan economic portfolio, which is the mining sector, is exactly what they have done in Cuba. That is to say, what little economy exists in Cuba, tourism, that is in the hands of the armed forces. Cuba is a military dictatorship and a militarized society.27

Positive geopolitical change in Venezuela does not hinge on decisions of the armed forces there. What the formal military in Venezuela does or does not do is not the crux of the matter. From what we can see, the armed forces hierarchy is in solidarity with the PCC and PSUV. Together they have cemented a common resolve; they are Bolivarian Marxists. That is not to say that morale within the Bolivarian military rank-and-file is sound, or that even mid-ranking officers are all decidedly loyal to the high command or to party leaders. Numerous reports indicate the opposite.28 Those reports of disaffection might provide reason for some to entertain various kinds of operations that, in the right context, might weaken the Bolivarian Armed Forces. Troop level disaffection may lead to acts of indiscipline. Frustration regarding economic mismanagement and its consequences may even lead to clashes among official armed institutions. Nevertheless, the country’s fate is unlikely to be determined because of a military mutiny.

Available public evidence provides little justification to hope for an anti-Bolivarian uprising within the military that would steer Venezuelan society away from the single-party totalitarian path it is on.29 For one thing, there are several distinct armed organizations that protect the Bolivarian hierarchy and serve to counterbalance each other. These include the Bolivarian National Guard, Bolivarian National Police, Bolivarian National Armed Forces, Cuban advisory units (Ministry of Intelligence), the Colectivos (described elsewhere herein), the Colombian FARC, the Colombian ELN, and armed civilian militias.30 Still, many Venezuelans became aware of and displeased with Cuban presence and political domination years ago.31

International Organizations and Parties

Beyond party structures inside Venezuela, international alliances made by the PCC and PSUV are in good measure reflected in the list of political parties that are members of the FSP.32 (Understandably, the São Paulo Forum [FSP] enthusiastically supported dialog between the Maduro administration and the MUD.)33 Fidel Castro and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva founded the FSP in the early 1990s to address the survival of the hemisphere’s revolutionary parties in the wake of the Soviet demise. Some FSP parties, including those to later comprise the PSUV, took control of central government apparatuses. As in Venezuela, several of the region’s FSP parties achieved government takeovers, in part by democratic electoral competition.


While we tend to describe the meetings of international organizations (IOs) according to country participations (as Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, etc.) the more revealing participatory categorization would be by political party nuclei. In 2004, Castro and Chávez launched the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, or ALBA), a regional organization with an ostensible economic purpose of countering the U.S.-inspired Free Trade Area of America. ALBA centers on the five parties most closely aligned ideologically.34 Beside the PCC and PSUV, they include the Sandinista National Liberation Front (Nicaragua), Movement to Socialism (Bolivia), and the Country Alliance (Ecuador).35 After the creation of ALBA, Cuban and Venezuelan party leaders acted as midwives to a number of other regional organizations, the overlap of which is shown by the Euler diagram in figure 2.36 The table provides a guide to the flags, correlated to FSP parties.37

Note in figure 2 the marginalization of the United States and Canada, which was a columnar purpose of the Bolivarians’ multifaceted organizational effort. Not visible is the ubiquitous membership participation of FSP party leaders. A simple review of party affiliations in the curricula of individual participants at meetings of ALBA or the Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, or CELAC) will show that the FSP is heavily represented.

Perhaps the most ambitious regional contraption was the Unión de Naciones Suramericanas (Union of South American Nations, or UNASUR).38 Due greatly to the pro-Bolivarian content of its membership, UNASUR has been of little weight in the face of the Venezuela matter, even with its new president (Mauricio Macri, president of Argentina), who is decidedly anti-Bolivarian.39


