Grief mixed with uncertainty over Cuba’s future on Wednesday as the island mourned the death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Granma, the Communist Party newspaper, changed the color of its masthead from red to black for the first time to commemorate the loss of the regime’s closest ally, and dedicated six of its eight pages to Chávez’ life. In a television addressed to the nation, the Cuban government pledged “resolved and unwavering support for the Bolivarian Revolution in these difficult days” and ordered an official mourning period through Friday.
The Cuba-Venezuela alliance isn’t only one of aligned ideologies. Cuba receives over 100,000 barrels of oil a day from Venezuela in exchange for thousands of Cubans working in Venezuelan clinics and schools. Cubans will take some comfort in the fact that interim President Nicolás Maduro seems likely to win the election that must be organized within 30 days, despite a second challenge by Governor of Miranda Henrique Caprilles Radonski. A chavista win would guarantee continued Venezuelan patronage in the short term.
But if Venezuela’s oil exports to Cuba dry up—whether due to political turnover or economic crisis—the Communist regime does not have a clear backup plan or other ideological allies that would readily step to fill the gap.