Raúl Castro is standing firm beside his embattled ally Nicolás Maduro, but painful memories of the Soviet collapse remain

Cuba’s leaders may have been taken aback by the recent surge in opposition to Nicolás Maduro’s government in Venezuela. But the Cuban public, torn between amazement and delight, has watched the political crisis unfold in Caracas on the Venezuelan Telesur channel, traditionally loyal to the regime. The Cuban press, on the other hand, says as little as possible about the unrest. With good reason, for the downfall of Venezuela’s socialist government would be a disaster for Cuba’s communist regime which has ruled the island for the past 55 years.

Over and above the political fallout that would be caused by the overthrow of a friendly government, the Cuban economy is heavily dependent on Venezuelan oil. (Caracas supplies about 80,000 barrels a day, though deliveries fell by 20% to 30% last year.) The terms for this supply are particularly advantageous, most of it being “paid” by the provision of thousands of Cuban medical aid workers, mainly doctors and nurses. Trade with Venezuela accounts for almost 20% of Cuba’s gross domestic product.

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