The FSP parties made great advances in stealing money using central government apparatuses. Party control of a country’s central government is lucrative in so many ways: printing money, selling passports, building sinecures in myriad IOs, borrowing money, exchanging money, taxing commodity transport, etc. A recent, astoundingly efficient example has a nickname, “Odebrecht.”40 Odebrecht is a Brazilian construction conglomerate at the heart of what is arguably the biggest commercial corruption scheme in Latin American history. Fraudulent financial flows (created from overbidding, underperforming, overpaying, kickbacks, and so forth) apparently went preferentially to member parties of the FSP. Max Brooks, author of World War Z, suggested that what was going on in Venezuela might usefully be compared to what was going on in Syria. He offered an outline for a response, one that to this analyst could not have been farther from optimal. He suggested we enlist the assistance of CELAC and UNASUR. In other words, his advice is that we go to the perpetrators to implore them to please be gentle.41 CELAC and UNASUR are mechanisms of the parties in the FSP. Energetic, effective anti-Bolivarian effort in the irregular war in the region cannot be planned around an expectation of positive multilateral assistance from regional IOs, and especially not these.

The Organization of American States (OAS), too, has been ineffectual as an ameliorating influence on the situation in Venezuela, in great measure because of the ALBA block of countries. In an otherwise insightful article, Gustavo Coronel makes the commonplace assertion that military action, were such to be taken against the Bolivarians, would need to be done in concert with the OAS or the United Nations.42 According to Coronel, failure to do so would be counterproductive. His is a misleading warning in at least two ways. First, given the fluid political tendencies of their staffs and representatives, almost any action taken against the Bolivarians by way of those institutions is likely to be ineffective, if not counterproductive. Second, powerful alliances and coalitions can be built outside any of the other extant IOs.43

Colombian Politics

What will happen in Venezuela is intimately, inseparably joined to what is going on politically in Colombia. Indeed, the near-term outcomes of party politics in Colombia may be more important to the futures of the majority of Venezuelans than what is now occurring inside Venezuela. No strategy seeking a durable improvement of things Venezuelan can be reasonably designed without attention to Colombia. For one thing, the financial health of the Bolivarian hierarchies appears to depend on contraband gold, cocaine, emeralds, coltan, and other commodities besides hydrocarbons. The smuggling routes over which the movement of these commodities depends span across several countries, with many of the routes originating in Colombia. Control of these routes appears to be a central responsibility of select elements within the panoply of armed organizations belonging to the Bolivarian enterprise.44

In September 2016, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos declared to an audience at the United Nations that the war against the FARC was officially over.45 He made another declaration to the end of the FARC war in mid-August 2017.46 To some Colombians, their president’s repeated pronouncements of the end of the war are off-putting, considering that he almost simultaneously declared war against corruption, illegal mining, organized crime, and other behaviors that together fairly describe the modus operandi of the FARC and ELN.47 Many Colombians, perhaps a majority, fear that Santos and his administration surrendered far too much power to the same people who are abusing power in Venezuela—if not to the self-same personalities, at least to a group of their close allies with shared heroes, money flows, sanctuaries, arguments, and ruthless behaviors.48 In other words, there exists within Colombia a reasoned premonition that the country has entered a path toward the economic underperformance, foreign dependence, criminality, and abuse of liberty that the PCC imposed in Cuba and the PSUV is imposing in Venezuela. That reasoning is in part based on the observed consolidation by Bolivarian elements of control over smuggling routes.49

The process of negotiation between the FARC and the Santos administration was itself an ominous indicator that the FARC might attain more power through the negotiations than it had achieved in decades of war. That process included welcoming the PCC as host and arbiter, and the PSUV as a good-will observer (in their guises as constructive neighboring governments). The FARC, ELN, PCC, and PSUV are on the same team. Despite the Santos administration’s public fanfare of total FARC disarmament, many in Colombia see that disarmament as a dubious supposition.50 The FARC leadership did not adjust its ideological azimuth or abandon its resolve to take over the whole state, or has it rejected the use of violence. It is an odd situation in which a president of a country would concede so much political power and impunity to a group which, at its zenith, represented perhaps a half a percent of the population. In doing so, Santos seems to have generated disapproval of his FARC policy from a hundred times that portion of his countrymen.51 As it stands, prospects that the Colombians’ national government will actively oppose Bolivarian power in the region seem to depend a good deal on the results of the 2018 presidential elections.

