Cuba welcomes new Venezuela head

2013-04-15 22:15
Nicolas Maduro (Luis Acosta, AFP)

Nicolas Maduro (Luis Acosta, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Havana - Cubans were relieved on Monday by the announcement that the late leader Hugo Chavez's hand-picked successor had been elected Venezuela's new president, apparently allowing their country to dodge a threatened cut-off of billions of dollars in subsidised oil.

Cuban President Raul Castro sent a congratulatory message to Nicolas Maduro, who is seen as an ideological ally, who will want to continue the countries' special relationship as he serves out the remainder of Chavez's six-year term.

"The main thing from Cuba's point of view is that he's won, if it's ratified," said Paul Webster Hare, a lecturer in international relations at Boston University and former British diplomatic envoy to both Venezuela and Cuba.

"They will probably be thinking that they now have perhaps a maximum of five years of Venezuelan subsidies left," Hare said, "because if the trend continues moving against him, as I think is likely, this will be the last term even if they are able to continue all the subsidies for that period... The clock's ticking for that relationship."

Venezuela ships an estimated 92 000 barrels of oil per day worth $3.2bn a year to the island, providing for about half its consumption.

Cuba accounts for about half that figure through barter deals, sending legions of medics, sports trainers, political advisers and other specialists to the South American nation. The remainder is covered by 25-year, 1% interest loans.

That amounts to an economic lifeline for the island nation, which is in the middle of an attempt to boost its perennially sagging economy with a series of reforms.

Benefitting from Venezuela

More than a dozen other poor countries around Latin America and the Caribbean have also benefited greatly from Venezuela oil aid on generous terms.

But some worry that Maduro's razor-thin victory margin, which had his rival demanding a recount, could mean Cuba's relief will be short-lived.

Maduro's opponent, Henrique Capriles, had said on the campaign trail that as president he would ensure that "not another drop of oil will go toward financing the government of the Castros”.

No small wonder, then, that Raul Castro's government was among the first to congratulate Maduro.

"In name of the government and people of Cuba, I congratulate you on this transcendental triumph, which demonstrates the fortitude of the ideas and work of Commander Hugo Chavez," Castro said in his message, published on the front page of Communist Party newspaper Granma.

At the polls

Maduro, who has been serving as acting president, saw the double-digit lead he had in the polls soon after Chavez's death in early March wither in the run-up to Sunday's vote. Electoral officials said he ultimately received 50.7% to Capriles' 49.1%.

Some in Havana found that troubling.

"The difference in votes is very small, and I think that it will be very hard for Maduro to govern," said Maite Romero, a 74-year-old retiree.

"For us in Cuba, I'm very pessimistic. I think it will be a debacle."

"This result demonstrated that Maduro decidedly is not Chavez, and now is the time for him to show that he is the worthy successor," added Diego Franco, 69.

"Once more it is clear that we have to solve our problems ourselves and not continue to depend on others."

Others were more optimistic.

Maduro "will go forward like Chavez, his ideals and thoughts always supporting the Cuban people," said Felix Montero, a construction worker.

"He will always have the support of the Cuban people."

Read more on:    henrique capriles  |  hugo chavez  |  raul castro  |  nicolas maduro  |  venezuela  |  cuba

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.