Cuba weathers storm in Venezuela but future looks uncertain

fox newsHAVANA – Refineries have gone dark. Gas rations have been slashed for hundreds of thousands of state workers. Construction materials are nearly impossible to find.

But Cuba’s hotels and restaurants are packed, major U.S. airlines are adding flights and government stores are full of frozen American chicken and U.S.-made candy. So far, Cuba is weathering the storm as Venezuela’s economy craters and protesters fill its streets to denounce Cuba’s greatest socialist ally.

A much-feared return to Cuba’s post-Soviet “Special Period” of food shortages and blackouts has yet to materialize as energy conservation and a boom in tourism and overseas remittances cushion the blow of a roughly 50 percent cut in Venezuelan oil aid worth hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Interminable bus lines and long hunts for products like milk, paint and cement seem manageable by comparison with the hunger and hardship of the early 1990s that followed the drastic loss of Soviet bloc aid and subsidies that had propped up Cuba’s economy for decades.

The boom set off by the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with the U.S. in 2015 shows no signs of slacking: About 285,000 American tourists visited in 2016, up 76 percent from 2015, and the Cuban government says U.S. visitors increased 125 percent in January. The number of visitors from all countries topped a record 4 million last year and appears on track to top that in 2017. …

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During the last several decades, the United States has invested billions of dollars in trying to help the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean deliver better lives for their citizens. This has meant helping them increase internal security by combating the illicit growing and trafficking in narcotics and the activities of terrorist groups, as well as helping them to shore up their democratic and free market institutions.

Unfortunately, in recent years, continued progress in these areas has been threatened, not least by the radical populist governments in Venezuela, Bolivia, and elsewhere. These governments have instituted retrograde agendas that include the propagation of class warfare, state domination of the economy, assaults on private property, anti-Americanism, support for such international pariahs as Iran, Russia, and even transnational criminal organizations.

We are a group of concerned policy experts that fear the results of these destructive agendas for individual freedom, prosperity, and the well-being of the peoples of the region. Our goal is to inform policymakers and international public opinion of the dangers of these radical populist regimes to inter-American security.