In 2021 Venezuela faces its’ worst economic and humanitarian crises as the economy has contracted by 65% and 33% of the population suffer food insecurity.
The Maduro Government blames US economic sanctions and the Opposition is fractured and ineffective.
There are those like Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida where there is a large Cuban expatriate population, who claim that the Cuban protesters want a new government and that it is incumbent on the US to aid their efforts and Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez who calls for air strikes on Cuba to force regime change.
Those who advocate more hostility towards the island do not understand the importance of Cuba in reaching a political settlement.
The best solution is to get both sides to iron out a peaceful settlement with a view to obtaining immediate humanitarian relief.
But in order to get a settlement in Venezuela the support of Cuba, its’ best ally is necessary.
Cuba will have more influence than anyone to bring the Government and the Opposition together in order to iron out an agreement.
Several hundred Cuban security advisers guard the Venezuelan government and Cuba still receives 55,000 barrels per day of oil from Venezuela at subsidized prices in exchange for the services of Cuban medical personnel.
For economic reasons the US needs a political settlement because it needs the crude oil in Venezuela and it is against US interests to further destabilize the island state.
On the positive side progress is being made towards negotiations in order to achieve a peaceful agreement.
In early May Venezuela’s Congress named a new New National Electoral Council that includes two Opposition figures, a development that Opposition leader Henrique Capriles hailed as “a first indispensable step” towards elections and even Juan Guaido, the self-declared interim President, endorsed a gradual lifting of the international sanctions.
On June 25, the US, Canada and the European Union issued a joint statement promising “to review the sanctions policies”.
Oil is particularly essential for Cuba’s economy given the current recession due to the coronavirus pandemic and the US economic sanctions.
In 2018 Cuba offered to play a more constructive role in reaching a settlement if the US shows a parallel commitment and in 2019 Cuba hosted talks between the Maduro Government and the Opposition.
President Obama opened a rapprochement with Cuba by visiting the island, exchanging embassies and removing some of the sanctions but the Trump administration reversed the advances and imposed new sanctions.
Securing Cuba’s support for a Venezuelan settlement will be more difficult if President Biden continues Trump’s sanctions which he has so far done nothing to remove.
Given that any political settlement in Venezuela will have to go through Havana, the best option for the US will be to remove the sanctions which are seen as the major obstacle to progress on the humanitarian crisis because of Cuba’s dependence on cheap Venezuelan oil and because they are a disincentive for Cuba to co-operate with Washington.