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Cuban troops suspected to be in Venezuela

Members of the Avispas Negras
Members of the Avispas Negras

Venezuela’s Minister of Interior denies presence of the special troops in the country

Miguel Rodriguez Torres, Venezuela 's Minister of the Interior denied allegations on Thursday that members of Cuba’s elite military Special Forces known as the Avispas Negras were sent to Venezuela.

In response to a reporter’s question inquiring what he knew about the Avispas Negras, Torres replied that the only Cubans he knew about were on the sports field and in medical dispensaries.

Torres was in San Cristóbal, the capital of Tachira, a state bordering Colombia, birthplace to the protests that have shaken Venezuela and where Nicolas Maduro’s government decided to send a battalion of paratroopers on Thursday. "We have to join our efforts to reverse the disorder in San Cristóbal," said Torres during a press conference.

The Avispas Negras are not police. They are military personnel. The nickname refers to the special troops of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba. They are so called because their badge sports a black wasp ready to sting and attack, donned on the sleeves of camouflage uniforms.

The Special Forces are similar to the Army Rangers or Navy Seals. The Avispas Negras have participated in the Angolan civil war and fought against South Africa’s army.

Photos posted on social networks showing a military transport plane disembarking a contingent of uniformed soldiers spurred concern about the alleged arrival of these troops to Venezuela. The following was posted on Twitter, with the caption reading, “Cuban agents arriving in Venezuela with instructions to strike and suppress, Cuban style.”

Further fuel was provided by an interview posted on the Cuban affairs blog, Universo Increible, managed by journalists Oscar Suarez and Uberto Mario. Mario participated in covert missions assigned by the government of Cuba in Venezuela between 1999 and 2003. The video has been embedded in many tweets with the hashtag #Venezuela.

Citing "comrades who are still in Venezuela," Mario says that at least two contingents of the Special Forces have arrived in the Andean nation since last Saturday.

In Mario’s view, the alleged sending of Cuban elite troops to Venezuela would be equivalent to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring in 1968. In this case, the action would be directed in order to avoid the oil-rich country from escaping beyond Castro’s control.

Media, Chavez defectors and members of the Venezuelan opposition have exposed the Cuban military presence not only in the military institutions of the South American country, but in other civil institutions as well, such as customs, bond offices, oil installations, ports and airports.

In a statement released Tuesday by the newspaper El Nacional in Caracas, the Venezuelan student movement said, "our country cannot continue under the direction of Castro’s communism. We demand the immediate expulsion of all Cuban agents from our institutions."
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    Rolando Cartaya

    Rolando Cartaya graduated with a degree in journalism from the University of Havana in 1976. He has been a contributor to the cultural page of Juventud Rebelde, the newspaper of Cuban youth and UPI. He has also served as editor in the Spanish language versions of  "Newsweek," "Discover" and "Motor Trend." He has translated more than 20 books for Christian publisher, Thomas Nelson, Inc. Rolando has been with The Martís since 1989, in various capacities including editor, writer, reporter, and writer-director of the show, Sin Censores ni Censura, translated as, "No Censors or Censorship". On the island, he was vice president of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.