Photo credit: Pedro Portal/El Nuevo Herald/MCT
Analysts said they expect if Vice President Nicolás Maduro, who Chávez anointed as his successor, wins upcoming elections, the Petrocaribe program will remain in place — as long as Venezuela’s own economic problems don’t become insurmountable and the price of oil remains fairly stable.
“I think it’s likely to continue and certainly continue in the case of Cuba,’’ said Cynthia Arnson, director of Latin American programs at the Wilson Center. Maduro visited Cuba frequently during Chávez’s lengthy treatment for cancer and is close to the Cubans.
“There’s a real ideological component’’ to Venezuela’s oil subsidies, she said, and that will make it “very difficult to drop them.’’
Member nations pay only 5 to 50 percent upfront for the oil. After a grace period of one to two years, they pay the balance over terms of 17 to 25 years, at a 1 percent interest rate.
An end to such savings could spell disaster for any number of fragile Caribbean and Central American nations, which have used the money to fund everything from new roads and airport expansions, to social programs involving free food baskets for the poor.
In Haiti, for example, the savings from the Petrocaribe program financed 15 percent of Haiti’s meager $3 billion annual budget and account for 22 percent of the road and infrastructure projects, said Kesner Pharel, a leading Haitian economist.