Almost half of all Cuban trade is with Venezuela, and such a high level of dependency leaves the island vulnerable to the political and economic swings of its partner.
Over the weekend, the Venezuelan government informed the nation that ailing President Hugo Chavez has suffered 'new complications' from surgery earlier this month.
According to calculations made by a respected NGO, Venezuela is now far and away the most dangerous country in South America, with Caracas one of the most dangerous capitals in the world.
Policymakers in many of the world's hot spots have a common New Year's wish: for unity to usher in and consolidate political and economic stability.
If Chávez can't attend his inauguration, his designated successor might be overshadowed by an interim leader.