The Colombian political parties in the FSP are the Patriotic March, the Progressive Movement, the Green Alliance Party, the Communist Party of Colombia, the Alternative Democratic Pole, Present for Socialism, and the Patriotic Union. It is all but given that the new FARC political party will emerge as a member. The way things appear, Santos’s Social Party of National Unity might become a member of the FSP as well. All of these parties support the continuation and expansion of FARC political power within the confines of the FARC-Santos accords, as the leaders of those parties interpret them. The leading electoral-party entity opposed to that consolidation of FARC power is called the Democratic Center, its key personality being former President Álvaro Uribe. Within the parameter of electoral prospects, however, if the FARC continues to gain power in Colombia and its leaders continue to enjoy impunity—especially as to control over smuggling routes into and out of the country—physical pursuit against Bolivarian elements and leadership throughout the region will be a much more difficult strategic option for anyone.

Brazilian Foreign Policy

More people in South America speak Portuguese than Spanish, a consequential fact that is too easy for many strategists to misplace. It might not be true that as goes Brazil goes the success of all foreign policies regarding the situation in Venezuela. Still, for or against, the posture taken by Brazil’s leadership will undoubtedly weigh on outcomes. A positive relationship with Brazil is of itself a valued object of international diplomacy, so the policies of a Brazilian administration will of course influence foreign decision-making.

The Cubans are there; the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hezbollah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.

It is hard to imagine a Brazilian government supporting a landing of exclusively extraregional military formations on South American soil, but planners should not presume that a Brazilian government would necessarily disapprove any kind of military action or any mix of formations.52 As in the rest of Latin America, as in Venezuela, the Brazilian political party firmament is well-populated by pro-Bolivarian elements. Nevertheless, opposite positions are also present. External actors would want, in most contexts, to provide credible assurances that Brazilian strategic influence would not suffer, but rather be enhanced by the outcomes from any coercive action.


Of the situation in Venezuela, Mike Pompeo, then director of the CIA, asserted, “The Cubans are there; the Russians are there, the Iranians, Hezbollah are there. This is something that has a risk of getting to a very, very bad place, so America needs to take this very seriously.”53 We might want to call obliviousness toward the irregular war in Latin America “management by exception” or “economy of risks.” Rather than being oblivious to it, foreign strategy makers might simply not have sensed the severity of the danger posed. They might also have considered the parties responsible for the Venezuelan disaster benign.

In any case, with the exception of some transnational counternarcotic prosecutions, little authority of any kind has actively pursued the Bolivarians, whether for past transgressions or ongoing illegalities and violations. In the absence of any pursuit, Bolivarian impunity is made easy, if not perfected. The lines of communication on which Bolivarian strength depends appear to be increasingly secure. Those lines lead to geographic sanctuary, the overall extent of which appears to be growing. Although the Bolivarians have lost some international sympathy due to the miserable optics of their Venezuela franchise, the loss of face has been offset by the internationally popular FARC power arrangement with a Colombian administration that itself is looking more and more Bolivarian.

Unless and until there is increased, physical opposition to Bolivarian impunity—active, physical pursuit that blocks smuggling routes, closes sanctuaries, and disempowers Bolivarian leaders—foreign interests will be negatively affected in the following ways:

  • Cocaine and heroin production and transnational trafficking will flourish.54
  • Human rights violations, including human trafficking, will continue.
  • Unregulated and undocumented migration flows will increase.
  • Illegal mining will continue to expand.
  • Environmental degradation will accelerate.
  • Select foreign powers (Russia, China, Iran) are likely to advance significant military staging space and increase their preferential access to key strategic mineral and hydrocarbon resources.55
  • Countries within the region may move away from the region’s nuclear-free tradition.
  • Other countries will suffer the effects of Marxist takeovers.
  • The overall commercial and material health of the region will likely decline.

