Venezuela’s Chavez turns to Cuban help with energy crisis, baffling critics

Christopher Toothaker
Associated Press
Sun-Sentinel [FL]
February 3, 2010

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez has turned to his friends in Cuba for help in tackling Venezuela’s energy crisis, drawing criticism for seeking advice from the communist-led island that has struggled with its own electricity woes.

Chavez gave few details on Wednesday about what is expected of Cuba, but insisted that “it’s valuable experience that’s serving us well.” He said that he spoke for hours Tuesday with Cuban Vice President Ramiro Valdes after his arrival in Venezuela to lead the consulting team.

The decision to seek help from Cuba bewildered Venezuelans coping with the nation’s power shortage.

“It’s laughable that he’s looking for help from Cuba,” said Aixa Lopez, director of the Committee for People Affected by Power Outages, which monitors the extent of current energy shortages and rationing in Venezuela.

Chavez blames a drought for bringing the country’s hydroelectric reservoirs to their lowest levels in decades, prompting a wave of planned and unplanned blackouts across the country.

Critics acknowledge the lack of rainfall, but blame Chavez’s government for failing to upgrade power generation capacity even as the oil-rich country’s consumption has soared.

Cuba itself has suffered a series of electricity crises since the collapse of the Soviet Union removed a major source of oil and financing. It now gets much of its imported oil from Venezuela.

The article continues at the Sun-Sentinel

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