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    Cuba admits Venezuelan recession is hitting hard: Chavist oil shipments
    down 20%

    Venezuela’s grim situation is impacting not only millions of households
    around the country: it is also sending panic waves across the Caribbean
    all the way to Cuba, a solid ally that for decades now has relied
    heavily on Chavismo’s generosity.

    Cuba, a totalitarian country with a weak economy, has alienated itself
    from the rest of the world and has largely relied on Venezuela to stay
    financially afloat. But Venezuela’s falling oil prices is causing Cuba
    to distance itself from the South American country.
    So far this year Venezuelan oil shipments to the island have declined by
    19.5%, forcing an energy rationing that is reminding people of the early
    90s, when the Soviet Union dissolved and Cuba lost its top provider
    almost overnight.
    Now with Venezuela’s wealth slowly fading away, the geopolitical
    chessboard may change in a way that some say will inevitably drive
    Havana closer to the U.S.
    “Venezuela’s inability to help Cuba creates a void that will very likely
    be filled by the U.S.,” said foreign policy expert Giovanna De Michelle.
    “Cuba’s opening to foreign investment has been slow, but now they don’t
    have another option if you consider Venezuela’s grim situation,” said
    Felix Arellano, also an internationalist.
    Venezuela and Cuba started strengthening ties soon after Hugo Chavez, a
    socialist and open admirer of Fidel Castro, came to power in 1999. The
    alliance, fueled by a close personal friendship, helped the Castro
    brothers keep the island afloat amid the Soviet Union domino collapse.
    Currently – and for more than a decade now – Venezuela supplies more
    than 50% of the island’s intake of oil at very preferential terms. In
    exchange, in 2003 Cuba started providing human resources to Venezuela,
    mostly teachers and medical doctors to support Chavez’s various social
    programs, like Barrio Adentro and Misión Robinson, which focused on
    reducing analphabetism.
    According to the most recent information available, in 2013 Venezuela
    provided Cuba with 99,000 barrels of crude oil a day. To date, Cuba has
    sent approximately 200,000 workers to Venezuela.
    This oil-for-workers deal greatly benefited both Castro’s and Chavez’s
    agendas: while Cuba kept running on cheap oil, Venezuela found a way to
    secure and preserve the social programs that are the backbone of Chavismo.
    After Chavez died in 2013, his handpicked successor Nicolas Maduro has
    kept the close relationship with Fidel and Raul Castro — according to an
    FNL count, Maduro has visited Cuba 15 times since becoming president
    three years ago.
    Raúl Castro has acknowledged the repercussions that Venezuela’s
    deepening crisis is having on Cuba. He said Cuba’s economy grew just 1%
    in the first part of the year, half of what the government had planned
    for, due in part to “a certain contraction in the fuel supplies agreed
    upon with Venezuela, despite the firm will of President Maduro and his
    government to fulfill them.“
    ”Logically that has caused additional tensions in the functioning of the
    Cuban economy,” Castro told the National Assembly.
    Analysts say the severity of the financial and political crisis in
    Venezuela may force Cuba to change course sooner rather than later.
    “Havana needs to also start drawing investments from Europe, Brazil,
    Canada and China,” Arellano told FNL. “The down part for the Castro
    brothers is that this might require political changes in the near future.”
    As for the U.S., it is very likely Washington will keep pushing to
    increase its influence in Cuba regardless of November’s election
    outcome. “American investors are betting big on Cuba, which will
    probably result in the ease of the U.S. embargo [over the island] in the
    near future,” De Michelle said.

    Source: Cuba admits Venezuelan recession is hitting hard: Chavist oil
    shipments down 20% — MercoPress –

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