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Cubans closely following Venezuela election

English.news.cn   2012-10-08 10:38:29            

HAVANA, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- Cubans have been closely following the presidential elections in neighboring Venezuela, their main trade partner, especially with the outcome that may directly affect their livelihood.

In the days leading up to Sunday's vote, radio and TV programs in Cuba dedicated vast amount of airtime to incumbent Hugo Chavez, whose bid was to win a third six-year term and continue his socialist reforms, and his main rival, the pro-business Henrique Capriles.

During his 14 years in power, Chavez, who considers former Cuban leader Fidel Castro a mentor, has forged strong ties with Cuba, ignoring Washington's five-decade-long economic blockade against the island.

Capriles, who has pledged to pursue closer ties with the United States, made many Cubans a little bit uneasy.

With so much hanging in the balance, Cuban state-run TV even scheduled a Special Roundtable for later Sunday, at 6:30 p.m. local time (22:30 GMT), to offer in-depth coverage of the Venezuela's electoral contest, the outcome and what it would mean to Cuba.

An Integral Cooperation Treaty signed between the two countries in 2000 laid the groundwork for closer economic cooperation based on shared political beliefs in socialist policies.

The treaty was an essential lifeline for Cuba, which had sunk into a financial downturn after the Cold War era. The Caribbean nation was left to struggle alone against five decades of punitive economic sanctions imposed by the United States.

Thanks to Chavez, Cuba once again has access to oil under conditions it could afford. In exchange, Cuba maintains some 30,000 healthcare workers and 15,000 teachers and trainers throughout Venezuela.

Trade volume could also explain why Cubans have given so much attention to Venezuela's election outcome.

According to official figures from Cuba, bilateral trade reached 6 billion U.S. dollars in 2010.

Cooperation between the two nations in 2012 alone included some 47 projects, valued at 1.6 billion dollars, in education, agriculture, healthcare and sports, among other areas. The two have also created various binational companies and jointly offered aid to third countries in need, such as Haiti and Bolivia.

The Venezuelan president also enjoys high popularity among Cubans.

"I am confident Chavez will not lose," a Havana university student Freddy Cabrera told Xinhua, adding he believed that if the opposition candidate won, it would spell the end of the cooperation agreements between the two countries.

Chavez is the best choice for Venezuela's poor, said Cabrera.

A few days ago, the state-run website Cubadebate posted an article that also showed support to Chavez by combating rumors spread by his opposition that he was in poor health.

Editor: Bi Mingxin
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