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Is Venezuela The New Cuba?

Is Venezuela The New Cuba?
By James Garrett Baldwin | April 05, 2015 AAA |

Over the last decade, Venezuela and Cuba have strengthened relations and
become close regional allies. Following the election of former
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez in 1999, the two nations boosted trade
and worked together to denounce American capitalism and gain influence
in Latin America. The two nations share military intelligence, financial
resources, and information technology. In addition, Venezuela exchanges
subsidized oil supplies for Cuban doctors, teachers, sports trainers,
and military advisors.

Venezuela is currently struggling in the wake of failed economic reforms
and soaring inflation. Under the grip of President Nicolás Maduro,
elected after Chávez’s death in 2013, the nation has been accused of
numerous human rights abuses. Given Venezuela’s adoption of socialism,
harsh tactics against dissidents, and flailing economy, many have
wondered if the nation is on the path to becoming the next Cuba.

The Key Similarities

– Venezuela’s former president Hugo Chávez long admired former Cuban
President Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution that eliminated
capitalism on the island and ushered in communist rule. Chavez’s dream
of pushing Venezuela toward a complete “socialist” model is shared by
Maduro. Venezuela has become the primary source of opposition against
the United States in South America. Under the leadership of the late
Chávez and now Maduro, Caracas has publicly condemned American
capitalism and its influence on the region, blaming the nation’s
economic woes on US interference. Such opposition is reminiscent of
scorn ushered against the US government by the Castro regime since its
revolution in the 1950s.
– Cuba and Venezuela have long faced dissident movements against their
leadership. Both Havana and Caracas have responded with brutal
crackdowns against opponents, including imprisonment of students and
journalists. During the Black Spring of 2003, the Castro regime jailed
75 people, including 29 journalists. Recently, harsh tactics by the
Venezuelan government have resulted in the deaths of protestors. In
February 2015, the Maduro regime arrested the opposition mayor of
Caracas Antonio Ledezma and charged him with conspiracy to overthrow the
government, a crime punishable of eight to 16 years in prison. Ledezma
is currently sitting in a military prison where many other prominent
government opponents have been held.
– Like Cuba, Venezuela is facing a significant shortage in basic goods
for consumers. Recent reports indicate that the nation is running out of
toilet paper. And like Cuban officials, Venezuela’s leadership blames
the results of its failed economic policies on outside influences,
primarily the United States. Inflation in Venezuela is running at about
60% today, and its economy is teetering on recession. But Maduro blames
the US for employing an “economic war” against Venezuela. That blame is
reminiscent of Cuban leaders who have argued that the island’s poverty
is the result of the US embargo and not of the failed domestic economic
policies.

The Key Differences

– Venezuela is one of the world’s largest oil exporters and holds some
of the largest oil reserves in the world. A member of the Organization
of Petroleum Exporting Countries, it holds influence in the global
markets and remains a significant exporter of crude oil to the United
States. Despite strained relations, the US is Venezuela’s largest
trading partner, a source of machinery, agricultural products, medical
instruments, and motor vehicles. Until recently, Cuba and the United
States had no formal trade for more than 50 years. That is changing,
however. (For related reading, see: Not All Oil Economies are Created
Equal.)
– Cuba’s economy, meanwhile, relies heavily of remittances from families
in the United States. It has long relied on Venezuelan oil subsidies.
But due to falling oil prices in recent months, Venezuela’s social
budget is significantly strained and Havana is seeking alternatives to
ensure the continuity of its government. The US has begun a process of
seeking to normalize relations between Havana and Washington. While Cuba
is seeking ways to keep its economy afloat through more open relations
with the US, Caracas is taking measures that are making Washington
rethink the presence of its embassy in Venezuela, including the
expulsion of US diplomats from the country in 2013 and 2014.

The Bottom Line

Venezuela is currently experiencing a wave of protests due to economic
calamity, severe shortages of basic goods, and rampant inflation.
However, the Caracas government continues to maintain a hardline stance,
embracing socialism and continually blaming the United States and other
capitalist forces for its mismanagement. Its current crackdown on
dissidents is similar to those endured in Cuba over the past 50 years.
Although there are many similarities between Cuba and Venezuela, the
latter’s role in the global energy markets and its trade relationship
with the United States make it significantly different than the nation
run by the Castro brothers.

Source: Is Venezuela The New Cuba? –
http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/040515/venezuela-new-cuba.asp?partner=mediafed

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