Analysts agree that the Venezuelan president will need to put aside some of his anti-imperialist jargon and socialist practices to stay in play.
Former Venezuela and Cuba presidents Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro claimed in their time to be buddies. “Panas” was the exact Spanish word. Their successors, Nicolás Maduro and Fidel’s younger brother Raul, seemed to be on similar terms until Wednesday, when the island agreed to restore full diplomatic relationships with the United States, with Venezuela’s economic collapse likely in mind.
With all its socialist policies and its anti-imperialist rhetoric, Caracas may have trouble adapting to the new geopolitical gameboard. “Many of Maduro’s fiery speeches ring hollow”, Caracas-based Jesus Seguias, a political analyst and pollster with DatinCorp, told the Miami Herald. ”He is facing an enormous dilemma,” added the analyst. “How is he going to justify his anti-imperialist politics when his principal ally has become an ally of the empire?”
He said the Maduro administration will be forced to change or risk being an increasingly isolated voice in the region and deal at the same time with a drop in popularity. The country’s socialist economic policies, which include draconian price, currency controls, and expropriations, have led to high inflation and shortages of basic products such as cooking oil, toilet paper and medicines.
But will it be? Or how soon will it happen? Commenting on the Venezuela Defense of Human Rights and Civil Society Act (see full story) signed into law Thursday, Maduro said that “Obama has made a false move”. The Venezuelan leader also labeled the sanctions as “insolent measures taken by the imperial élite of the United States against Venezuela.”
In an online survey by the Caracas-based El Universal, 66.61 percent of the nearly 3,000 voters said they justified the freezing of assets and denying of US visas to Venezuelan officials because they had taken part in human rights violations, 27.46 percent justified the move because the US has the right to chose who enters its territory, 4.1 percent did not justify them for being disproportionate and 1.83 believed they will affect the relationships between the two nations.
Among the things Venezuela -a full Mercosur member- will need to reassess in view of the international price of oil’s deep fall, will be its PetroCaribe aid program, which sends hundreds of thousands of barrels of highly subsidized oil to allies in the Caribbean and Central America, of which Cuba alone gets 100,000 barrels a day.