Venezuela has all but ceased to exist as a valid geostrategic concept. Venezuela is not an isolatable place, nor is “Venezuelan” an accurate identity to be intoned in terms of the perpetrators of widespread material privation, corruption, and abuse. Strategy makers should contemplate all of northern South America and the Caribbean. Instead of a place name or a national government, the PCC and the PSUV would be the more meaningful bullseye organizational identities for counteraction.

Today, the impunity enjoyed by leaders of the PCC and PSUV is not being challenged on any appreciable scale in any sphere. The PCC/PSUV is the principal source of the tragedy (willfully causing the privation). For an external strategy to have success in the long run, that is, to reset the populations of northern South America and the Caribbean on an improving material, pro-liberty and pro-United States political azimuth, the PCC and PSUV will have to be confronted and their impunity ended. The FARC and ELN are of the same cloth, in the same club as the PCC and PSUV, and they, too, have been given a pass (allowed if not provided impunity for violent illegal behaviors) in recent years. These four organizations are backstopped by a broader network of organizations, including some formal multinational regional IOs. The counter to all this would ideally be an orchestration of disparate elements and forms of effort, the counterpart of the Marxist “all forms of struggle,” perhaps including military action of some kind.

The observations, opinions, and assertions expressed in this article are those of the author, Geoff Demarest, alone and do not represent the official policy or position of the U.S. government or any part of the U.S. government.


