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Open letter to the officers of the Venezuelan army sponsored by Fidel Castro

By Gustavo Coronel

09.08.05 | 77 Venezuelan, four Dominican and one Mexican military officers who participated in the Course on Leadership and General Staff XXXIV of the 'Libertador Simón Bolívar' military academy (Escuela Superior del Ejército) were sponsored by Fidel Castro in a graduation ceremony that took place in Cuba, after a similar ceremony was semi-aborted in our country. I would like to confront these gentlemen, whose names I do not wish to remember and who will be given their place in our history in the section that tells the of the embarrassing deeds of cowardice and treason, in order to ask them what on earth could have been their reason to designate Fidel Castro as the sponsor of their graduation. I understand that this is a course designed to train middle-level officers who aspire to higher ranks, from which the officers in question will presumably stand a better chance of leading troops, of acting as role-models for their subordinates and of defending the integrity of the Constitution which provides life to the nation with their weapons. In the case of the Venezuelan Constitution – and I believe this to be true, too, of the Mexican and Dominican Constitutions – our countries are defined as democracies and all citizens are obliged to respect and defend this system. Beyond that, the Venezuelan Constitution contains a section, number 350, according to which it is our right and our duty as citizens of a democratic society to revolt against despotic regimes that violate our Constitution and our laws. All of our laws and all of the ethical values we have been taught since childhood are designed to preserve the free and democratic nature of our society. The same applies for Mexico and the Dominican Republic, where left- or right-wing dictatorships have been considered political aberrations.

If you accept this as a standard to live up to, how is it possible that you named a dictator, thief and murderer like Fidel Castro as the sponsor of your class? Would you by any chance deny that Fidel Castro is a dictator? If you deny it, you should yield to the evidence of his 45 years of absolute political power, with total repression of any dissidence. Would you deny that he is a thief? His assets reflect a worth of hundreds of millions of dollars. Would you deny that he is a murderer? Thousands of Cubans have died, wasting away in their prisons, or been executed without trial. You cannot block the sun with a finger. I therefore deduce that the decision you took was not because you were wrong about Fidel Castro but rather because you were sufficiently proud of him to name him as the sponsor of your class. The plaque you gave him in Havana confirms my assumption. It states:

"The officers who took part in the Course on Leadership and General Staff XXXIV of the 'Libertador Simón Bolívar' military academy present this PLAQUE OF RECOGNITION to COMANDANTE FIDEL CASTRO RUZ as SPONSOR OF OUR CLASS and as testimony of his contribution to the PEACE, FREEDOM, and DEMOCRACY of peoples."

This is an embarrassing, submissive and cringing text, gentlemen. What, I ask you, is Fidel Castro's contribution to peace, freedom and democracy? Did you know that Fidel Castro wrote a letter to Nikita Khrushchev during the Cuban missile crisis, asking him to launch a nuclear attack against the United States, and that it was this irresponsible and suicidal request by Castro that made Khrushchev decide not to continue this tragic adventure? Did you know that Cuban prisons today are full of citizens imprisoned for daring to think differently from Castro? Are you simply ignorant or are you shameless admirers of the dictator? In either case, you are clearly unworthy of choosing to lead our armed forces and to be called to defend our sovereignty and our liberties. A country that depends on you to preserve its democracy and its ability to live in peace and freedom is condemned to failure in advance. With "classes" such as yours, Castro and Chávez are preparing the consolidation of a long-term tyranny in our countries.

I do not envy you. Entering into the history as admirers of a dictatorship, as vehicles for the consolidation of a tyranny, is a sad and humiliating role. And it is also a role condemned to failure.

82 names for the black pages of our history.

[Translated by John E.]

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