If Hugo goes ... ?
It's the question of the week in Latin American politics. If Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez — who has been in power for 12 years — can't recover from cancer, what does that mean for Venezuela?
And, since Chavez has used his oil riches to throw money at allies in the region, are Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Cuba in trouble as well if Hugo goes?
Check out these takes from the Guardian, GlobalPost and The American about what a world without Hugo would mean for Cuba and Nicaragua.
Cuba can cope without Chavez (Guardian):
First, the dependency on Venezuela today is simply not as great as the dependency that Cuba had with Soviet Union and the former socialist countries. ... Second, unlike in 1989 when almost all of Cuba's trade was with the Soviet bloc countries, Cuba has diversified its trading partners enormously since then. ... This leads on to a related third point: Cuba has also diversified its economy. ... The main threat from a collapse of Cuba's relationship with Venezuela is from a fall in cheap oil imports and a drop in earnings from the export of medical services to Venezuela.
Chavez's illness spells trouble for Cuba (GlobalPost):
Chavez provides Cuba with more than two-thirds of its petroleum needs, and the island earned an estimated $3.5 billion in trade last year with Venezuela, its largest source of hard currency. ... Cuba’s communist government is planning to lay off hundreds of thousands of state employees over the coming years and is allowing the expansion of small private businesses and cooperatives. One big reason Havana can afford to conduct the reforms at its own pace is the dependable revenue coming from Caracas.
How Nicaragua made the most of Hugo Chavez's riches (GlobalPost):
Nicaragua has wisely invested millions of dollars in aid from Venezuela in key industries that will continue to churn profits after Chavez has gone. While other countries in the region are sweating the possible loss of oil subsidies should Chavez not recover, Nicaragua — led by aging revolutionary Daniel Ortega — has avoided the Soviet-style trap of creating total dependency on a foreign benefactor. ... Under Ortega, “the dependency on foreign aid has diminished quickly” as production and exports set new records and eclipse foreign aid totals.
Nicaragua and Venezuela’s Well-Oiled Relationship (The American):
Venezuela gives huge amounts of money through an opaque arrangement of private and public entities. ... The fragility of a Nicaraguan regime heavily dependent upon these Venezuelan “funds,” in turn dependent upon the strong friendship between the two heads of state, becomes all the more apparent with the absence of Chavez, the senior partner. Though the funds are meant to support mutually beneficial regimes (for the leaders at least), the Nicaraguan population and the Ortega regime have both become heavily dependent upon this money, which likely makes up a significant portion of the national budget.
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