Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection
Key Figures at the Head of the Oppressive Alliance
March 18, 2014 at 1:52 pm
By Pedro Roig
The rebellion of the Venezuelan youth, demanding the end of Nicolás
Maduro’s presidency, has brought into the forefront the nature of a
regime that can be defined as a highly corrupt narco-terrorist state
supported by Cuban military forces and Colombian drug cartels.
Venezuela, a country of 29 million people, is blessed with a good
climate, rich land, the largest oil reserve in the world and access to
major industrial markets. It has every expectation of prospering and
becoming a modern, wealthy state. Yet the ruling oligarchy, led by the
late-Hugo Chávez and now Nicolás Maduro, understood their revolutionary
goal as a right to pillage the national wealth, turning the country into
a decrepit caricature of Cuba’s Marxist failure and a secure route for
Colombia’s narco-guerrilla to smuggle cocaine to the international markets.
The Cuban Connection
First and foremost, the Maduro government hold to power depends to a
large extent on Cuba’s special forces of the Ministry of the Interior
(MININT) estimated at over 7,000. This is not counting medical and other
support personnel (over 30,000) deployed throughout Venezuela.
In addition, Cubans helped train several thousand trusted Chavistas.
Called collectivos, these motorcycle gangs can be seen in the videos and
pictures helping the National Guard repress peaceful protests and
shooting unarmed students (presently, more than 25 students have been
murdered and over 300 hundred wounded).
Currently, General Raul Castro has several high ranking officers
providing tactical and strategic advice to the Venezuelans, including
General Leonardo Ramón Andollo, second chief of the general staff of the
Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR), Comandante Ramiro Valdés, former
head of Cuba’s MININT, and General Carlos Fernández Gondin, second in
command of the Ministry of Interior. The first two have spent extended
periods of time in Venezuela organizing Cuba’s support for Venezuela’s
“Comandante Histórico” Ramiro Valdés was trained by the efficient and
brutal East-German intelligence agency (STASI). Valdes was the first
chief of Cuba’s repressive intelligence force (G-2). He is now Vice
President of the Council of State and member of Cuba’s Communist Party
Politburo. Valdes has remained in Venezuela for extended periods
analyzing intelligence information on Venezuelan military, active and
potential opposition officers and retaliatory tactics to be enforced.
Ramón Andollo is a highly trusted link between Colombia’s narco-guerilla
FARC and Venezuela’s Armed Forces officers. For over 15 years, General
Andollo has been the principal liaison between the Colombian and
Venezuelan drug cartels. He has spent extended periods of time in
Venezuela. It is reported by MININT defectors that General Andollo has
met with Colombian guerrilla leaders in safe areas controlled by the
Venezuelan Cartel de los Soles.
Second in Command of Cuba’s Ministry of Interior (MININT), General
Fernández Gondin and his staff officers are in overall command of
MININT’s Special Forces (over 7,000) deployed in Venezuela.
In February of 1991, the documentary Cuba and Cocaine exposed Cuba’s
involvement in narcotics trafficking. The production featured interviews
with Reinaldo Ruiz, a Cuban who admitted in US courts his involvement in
drug trafficking, Carlos Ledher, one of the founding members of the
Medellín Cartel, General Rafael del Piño, Cuba’s highest ranking officer
who defected to the United States, and US Coast Guard Lieutenant
Commander Jeff Karonis, among others.
Following is the statement of Jeff Karonis in Cuba and Cocaine:
The scenario would be for a small twin-engine airplane with maybe 1,000
to 2,000 pounds of cocaine, fly over Cuba, drop the drugs to a
pre-designated rendezvous point to several boats.… many times it would
be under the eyes or at least a Cuban military vessel would be in the
immediate vicinity, right on scene with them.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the Castro regime was in dire need
of cash that would replace the Soviet subsidies. During this period,
drug trafficking routes involving Nicaragua and Panama became prime
operational areas. These drug trafficking links surfaced in the
indictment against Carlos Lehder who admitted meeting with Raul Castro
to coordinate drug shipments. Lehder also testified in the Southern
District of Florida that Cuba controlled cocaine trafficking in Nicaragua.
