Cuba and Venezuela have grown so close, in fact, that at one point in 2005, Cuba’s Vice President Carlos Lage declared “We have two presidents: Fidel and Chávez.” Perhaps a moment of hyperbole, but the statement speaks to the growing dependence that Cuba has on Venezuela, long after it lost its cold war ally, the Soviet Union.
Venezuela provides Cuba with between $5 billion and $15 billion annually, nearly a quarter of the communist island's $63 billion GDP, depending on the figures that are banded together by various sources. Neither government supplies the public with official numbers. In exchange, Cuba provides Venezuela with needed human capital, like skilled doctors and sports coaches.
But Chávez is battling cancer, and he faces his strongest opposition since he took office more than a decade ago. A potential loss of Chavismo, as Chávez’s left-wing ideology is called, would surely transform the oil-rich, South American nation. And it would have an equally big impact on Cuba.