  1. Geoffrey Demarest, “The Circum-Caribbean (Bolivarian-Grenadine) War—Early 2017 Review,” Small Wars Journal, 26 May 2017, accessed 7 May 2018,
  2. Eduardo Mackenzie, Les Farc ou l'échec d'un communisme de combate (Paris: Editions Publibook, 2005), 325; Las FARC: fracaso de un terrorismo (Bogotá, Colombia: Debate, 2007), 335.
  3. Partido Comunista de Cuba [Cuban Communist Party, or PCC], PCC (website),; Partido Socialista Unida de Venezuela [United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV], PSUV (website),; Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC], FARC (website),; Ejército de Liberación Nacional [Army of National Liberation, or ELN], ELN (website),; Foro de São Paulo [São Paolo Forum, or FSP], FSP (website),
  4. "Middle America" map adapted from One Stop Map, accessed 21 May 2018,
  5. Geoffrey Demarest, “Big Colombian Election Coming,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (February 2018), 30, accessed 7 May 2018,
  6. Julie Ray, “Venezuela’s Descent: Least Safe Country in the World,” Gallup News, 2 August 2017, accessed 7 May 2018,
  7. Geoffrey Demarest, “Political Crisis in Venezuela: Another Turn of the Screw,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (18 October 2017), accessed 8 May 2018,; Ryan Dube, “‘Hope Is Gone’ for Venezuelan Opposition,” Wall Street Journal (website), 31 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  8. Steve Hanke, “Venezuela's PDVSA: The World's Worst Oil Company,” Forbes (website), 6 March 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,; “‘Pdvsa está peor de lo que suponíamos’: reacciones sobre estados financieros de 2016” , RunRunEs, 12 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,; Francisco Monaldi, “The Death Spiral of Venezuela's Oil Sector and What Can Be Done about It,” Forbes (website), 24 January, 2018,
  9. “Cartel of the Suns,” InSight Crime, 31 October 2016, accessed 8 May 2018,; Camila Domonoske, “U.S. Treasury Sanctions Venezuelan Vice President Over Drug Trade Allegations,” NPR, 13 February 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  10. U.S. Relations with Venezuela (Washington, DC: Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, U.S. Department of State, 31 August 2016) (site unavailable, superseded 2 April 2018).
  11. Trafficking in Persons Report (Washington, DC: Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, U.S. Department of State, June 2017), 424, accessed 8 May 2018,
  12. Geoffrey Demarest, “Death of a King and the Future of an Insurgency,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (April 2013) , 35, accessed 8 May 2018,; Vanessa Terán, “Aseguran que Farc y ELN tienen ‘total libertad de desplazamiento’ en Táchira” [They assure that the FARC and ELN have ‘total freedom of movement’ in Táchira], Agencia Carabobeña de Noticias (blog), Wordpress, 11 February 2017, accessed 9 August 2017,; Joseph Humire, “Should Venezuela Be Listed as a State Sponsor of Terrorism?,” Secure Freedom (blog), 9 December 2015, Accessed 8 May 2018,
  13. “Venezuela’s Economy: Maduro’s Balancing Act,” The Economist (website), 28 September 2013, accessed 8 May 2018,
  14. Patrick Duddy, “Venezuela: From Richest Country in Latin America to ‘Basket Case,’” The Cipher Brief, 3 May 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  15. “Corruption Perception Index 2016,” Transparency International, accessed 8 May 2018,
  16. Mens rea is the human locus of bad intent and initiative, the intellectual authorship and willful leadership of undesirable action.
  17. R. Evan Ellis, “The Collapse of Venezuela and Its Impact on the Region,” Military Review 97, no. 4 (July-August 2017): 23.
  18. “Macri sobre Venezuela: Lo cerca que estuvimos de ir por ese camino” , Cubanet, 1 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  19. Brian A. Nelson, “The Education of Hugo Chávez: Unraveling Venezuela’s Revolutionary Path,” VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review website), Summer 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,ávez-unraveling-venezuela’s-revolutionary-path.
  20. Daniel Erikson, The Cuba Wars (New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2008), 263–64.
  21. Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “Venezuela Heads for Civil War,” Wall Street Journal, 31 July 2017, A15; “Cuba controla el sistema de pasaportes en Venezuela, según los Papeles de Panamá” [Cuba controls the system of passports in Venezuela, according to the Panama Papers], 14ymedio, 5 April 2016, accessed 8 May 2018,; Adriana Rivera, “Pasaportes para el terror” [Passports for terror], Armandoinfo (website), 30 August 2014, accessed 2 August 2017,; Ana Diaz, “Exigen el carnet de la patria a los usuarios para comprar los CLAP [They demand users present the national ID card to buy the basic food ration],” El Nacional, 16 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  22. Douglas Bravo was an early influence on and radicalizer of Hugo Chávez. Now in his mid-eighties, he is still an expressive revolutionary. See Tito Núñez Silva, “Conversación con Douglas Bravo,” Red Utopia (blog), 16 November 2016, accessed 8 May 2018,
