Right now there are thousands of Venezuelans coming from around the country to New Orleans in order to cast their vote in the Venezuelan presidential election. The old consulate in Miami has been closed for political reasons, so in order for them to vote, Florida residents had to make the journey west to the Big Easy. Opposition to Chavez runs high in this group, and it’s no surprise that the vast majority of them plan on voting for his opponent, Henrique Capriles.
Okay, great, but what does this have to do with Cuba?
Well, Chavez’s Venezuela is the biggest economic supporter of the isolated island, with generous oil subsidies provided to keep Cuba running, and these subsidies are crucial to the country’s current existence. Capriles realizes that it would be politically unwise to simply stop helping Cuba, especially considering the number of Cuban doctors currently acting as “guest workers” in the country, but he does not plan on continuing to support the island to the same extent Chavez does. Cuba, which is currently undergoing a series of economic reforms, could be up against a rock and a hard place if Capriles wins.
I’m sure what’s going on in the minds of Cubans is fear of an economic collapse similar to when support from the Soviet Union dried up over night, paralyzing the country and intensifying the effects of the U.S. embargo to a critical level. The blockade itself is more than partially to blame for Cuba’s reliance on Venezuela, so its continuation coupled with the removal of Venezuelan support could really fuck some shit up for the Cubans. It’s like how New Orleans must feel every time a major hurricane starts working its way towards the city. I mean, it probably won’t be as bad as Katrina, but dear god, what if it is?
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I’m critical of Chavez of course, but what worries me most is the fate of all my friends living in Havana. I know it might seem unimportant in the midst of our crazy election, but what’s happening today in New Orleans and in Caracas could really change the lives of millions of people in Cuba. It might sound weird, but that’s just the way it goes. Let’s hope that whoever gets elected will take that into consideration, because if there’s one thing I want, it’s for my friends not to suffer while I sip on martinis at Molly’s. Speaking of which…