Dark clouds over Hugo Chavez's death

Posted Mar 6, 2013 by Eko Armunanto
The announcement of Chavez's death came hours after Maduro met with the country's top political and military leaders about Chavez's worsening health condition and suggested someone may have deliberately infected Chavez with cancer.
Chavez with fellow South American presidents of Argentina and Brazil.
Chavez with fellow South American presidents of Argentina and Brazil.
Ricardo Stuckert/
Just like controversial death of the other "enemy of the United States", conspiracy theory is the first dark cloud to come after Chavez' death. Nicolas Maduro apparently suggested that someone may have deliberately infected Chavez with cancer or some other agent that made him deteriorate, said CNN regardles stories of Chavez being essentially poisoned by the CIA have been around since his first tumor was reported back in 2011.
Maduro promised on state television that a scientific commission would look into Chavez’s death and the possibility that his “historical enemies”, interpreted as the United States, had somehow induced his disease, said The Washington Post.
“There have been historical cases, too many historical cases of such clandestine assassinations", Maduro said, invoking the conspiracy theories around the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The Washington Post also said that Chavez himself had made similar allegations against the U.S. government back in 2005:
“If they kill me, the name of the person responsible is George Bush”, said Chavez.
Responding the allegations, the State Department forcefully disavowed the accusations against the U.S. in general, and against two officials who were expelled from Venezuela for espionage earlier this afternoon. “An assertion that the United States was somehow involved in causing President Chavez’s illness is absurd, and we definitely reject it,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. “The United States has options of reciprocal action available to it under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”, he added.
The second dark cloud is regarding the future of Cuba and more than a dozen other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, many of them economic minnows. Fox News said they have benefited to the tune of billions of dollars from the Petrocaribe pact that was created in 2005 with the goal of unifying the regional oil industry under Venezuelan leadership and countering U.S. influence.
Cubans are scared now following the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, whose billions of dollars of oil largesse helps the island's economy function. Some Havana residents were even talking about hoarding candles on Wednesday. Francis Gomez, a 22-year-old tourism student from the city of Pinar del Rio, said she was scared and worried. "Ever since Chavez became ill, my parents have been saying, 'Please, God, don't let there be another Special Period", said Gomez referring to the so-called Special Period of the 1990s when the Soviet Union's sudden collapse plunged the island into years of economic depression, with cars and buses disappearing from the streets for lack of fuel and rolling blackouts leaving the capital in darkness.
According to an estimate by University of Texas energy analyst Jorge Pinon, Cuba alone receives about 92,000 barrels of Venezuelan oil a day to meet half its consumption needs, worth around $3.2 billion a year. Havana pays about half the bill through a barter exchange in which tens of thousands of doctors, teachers and other advisers provide services in Venezuela. The rest goes into 25-year credits with 1 percent interest.
"There's no cash exchange. They don't have to write a check. That's the importance of this agreement. It represents $3.2 billion of free cash flow to the Cuban economy", he said.
Nestor Avendano, an economist and president of the consulting firm Consultores Para el Desarrollo, said Nicaragua, the second-most dependent on Venezuelan oil after Cuba, gets nearly all its 12 million barrels a year from Caracas, worth about $1.2 billion. President Daniel Ortega, a loyal Chavez ally, pays about half up-front and finances the rest over 23 years at 2 percent annual interes.
Anthony Bryan, a senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and an expert on U.S.-Caribbean relations, said Petrocaribe saved several Caribbean economies from certain collapse. Struggling Jamaica, where debt is a whopping 140 percent of gross domestic product, gets roughly two-thirds of its crude through Petrocaribe. The Dominican Republic gets just over 40 percent of its oil through Petrocaribe, and saves roughly $400 million a year from the arrangement
Cubans are not alone in having worries following Tuesday's death of Chavez, who used Venezuela's oil wealth to aid allies through a part-ideological, part-humanitarian program that gives out petroleum at preferential terms.
Chavez's party remains in power in Venezuela, and his political allies have said they won't change the program, at least not in the short term. A victory by the opposition in a presidential election expected in the coming weeks could change the game entirely. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has said he would reevaluate the program if elected.