  23. Geoffrey Demarest, “About Bolivarian Motorcycle Colectivos,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (June 2017) , 24, accessed 8 May 2018,; María Celsa Rodríguez, “Los Colectivos Bolivarianos: Verdaderos escuadrones de la muerte” , Hacer Latin American News (website), 21 April 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  24. “¿Quién es Luisa Ortega, la fiscal general que denunció el golpe en Venezuela?” [Who is Luisa Ortega, the attorney general who denounced the takeover in Venezuela?], Cubanet, 31 March 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  25. Alfredo Coronil Hartmann, “La Junta Patriótica Estudiantil y Popular Rechaza la Complicidad … La JPEP rechaza la complicidad entre el Madurismo y algunos factores de la MUD” [The Student and Popular Patriotic Board Rejects Complicity … The JPEP rejects the complicity between the Madurismo and some factors of the MUD], Para rescatar el porvenir (blog), 17 April 2014, accessed 8 May 2018,; see also Diálogos en Venezuela no son para negociar, según Gobierno,” Portafolio, 10 April 2014, accessed 8 May 2018,
  26. “Maria Corina se deslinda de los traidores de la MUD que quieren ir a elecciones regionales” Maria Corina sets herself apart from the traitors of the MUD who want to go to [participate in] the regional elections, DolarToday, 11 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,; “Cabello: Candidatos a las regionales deberán tener carta de buena conducta” [Candidates for the regionals must have a letter of good conduct], El Nacional, 9 August 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  27. Hugo Prieto, “Elizabeth Burgos: ‘Los cubanos se han dedicado al control de las Fuerzas Armadas,’” , Prodavinci, 30 July 2017, accessed 8 May 2018,
  28. Antonio Maria Delgado, “After Killing of Rebel Cop, Maduro’s Grip on Venezuela’s Military May Be Loosening,” Miami Herald (website), 26 January 2018, accessed 8 May 2018,; Geoffrey Demarest, “Calls for a Military Coup in Venezuela,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (January-February 2017) , 32, accessed 8 May 2018,; Associated Press, “Aplastan sublevación militar en Venezuela. Frustran ataque armado contra fuerte” Military uprising in Venezuela crushed. Armed attack against a fort is frustrated), El Manana, 7 August 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; “Lanzan granadas contra el Supremo venezolano desde un helicóptero” [Grenades launched at the Venezuelan Supreme Court building from a helicopter], Cubanet, 27 June 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  29. “Estamos dispuestos a dar todo por la defensa de Venezuela” [We are ready to give everything for the defense of Veneuela], Reporte Confidencial, 10 August 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; Dube, “‘Hope Is Gone’ for Venezuelan Opposition.”
  30. Venezuela Investigative Unit, “The Eight Criminal Armies Supporting Venezuela’s Maduro Administration,” InSight Crime, 22 January 2018, accessed 10 May 2018,
  31. “El ejército de ocupación cubano ya se encuentra en Venezuela: 60 mil soldados” , Dólartoday, 7 June 2013, accessed 10 May 2018,; Mary Anastasia O’Grady, “The Guns of Venezuela,” The Wall Street Journal, 7 August 2017, A 15.
  32. “Partidos: Miembros del Foro de São Paulo ordenados por países” , Foro de São Paulo, accessed 10 May 2018,
  33. “Foro de Sao Paulo apoya diálogo en Venezuela” [Forum of São Paulo supports dialog in Venezuela], Aporrea, 28 June 2016, accessed 8 May 2018,
  34. Pedro Corzo, “Los Castro, Chávez y Maduro, una alianza tenebrosa” [The Castros, Chávez and Maduro, a sinister alliance], Periodismo Sin Fronteras, 5 September 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  35. Ministerio del Poder Popular para Relaciones Exteriores, “Instalada XIV Cumbre del Alba-TCP en honor al Comandante Hugo Chávez,” Venezuelan Embassy in Syria, accessed 10 May 2018,
  36. SiBr4, “Euler Diagram of the Member Countries (and One Member Territory) of Seventeen International Organizations in the Americas,” Wikimedia Commons, 2 November 2012, accessed 16 August 2017,
  37. “Partidos, Miembros del Foro de São Paulo ordenados por países.”
  38. Union of South American Nations (UNASUR), accessed 10 May 2018,
  39. “Unasur, el gran ausente durante la crisis en Venezuela [UNASUR, the great absentee during the crisis in Venezuela],” El Universo, 29 July 2017 accessed 10 May 2018,
  40. Geoffrey Demarest, “‘Odebrecht’ and the Forum of Sao Paulo,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (April 2017), 20, accessed 8 May 2018,
