The flamboyant Chavez is reporting to be failing rapidly with "severe" respiratory complications after his fourth cancer surgery since 2011 in Cuba. Both the Venezuelan and Cuban governments have remained very secretive about the condition of the 58-year-old Chavez.
Watching any human battle the terrors of cancer is always heartbreaking. But Chavez’s prolonged illness is also causing rising economic and political uncertainty in both Venezuela and Cuba.[...]
Cuba’s leaders are also watching President Chavez’s health crisis with mounting concern. Venezuela supplies Cuba with an annual $3.5 billion subsidy, including 15,000 bbls of oil daily. Venezuela is also building a large refinery in Cuba that will strengthen its economic independence. In exchange for oil, Cuba has provided Venezuela with 30,000 doctors.
The Soviet Union used to supply Communist Cuba with free oil until its collapse in 1991. Cuba wholly relied on this Soviet petroleum and sold the rest to earn hard currency. Commandante Chavez has always been a huge admirer of Cuba; he regards Fidel Castro as a father figure. So he was quick to throw a lifeline to sinking Cuba after Soviet aid evaporated. Washington was furious, to say the least, and sought to bolster internal opposition to Chavez’s populist socialist regime which is despised by middle and upper class Venezuelans
If Chavez loses his fight with cancer – and this could come in days – or if he is incapacitated, a new government in Venezuela may either sharply lessen or, if the rightist opposition wins office, completely end aid to Cuba. This would leave Cuba in desperate straits. Cuba does not have enough hard currency to buy oil on the open market.
Havana’s plight might offer Vladimir Putin off in Moscow a nifty way of needling Washington, which has lately been stepping on Russia’s toes in the Caucasus and Syria. China may also be tempted to quietly rescue Cuba as a tool for future use if the US challenges Beijing over Taiwan or the South China Sea. Imagine the uproar in America if Chinese Navy vessels began patrolling off Miami just as the US 7th Fleet patrols the Taiwan Strait.