By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – Personally, I can’t help but feel like the Venezuelan crisis is affecting my life two-fold: as a Cuban and as a democratic socialist. As a Cuban because, every day, I suffer the adverse economic consequences of our national economy’s absolute dependency on the solvency of its partner of the hour, just like all Cubans do. And, that partner has been Venezuela over the past two decades.
As a democratic socialist because Chavism started out as a political, ideological and social movement founded on the pillars of democratic socialism. Although later it went down the dead-end street of pseudo-socialist, authoritarian, state centered and anti-capitalist opportunism, and stopped being both socialist and democratic.
And it’s always sad and terrible to see things with a lot of potential for the better to be stunted by radicalism. Or endure and do more harm than good, like the Fidelista and Chavista revolutions have.
Our people don’t really know about the adverse economic crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, or about the real causes of its decline or today’s political landscape with the Interim Government. TeleSur and Cuban TV stand alongside Russia Today and manipulate the news.
On these media outlets, the US embargo, national opposition and an alleged worldwide conspiracy against “socialist” power are to blame for absolutely everything. According to what they try to put across, it has nothing to do with political corruption, politicization of the economy or the incompetency of its leaders.
There are even exorbitant figures that quantify how many billions of USD that could have potentially been made if enemies had embraced them and helped them with their endeavours.
It’s a system that tries to oust out the capitalists, however, it needs the capitalists to not only be happy with this removal but to help them and not try to boycott them. This alone makes it utopian and condemned to failure.
However, media manipulation works. For example, a driver friend of mine who isn’t Communist at all, a critic rather, was really shocked when I told him that Juan Guaido gathered thousands of people on the street and showed him some videos.
“If I don’t see it, I don’t believe it! On TV, they say that nobody follows him, that he is Trump’s puppet and then they show squares full of people supporting Maduro. It would seem that he doesn’t have any support. They make it look like a face-off between the US and Venezuela for oil,” he commented.
This is the idea that is being planted in people’s minds. If a government is an ally of Cuba, everything in that country is amazing; but if it’s critical, then the news is all bad.
Consequences for Cuba
The Venezuelan economic crisis has been negatively affecting our own country for over two years now. With Chavez’ victory in 1998, the Cuban Revolution finally found a powerful ideological partner to replace the late Soviet Union. An empty position ever since 1991. Then huge financial possibilities opened up, to the extent that Fidel dared to burn bridges and destroy Cuba’s sugar industry, which had been the economic heart of the country up until then.
Leasing out doctors to Venezuela was the biggest opportunity and according to what has now become public information, the most lucractive, with payments per doctor twice what it was in the also lucrative program of doctors in Brazil’s “Mais Medicos” program receive. And, Venezuela has been where doctors have walked away with the least money in their pockets. How many hundreds of thousands of Cubans have gone on medical missions to Venezuela in the past 20 years? How many billions of USD have gone straight to the Cuban government’s coffers?
Plus, there have not only been missions of doctors, but also nurses, health professionals, managers, drivers, MININT officials, the military, workers, technicians and engineers from different sectors; Physical Culture trainers and INDER directors; and experts in urban security and urban farming. In a nutshell, in all fields.
There is even a countless number of products manufactured in Cuba, which could only be consumed here because of their low competition in the global market, which were then sold in Venezuela as part of ALBA agreements. For example, hospital equipment, furniture, tools, diagnosis kits, etc.
However, over the past two years, it seems that Venezuela has found itself forced to reduce oil production (because of their own inefficiency), only producing a little over a third today. Cuba’s crude oil handouts has thus been cut by half. The jointly-owned oil refinery in Cienfuegos has also been affected, which Venezuela no longer takes part in, according to information that has been disclosed.
We don’t know whether Cuba paid for the 110,000 barrels per day, which are half today, with its medical services. Or whether they still have the 25-year grace period that Chavez gave in the initial agreement, which set the price at 25 USD per barrel, and then it would join Cuba’s historic debt with Russia, painted as solidarity aid. Zero public transparency of these agreements is already a tradition here.
And, they still haven’t started paying off the first shipments. Buying fuel from other sources that wasn’t provided by Venezuela has meant that Cuba has missed payments for medicine and raw material imports from China and India; and the sudden end of contracts has meant there is a medicine crisis. It’s the domino effect, which stems from our dependency on a generous ideological partner.
For some months now, after the loss of over 300 million USD per year after Cuba pulled out of the Mais Medicos program in Brazil, the country is experiencing greater shortages. Which has been aggravated further by the current political crisis. Maduro can no longer handle Venezuela’s huge capital, frozen in assets abroad, and will surely not be able to transfer the amount of money to Cuba that he was used to. All of this has a negative impact on the Cuban population’s quality of life.
What would happen if Maduro were to fall from power?
If Maduro finds himself forced to take part in a new election, where he can’t rig the results and must compete on a level playing field with his opposition, it would be the end of Chavism. And, Cuba would find itself in a difficult scenario without the historic leadership, its people waking up as citizens and taking on a more sincere approach; the diaspora community reclaiming their space in national politics now more than ever; and a political opposition that is becoming more active every day.
Democratic change would be inevitable.