When Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido earlier this week said he had decreed the suspension of all crude oil shipments to Cuba, he explained the move with the massive power outage that plunged a lot of Venezuela into darkness. Yet the call to turn the tap off for Cuba may re-emerge, this time as a more permanent goal on the opposition’s agenda.
Venezuela is Cuba’s largest oil supplier under a barter deal sealed by the late leaders of the two countries, Hugo Chavez and Fidel Castro. The deal envisaged Cuba getting regular shipments of crude in exchange for its highly trained doctors and other professionals to work in Venezuela.
At one point during this partnership, Cuba was receiving more than 100,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude, an analysis by Oliver Pieper for Deutsche Welle said. Now, however, this is probably down by a half as Venezuela struggles to keep its fields producing. Even so, Venezuelan crude is an important part of Cuba’s energy mix and its elimination from this mix would almost certainly lead to power outages for Cuba as well.
This urgent call by Guaido for a halt of oil exports to Cuba is not the first one. The Wall Street Journal’s John Otis reported in late February that the self-declared interim president of Venezuela and president of the opposition-dominated National Assembly had already set his sights on this particular portion of exports with the argument it was irrational especially amid the economic crisis raging at home.
Yesterday, Guaido tweeted that Venezuela was sending 47,000 bpd to Cuba and these were worth US$2.58 million that would be better put to good use at home rather than in Cuba.