The Cuba-Venezuela Drug-Trafficking Connection
In 1999, Hugo Chávez’s rise to power in Venezuela changed the Castro
brother’s focus to South America. The Cuban government became not only
interested in the large subsidies provided to them by Chávez’s
government but also on the profitable drug trafficking routes already
existent on the Colombia-Venezuela border. Cuba’s prior involvement in
narcotics trafficking proved to be a valuable component in a growing
partnership between Colombian and Venezuelan drug cartels, including
these two figures:
General Hugo Armando Carvajal Barrios “El Pollo” is the director of
military counterintelligence of Venezuela. On September 12, 2008 the US
Department of the Treasury stated that General Armando Carvajal assisted
the Colombian narco-guerrilla (FARC) in smuggling drugs and weaponry. He
has been one of the most important links between Colombian drug cartels
and the Venezuelan Cartel de los Soles. He has used military vehicles,
aircraft, and watercraft for shipping drugs to Europe, Mexico, and the
Vassyly Kotosky Villarroel Ramírez is a former captain of Venezuela’s
National Guard. In 2013, the US Department of the Treasury identified
Villarroel Ramiroz as aiding Mexican drug cartels and facilitating the
transportation of cocaine through Venezuelan territory. According to the
report, Villarroel Ramírez “provided security and protection when
cocaine loads and the proceeds from Mexico were smuggled from or into
Venezuela’s Maiquetía International Airport via commercial or private
aircraft. He facilitated the cocaine loads from Colombia through
Venezuela in partnership with known drug traffickers.… The cocaine
shipments benefited Mexican drug trafficking organizations, specifically
the Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, and the Beltran Leyva Organization.”
During the past decade, Cuba and Venezuela have forged a close political
and military alliance. On the Cuban side, the Castro regime provides
Venezuela with military and security support. Several thousand Cuban
military personnel and advisers are now in the country. Several thousand
Cuban doctors are also in Venezuela as part of Castro’s expanding
international medical programs. In addition, the Cuban military helped
establish a relationship between the Venezuelan military and the
Colombian narco-guerrilla, making Venezuela a major drug transshipment
point toward the United States and Europe.
According to economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, Venezuela is providing an
estimated US$13 billion in yearly aid to Cuba, including 80,000-100,000
barrels of petroleum daily. The Maduro regime has also invested in
rebuilding the old Russian refinery of Cienfuegos.
Cuba has a major stake in Venezuela and in protecting these subsidies.
The recent increase in Cuban troops sent to Venezuela highlights the
Castros’ commitment to the survival of the Chavista regime and their
concern with the growing violence in the country.
The most troubling aspects of this relationship are the growing drug
trafficking and the continuous opposition to US policies. The inclusion
of Iran in rounding out this triumvirate, has added a dimension of
strategic importance. The proximity of Cuba and Venezuela to the United
States makes the two countries ideal platforms for anti-American
activities, specifically in the event of a US conflict with Iran. These
two allies may be called upon to support Iranian policies and objectives.
This is an abridged version of the article “Venezuela-Cuba Military
Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist Connection” by Pedro Roig.
Pedro Roig is senior research associate and lecturer at the Institute
for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. Dr. Roig has
taught Cuban history courses at various institutions, and is the former
director of the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB) – Radio & TV Marti. He
holds a Masters of Arts degree from University of Miami and a Juris
Doctor Degree from St. Thomas University. He has written several books
including The Death of a Dream: A History of Cuba and Marti: The Cuban
Struggle for Freedom. He is a veteran of the Brigade 2506.
Source: Venezuela-Cuba Military Cooperation and the Narco-Terrorist