A Venezuelan general said the Communists who are loyal to the late Fidel Castro in Cuba are to blame for the crisis in Venezuela. He said it is time for the Venezuelan military to defend the oil-rich country's sovereignty from Cuba's intervention.
Air Force Gen. Ramón Rangel has joined the group of Hugo Chávez's supporters who oppose embattled President Nicolás Maduro. He said Chávez's death allowed a small group of Castro Communists to have unprecedented access to Venezuela's wealth.
"It is time to rise up," Rangel said in a video published Sunday.
Rangel, who participated in the Nov. 27, 1992 coup attempt under Chávez's orders, referenced the 2017 Venezuelan constitution's article 328 to call out Venezuela's military top brass. He said that continuing his work in Cuba as a manager of a Venezuelan state company was a violation of article 328.
"No more Castro Communism in Venezuela," Rangel said. "We have to be free. We have to be sovereign."
Rangel said he lived in the Communist island for more than six years, after Chávez asked him to work on a joint project. The experience, he said, allowed him to witness how a small group of Castro Communists is affecting the quality of life of the Cuban people.
"The Cuban people have been subjected to the yoke of a Castro-Communist dictatorship for more than 60 years," Rangel said. "They live in conditions of poverty, which they attribute to the blockades, and it is false."
Rangel said the poverty in the oil-rich country is inconceivable and the crisis has forced over 4 million Venezuelans to flee and turn to begging for help in neighboring countries. The United Nations estimates there are 3.4 million Venezuelan refugees worldwide and 5.3 million by the end of 2019.
Rangel did not use the video to recognize Juan Guaidó as interim president or to say that Maduro’s 2018 re-election was a fraud. But his video comes after Guaidó called on a military uprising April 30, and Maduro's loyalists accused 10 National Assembly opposition leaders of treason.
Air Force Gen. Francisco Yanez pledged his allegiance to Guaidó on Feb. 2. Air Force Cmdr. Pedro Juliac has remained loyal to Maduro and shared a picture of Rangel on Twitter denouncing him as an immoral traitor and saying " an "Eagle does not fight with a fly."
Cuba has no troops in Venezuela and engages in no security operations there but maintains the right to carry out military and intelligence cooperation, a top Cuban diplomat said earlier this month in his government's most detailed response yet to U.S. accusations that its forces are propping up Maduro.
Carlos Fernández de Cossío, Cuba's director-general of U.S. affairs, told The Associated Press in Washington that the U.S. is falsely accusing his country of having more than 20,000 troops and intelligence agents in Venezuela.
De Cossío said there are roughly 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela but virtually all are medical workers.
"There are no troops," he said in English. "Cuba does not participate in military operations nor in security operations in Venezuela."
De Cossío said that despite the lack of Cuban boots on the ground, he could not deny the existence of intelligence cooperation because "I don't have that information." But broader intelligence or military cooperation would be "totally legitimate," he added.
"The United States has over 800,000 Americans stationed around the world with over 600-700 military bases anywhere in the world. Any two countries in our region have military or intelligence cooperation and we have it with many countries. So it is totally legitimate, it is a sovereign right of Cuba and Venezuela to do so," de Cossío said.
"But what I am saying is that in spite of having that right, there are no military personnel of Cuba or troops, nor do we participate in any military or security operation as is constantly alleged," he added.
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