Cuba-Venezuela ties tenuous
06/03 00:24 CET
Cuba is on Venezuelan economic life support. With leader Hugo Chávez
dead, there is speculation that Cuba as we know it may not survive.
Havana's options just got a lot thinner, and it hasn't had many of them
for a long time.
President Chávez venerated the father of Communist Cuba, Fidel Castro.
The historic exit of the island's former Soviet benefactors saw that
support replaced by revolutionary regional neighbour Venezuela. Cuba has
depended on the generosity of Caracas since 1999.
Today, Venezuela sells Cuba oil at a discount – meeting its more than
100,000 barrel-per-day needs. On top of that, Caracas pays Havana some
six billion dollars per year in exchange for Cuban medical personnel,
technology experts, political consultants and other professionals.
Dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said: "Cuba is extraordinarily
dependent on Venezuela. Venezuela has become the Soviet Union. A kind of
umbilical cord feeds oxygen to the Cuban economy, in the form of money
from Venezuela. If that stops, it will be worse than the worst years
when we lost Soviet help, because the economy is more destroyed now then
when the Soviets stopped helping us."
Even if Venezuela's new political masters want to keep its umbilical
relationship with Cuba, they must rationalise: Venezuela's economy,
despite its oil wealth, is stagnant, and its society seething with
imbalances – including runaway violent crime and corruption.
Chepe said: "This is very dangerous. Last month's devaluation of the
Bolivar currency by 46.5 percent risks introducing more instability to
Many analysts say the Castrist state must accept reality and find a new
economic partner; probably the United States. For years already, Cubans
living there have been sending around two billion dollars to the island
annually, and even though the US has kept up a broad-ranging economic
embargo, it is the second-largest exporter of food products to Cuba.
Chepe said: "It would be a great irony if the great enemy of the last 54
years became the new sponsor!"