Cuba’s “unwavering solidarity” with Venezuela raises wider questions

Cuba has expressed “its unwavering solidarity with the Government of the Constitutional President Nicolás Maduro”. Its formal 23 January declaration followed the decision by the US Government to recognise Juan Guaidó, as the interim President of Venezuela. The statement from Cuba’ s Council of State came shortly after Guaidó, who is the President of Venezuela’s National Assembly, took an informal oath of office and at a public meeting declared himself the country’s President.

Strongly condemning and rejecting what it described as US threats to “impose, through a coup d’état a puppet government” in Venezuela at the service of the US Government, Cuba said that the “true objectives of the actions against Venezuela are to control the vast resources of that sister nation and destroy the value of its example …. and independence of Our America”.

The statement quoted President Díaz-Canel as saying: “The sovereignty of our peoples is resolved today in the attitude towards Venezuela. To support the legitimate right of the sister nation to define its destiny is to defend the dignity of all.”

Cuba also said that the actions of other nations in supporting Guaidó and what it described as “the shameful role of the OAS” constituted “a new and desperate attempt to implement an unsuccessful policy of regime change.”

However, speaking at the UN Security Council on 26 January, Mike Pompeo, the US Secretary of State directly accused Cuba of making matters worse within Venezuela. Indicating that Washington considered Cuba to be the nation interfering in the internal affairs of Venezuela, he said: “No regime has done more to sustain the nightmarish condition of the Venezuelan people than the regime in Havana”. He then went on to say that the support provided by Cuba’s Interior Ministry to the Venezuelan President and his intelligence services had “directly made matters worse”.

There is now growing uncertainty as to what this will mean for Cuba’s hemispheric and international relations as there being a sense in western capitals that Cuba’s unswerving backing for President Maduro will divide it from other nations in the hemisphere and elsewhere, that were previously supportive of Havana in international fora.

In a choreographed response following the US decision to recognise Guaidó, hemispheric nations including Canada, Brazil and Argentina followed suit. More recently the UK, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Germany have indicated that President Maduro has eight days to call new elections before they too would back Venezuela’s opposition leader. In contrast, Russia, China and Turkey indicated their support for the Maduro government and objected to external interference in the country’s internal affairs.

Cuba’s close and unnuanced political and economic engagement with Venezuela comes as the EU, Latin America and Canada, which have helped it resist US pressure, have run out of patience with President Maduro. This suggests that if President Maduro fails to survive, Cuba will have to engage in complex diplomacy with nations that have previously been supportive of Cuba in spite of the US’ increasingly harsh stance, while deepening relations with traditional but more geographically distant friends.

 

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