Why is Cuba, Venezuela’s key ally, standing with Guyana in the Essequibo dispute?

The recent revival of a long-running dispute between the governments of Venezuela and Guyana over the sparsely populated, oil-rich Essequibo region has moved the needle in regional geopolitics. Analysts say Cuba, the Venezuelan government’s main ally for more than two decades, has remained silent.

Sources highlighted that when Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro became angry with Guyana in its territorial dispute over Essequibo last year, the Havana government maintained “a deafening silence”.

In any case, Havana’s alignment with Georgetown on the Essequibo is old and dates back to the government of the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who came to strongly support it decades ago, analysts agree.

According to press reports at the time, since the mid-1970s, Havana supported Guyana’s position in this dispute. In April 1975, Socialist Prime Minister Forbes Burnham visited the island and attended a rally with Castro.

“For us Cubans, the visit of this delegation from our brother country Guyana, headed by Forbes Burnham, is an important event and honor. There are many reasons why these relations of friendship have developed between the two countries; But, first of all, we are well aware of the actions of the Government of Guyana in which it has proven its sense of solidarity with the Cuban Revolution,” Castro said. in the speech he gave In the presence of Burnham.

In 1981, the two countries signed a joint agreement stating the Cuban government’s support for Guyana in its territorial dispute with Venezuela.

However, diplomatic sources in Havana told the Spanish news agency efe Last December officials on the island supported contacts between the two sides for “several months” and that Havana would “lead” efforts to reach an agreement. Meeting between the Presidents of the two countries Tension eased in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in mid-December.

However, current official discussion reflects the political closeness of Cuban authorities to its neighbors in the Caribbean.

“We are a small nation facing enormous challenges,” said current Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel during the VII CARICOM-Cuba Summit in December 2020.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is an international organization composed of 15 countries, which aims to strengthen relations between the countries of the Caribbean. Its headquarters is Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.

Relations between Cuba and Venezuela date back to 1999.

Cuba and Venezuela have been strategic partners since Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999, even as Castro headed the so-called “revolution” on the island.

Historical leader Fidel Castro is considered the guru of Chavismo: he invited Chávez to Cuba in 1994 after he was released from prison by presidential pardon after participating in a coup attempt against former President Carlos Andrés Pérez two years earlier. I went.

As the friendship between Castro and Chávez grew, their nations’ cooperation became evident in practically all areas ranging from energy, international politics, telecommunications, defense, health, and education, among others.

This close bilateral relationship was maintained with Maduro’s succession in 2013, and experts believe that the Havana councils remain fundamental to political power in Caracas in terms of steps taken internally and externally .

However, when tensions rose with Guyana over Essequibo last year Threat Despite the reality of the use of force, Cuba did not come out in defense of its great ally in the Latin American region.

Because A group of analysts explained voice of america This reaction to Castroism has historical, ideological, and even economic underpinnings.

The “Flirtation” of Havana and Georgetown.

International relations expert Carlos Romero noted that Guyanese governments have shown political closeness to Cuba since independence from the United Kingdom in 1966.

Guyana thus followed the line of ideological “flirtation” with Cuba along with Grenada, Jamaica and some Caribbean countries such as St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the expert said.

“One sign of its independence was to have relations with Cuba,” Romero said, “ruled by a political system that was criticized and embargoed in the U.S. territory.”

Venezuela severed relations with Cuba in 1961 over its support for leftist guerrillas. In 1967, Venezuelan exiles trained by the Castro regime even tried to invade Venezuela at the Machurcuto beach in Miranda.

Caracas resumed its formal relations with the island government in 1974 during the administration of Carlos Andrés Pérez, several years after most Caribbean countries and Guyana had already reactivated their diplomatic relations with the Castro regime. .

On the same day, December 8, 1972, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Guyana established diplomatic relations with Cuba.

According to, the relationship between Cuba and the Caribbean is one of “solidarity and unconditional support”. publications Island government diplomat. These include business cooperation agreements in health, education, culture, sports and tourism.

During those years, Romero recalled, Guyana’s President Forbes Burnham offered food, rest, exercise and combat preparation on his territory to thousands of Cuban soldiers and combatants participating in the war in Angola, Africa.

He said, between the 1960s and 1980s of the last century, Cuba always supported Guyana’s thesis that Essequibo was part of its territory and should never be doubted.

According to press publications, Cuban Foreign Minister Ricardo Alarcon reiterated Havana’s opinion in 1981 that Venezuela’s claim was part of “expansionism” and said that Guyana “has the full right to enjoy its entire territory.”

Now, amid protests from opponents, Cuba keeps a low profile in its foreign policy because of “serious” problems in its domestic economy and politics, Romero said.

In this context, he speculated, the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel has maintained “a complicit silence” with Guyana in its contemporary dispute with Venezuela.

Havana’s silence

The traditional support for Chavismo of leftist governments in Latin America and the Caribbean was disrupted by their “aggressive attitude” towards Guyana through Essequibo, after the allocation of oil concessions in areas to be demarcated by Georgetown. Evaluated, international affairs expert Félix Gerardo Arellano.

According to Arellano, amid the Caribbean’s support for Guyana and the diplomatic efforts of Brazil, ruled by leftist Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Venezuela faced Cuba’s “deafening silence”, which was a “hard blow” to Caracas. ” Was.

Despite apparent support for Guyana from CARICOM (Caribbean), the Commonwealth, the United States and military support from England, Cuba has maintained an apparent and unusual neutrality in this matter of Venezuela’s current foreign policy.

CARICOM is headquartered in Georgetown. Guyana is a full member of that organization made up of 15 Caribbean countries.

“Cuba is silent because it has a long ideological history with Guyana, but it should also envision possible participation in the management of energy and mineral resources in the disputed territory, Arellano mused in the conversation. visa on arrival,

“This issue has not gone very well for Nicolás Maduro,” he concluded, highlighting that China, another great ally of Chavismo, has also taken a “prudent” stance in the face of tensions over its dispute with Guyana. .

Contreras, for his part, considered it “unusual” that Cuba maintains its support for Guyana despite collaboration with Chavista governments over the past 25 years.

Could relations between Caracas and Havana deteriorate because of Guyana? “it must be!” Contreras responded candidly to that possibility.

In his opinion, the ruling Chavismo did not enjoy reciprocity this time, despite sending oil and “all kinds of aid” to Castro with “religious” punctuality.

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