In Cuba, the armed forces are the brains, heart and stomach of the system, while society is merely a cheap and docile labor force at the service of the army's whims and interests. Of course, the system wraps itself in a patriotic-nationalist discourse, filled with a strong ethnic content that guarantees the defense of sovereignty and a feverish dedication to the redemption of the humble. But that's just a big alibi; just palaver.
I suppose many Venezuelan officers liked what they saw in Cuba. They have found the formula to climb to the top of the social pyramid and to feel like the heroes and protagonists of a glorious historic feat. Chávez will lead them up the path of privileges, wealth and social supremacy.
Once the system consolidates itself, they will form the dominant caste, they will live in splendor -- better than the rest of the Venezuelans -- and will be feared and respected, just like those high-ranking Cuban officers. Nobody will be permitted to criticize them publicly, and whoever does so in private may be accused of contempt and tried before tribunals at which other tough officers will impart sentence. They will be immune and impune.
That's what 21st-century socialism is all about: a mixture of strong-man dictatorship, collectivism and militarization of the structures of power. Little by little, the authoritarian pincers will squeeze Venezuelan society until they vanquish the media, crush labor unions, control educational centers, and silence the church and other forces of civilian society.
Chávez is still in no hurry to seize the big companies, because he takes and manages the huge revenues from oil as he sees fit, but everything will come in due course.
Where will this Cuban-Venezuelan axis lead? Given the constructivist fits afflicting Chávez -- who ceaselessly reorganizes the world according to his creative spasms -- it is probable that at some moment he will try to launch a federation of the two countries. But that would be only a first step in the direction of the multinational Boliviarian offspring that has grown, like a tumor, under his beret.
The federation can then clone merrily, incorporating other little friends of the delusional revolutionary line: Evo Morales in Bolivia, Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua, and some adventurer who pops up in Ecuador or Peru and reaches the presidency thanks to voters who have been brainwashed by populism and ignorance.
The matter is quite simple: They already have the model and the discourse. Once in power, the military men will build the prisons and let's all sail toward the sea of happiness, as Chávez once defined the Cuban experience. That's 21st-century socialism.
This is not to far fetched. It would cause havock in the region, and potentially propel us to war in our own continent. Here is this from CARLOS ALBERTO MONTANER: