Venezuela is Cuba’s best friend and vice versa. But since the historic announcement from Havana yesterday, Nicolas Maduro seems to be alone. On a visit to the island in 2013 the man who succeeded Hugo Chavez evoked the deep relationship between the two countries.
“I spent five hours with Fidel today talking about and remembering Commander Chávez. Remembering how both of them built this relationship which goes beyond a strategic allegiance. It is a relationship between brothers,” he said.
In Havana last Sunday at a summit of ALBA an inter governmental organisation created in 2004 by Chavez and Fidel on “the principle of anti-imperialism”, Raul reminded Maduro of their opposition to the great northern neighbour. Is that the day Maduro knew what Thursday would bring?
“Our alliance represents a true alternative to the economic and social model of the one that tries to be hegemonic and today is drowning in a crisis without a visible way out,” told members of ALBA at the summit.
But the link between the two countries is not only ideological. Every day Cuba receives between 90 and 100 thousand barrels of Venezuelan oil at a subvented price. In return the island sends doctors to Venezuela, but there is also an economic dependence on Havana.
Caracas is facing plummeting oil prices on the international market. Ninety six percent of Venezuela’s foreign exchange resources are from oil exports. It is home to the largest reserves in the world.
But even so the government has just announced budgetary cuts. And then there is the rate of inflation. No longer is it published every three months but in August it was 63.4 percent, one of the highest in the world.
Two days before the announcement of the thaw in relations between the US and Cuba, Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro fired invective at Washington. In a speech he mocked the sanctions passed by Congress against Venezuelan officials based in America. For four years the two countries have had no ambassadors in their respective legations. Diplomatic relations are to be measured only in trade.