Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Cubans Wonder If Aid Will Still Flow Following Death Of Chavez

by Nick Miroff

March 06, 2013 2:56 PM

Cuba's Fidel Castro was a mentor to Hugo Chavez, and the Venezuelan

leader provided oil and other assistance to Cuba. The two men met in

Havana in June 2011 when Chavez went for cancer treatment. Enlarge image

Cuba's Fidel Castro was a mentor to Hugo Chavez, and the Venezuelan

leader provided oil and other assistance to Cuba. The two men met in

Havana in June 2011 when Chavez went for cancer treatment.


The death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an especially tough

blow for Cuba, whose feeble state-run economy has been propped up for

more than a decade with Venezuelan oil shipments and other subsidies.

The Castro government has declared three days of mourning, calling

Chavez "a son" of Cuba, but privately Cubans are quietly fretting about

the potential loss of billions in trade and the threat of a new economic


When he was first diagnosed with cancer in 2011, Hugo Chavez turned to

Fidel Castro and Cuba's doctors to save him. But his disease came back

again and again, and when news of his death was announced by Cuba's

state broadcasters Tuesday night, all of Havana seemed to go quiet.

Long before Chavez was first elected president in 1998, Castro saw him

as a protégé. Havana sent doctors, teachers and military advisers to

help Chavez consolidate power, and in turn, the Venezuelan president

pulled Cuba out of the economic ditch left by the collapse of the Soviet


The island came to depend on Venezuela for two-thirds of its oil imports

and nearly half its foreign trade.

Among the tens of thousands of Cubans who went to work among Venezuela's

poor was Alvaro Castellanos, a doctor standing on the sidewalk outside

the Venezuelan Embassy in Havana, where he came to pay his respects.

"We gave them what we had, and in a way they gave us what they had,"

says Castellanos, adding that he spent six years working in Venezuela.

"More than anything it was a family, a union, not just between Cuba and

Venezuela but with all of Latin America."

Castellanos was among a handful of Cubans who arrived to the embassy,

but Chavez's death brought no mass outpouring of emotion in Havana,

unlike the scenes in Caracas.

Relationship Could Hinge On Election

The outcome of the Venezuelan presidential election in the next month

will determine Chavez's successor and the future of relations with Cuba.

A win by Chavez loyalist Nicolas Maduro would likely keep the oil

flowing and the relationship tight.

But a victory by Venezuela's opposition could augur a new austerity

period for Cuba. Eduardo Garcia, a university student in Havana, said he

didn't think the Venezuelan people would vote for that.

"I have faith that this is a process that doesn't depend on a single

person," he said. "I have faith that everything Chavez has done has

taken root in the conscience of Venezuelans, and they will continue to

follow his path."

To many in Venezuela and the U.S., Chavez was an autocrat who left his

county divided and dysfunctional. But to many Cubans accustomed to

harsher Castro rule, he looked a democratic figure, and helped push

their rigid government in a better direction.

After all, Chavez based his rule on democratic elections. Compared to

the Castros, he tolerated more criticism from opponents and the press.

And even among frustrated Cubans who saw his aid as a lifeline to the

Castros, they knew it was Chavez who kept the lights on and the air

conditioners running.

Havana resident Miriam Suarez sees nothing good coming from his death.

"A lot of people who don't know what poverty is like can't understand

Chavez," Suarez said. "Maybe now that he's gone there will be changes.

And it'll be the poor who suffer, not the rich."

Tributes to Chavez and condolences have come from all over Latin America

and the world since his death, but Fidel and Raul Castro have been

noticeably silent.

The Cuban government issued a statement Tuesday night, but neither

Castro has appeared in public nor offered a farewell statement.

For the elder Castro, now 86 and retired, Chavez's death is an

especially personal loss. He has even outlived the man he carefully

prepared to be his political heir.

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