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The Cuban Factor in the Bolivarian Revolution: Commercial Implications for the United States
Terry Maris, PhD
This paper examines the historical foundations and recent developments of the Venezuelan Bolivarian Revolution. Special attention is given to the role of the Cuban government, and particularly the personal influence of Fidel Castro, on Hugo Chavez and his administration. Over the past few years President Chavez has boldly and clearly articulated an increasingly fervent leftist doctrine in an attempt to unite Latin America economically and politically. Fashioning his image after that of the great 19th century revolutionary and liberator Simon Bolivar, Chavez has repeatedly targeted the United States in general and George Bush in particular.
Archival and contemporary sources, both printed and electronic, were reviewed for relevance to this study. United States, Venezuelan, and Cuban government reports and databases were examined to determine historical antecedents, emerging trends, and future projections regarding international trade, commodity prices, gross domestic product, and purchasing power parity. The principal focus was on determining the economic impact on the United States.
Results document the existence of a trilateral political economic situation that has had a noticeable effect on each country to varying degrees. Castro's influence on Chavez has contributed to an ever closer strategic alliance between Cuba and Venezuela. Increasing subsidies to the Cuban economy by Venezuela are similar to those previously provided by the former Soviet Union. Of these, undoubtedly the most contentious is the Barrio Adentro program, better known as the "oil-for-doctors" program. Since its inception in 2003 more than 15, 000 Cuban medical personnel have been deployed to approximately 300 rural clinics in Venezuela to provide health services. In return, Venezuela has been shipping at least 53, 000 barrels of oil to Cuba daily. This has frustrated the Bush administration's plan to isolate the Cuban economy in order to hasten regime change.
This study concludes that this situation is likely to exacerbate in the near term, but will improve in the future. Despite threats by Chavez to cut off oil exports to the United States, and claims that the U.S. is planning to invade Venezuela, trade between the two countries is far too valuable to jeopardize. Furthermore, world oil prices will eventually decline to the point that Venezuela will no longer be able to continue its economic largesse to Cuba. When that occurs these subsidies will be greatly curtailed or eliminated altogether. At that point Cuba will once again be left to its own devices and the prospect of an economy unable to sustain itself.
(Presented at the Cuba: In Transition? conference, the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Affairs, New York, NY, March 30-31, 2006).