Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Chavez eyes role in future of Cuba

Chavez eyes role in future of Cuba

By Sacha Feinman
August 29, 2006

CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez, Latin America's most vocal
opponent of the United States, is expected to play a significant role in
the future of a post-Castro Cuba, analysts say.
"I think there is no doubt that Cuba relies substantially on Venezuela's
economic support, and that Chavez is not going to go away. He is going
to be an important factor in the transition," said Michael Shifter, vice
president for policy at the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based
think tank.
Thanks to his country's sizable energy reserves, the largest in the
Western Hemisphere, Mr. Chavez is able to supply 90,000 barrels of oil
daily to his Caribbean ally.
According to Christina Macao, Mr. Chavez has long looked to Fidel Castro
as a mentor, and it is possible he would not remain disposed to such
favorable commercial terms should he feel the legacy of the Cuban
Revolution is not being honored, said Miss Macao, a scholar who follows
the Venezuelan leader's presidency.
"Chavez looks at Castro as Latin America's greatest leftist leader. They
have always had a very close relationship. For Chavez, Castro is like a
father figure, a revolutionary like he wants to be."
Recently, Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and Cuba's acting president,
acknowledged in an interview with the state press the possibility of
normalizing relations with the United States.
"We have always been disposed to normalize relations on an equal plane.
... But this would be possible only when the United States decides to
negotiate with seriousness and is willing to treat us with a spirit of
equality, reciprocity and the fullest mutual respect," the younger Mr.
Castro said as Fidel continued to recover from intestinal surgery.
The State Department was unimpressed, with a spokesman calling Raul
"Fidel light."
"I think Chavez is going to do anything he can to keep the Cuban system
going," said Mr. Shifter. "Cuba is one of the pillars of the
international left. It has provided Chavez with a degree of legitimacy.
... It is the greatest symbol of a political experiment that stood up to
and defied the U.S. for five decades."

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