  41. Max Brooks, “Could Venezuela Be on the Brink of a Civil War as Bloody as Syria?,” The Hill, 23 July 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  42. Gustavo R. Coronel, “The Venezuelan Crisis: What the United States and the Region Can Do,” Military Review 97, no. 2 (March-April 2017): 23.
  43. On a related point, see Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza, Carlos Alberto Montaner, and Alvaro Vargas Llosa, >Guide to the Perfect Latin American Idiot (New York: Madison Books, 2000).
  44. See, on this point, Venezuela Investigative Unit, “The Eight Criminal Armies Supporting Venezuela’s Maduro Administration”; Kyra Gurney, “Colombia Captures ‘Coltan Czar’ Linked to FARC,” InSight Crime, 24 November 2014, accessed 10 May 2018,; Alfredo Molano Bravo, “Esmeraldas y violencia, dos caminos cruzados” [Emeralds and violence, two crossed roads], Semana, 9 June 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; Óscar Castilla C., Nelly Luna Amancio, yFabiola Torres López, “Oro sucio: la pista detrás del London Bullion Market, La historia secreta de las compañías que financiaron con millones de dólares la compra del oro ilegal en Sudamérica” , ÓjoPúblico, 9 June 2015, accessed 10 May 2018,
  45. “Juan Manuel Santos declara ante la ONU el fin de la guerra en Colombia” [At the UN, Juan Manuel Santos declares the end of the war in Colombia], Peru21, 21 September 2016, accessed 10 May 2018,
  46. Hector Velasco, “Colombia declares FARC war over as the last guns roll away,” Yahoo, 15 August 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  47. AFP, “En Colombia, Santos le declara la guerra a la corrupción” [In Colombia, Santos declares war against corruption], El Nuevo Herald, 16 January 2017 accessed 10 May 2018,; “Santos declara guerra a la minería illegal” [Santos declares war against illegal mining], El Pais, 30 July 2015, accessed 10 May 2018,
  48. Acuerdo Final para la Terminación del Conflicto y la Construcción de una Paz Estable y Duradera” [Final Agreement for the Termination of the Conflict and the Construction of a Stable and Lasting Peace], Bogotá National Government and FARC-EP treaty, 24 August 2016.
  49. Felipe Fernández, “Gobierno colombiano minimizó problema de disidencias de FARC: ya suman 1.400 guerrilleros y están en expansion” [Colombian administration minimizes the problem of FARC guerrilla dissident groups, and they are expanding], masonerialibertaria, 25 October 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  50. “Colombia's FARC Rebels Turn in Weapons, End Armed War with Government,” Today, 27 June 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; Ricardo Puentes Melo, “Las FARC ni se desmovilizan ni entregan las armas: General Ruiz” , Periodismo Sin Fronteras, 26 June 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; Eduardo Mackenzie, “Sobre la entrega de ‘14 mil armas’ de las FARC” [About the turn-in of ‘14 thousand weapons’ of the FARC], Periodismo Sin Fronteras, 20 March 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  51. Editors, “Cae respaldo al presidente Santos y al proceso de paz” [Support for President Santos and the peace process falls], El Tiempo, 1 March 2016, accessed 10 May 2018,; Juan Esteban Vásquez, “Santos y el proceso de paz mejoran su imagen en encuesta Gallup” [Santos and the peace process improve their image in the Gallup poll], El Colombiano, 6 July 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,
  52. “16 Países comienzan ejercicios militares en la amazonia brasileña” [16 Countries will begin military exercise in the Brazilian Amazon], El Pitazo, 31 August 2017,
  53. “CIA Director Pompeo: Venezuela's Situation Continues to Deteriorate” VOA (website), 13 August 2017, accessed on 10 May 2018,
  54. Geoffrey Demarest, “Cocaine Supply Secure,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (August 2017), 40, accessed 8 May 2018,; Brenda Fiegel, “Drug Transit and the Dominican Republic,” OE Watch: Foreign News & Perspectives of the Operational Environment (August 2017), 44, accessed 8 May 2018,
  55. Mariana Parraga and Alexandra Ulmer, “Special Report: Vladimir's Venezuela: Leveraging Loans to Caracas, Moscow Snaps Up Oil Assets,” Reuters, 11 August 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,; John Hayward, “Report: Moscow Takes Control of Venezuelan Oil Assets amid Socialist Meltdown,” Breitbart, 14 August 2017, accessed 10 May 2018,

Lt. Col. Geoffrey Demarest, U.S. Army, retired, holds an MSS from the Army War College, a JD and a PhD in international studies from Denver University, and a PhD in geography from the University of Kansas. After a period of practicing law in Colorado, he has since 2000 been the senior Ibero-America researcher at the Army's Foreign Military Studies Office. He has lived and traveled extensively in Latin America.

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November-December 2018