Latin America applauds new US-Cuba ties

US allies in Latin America say the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries is evidence that nations can work through differences.

Argentine Presidency/REUTERS
(L-R) Bolivia's President Evo Morales, Uruguay's President Jose Mujica, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff, Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, Paraguay's President Horacio Cartes and Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro meet during the during the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR) trade bloc annual presidential 47th summit in Parana, north of Buenos Aires, December 17, 2014.

The renewal of ties between Cuba and the United States complicates matters for Havana's chief ally, Venezuela, which has been moving in the opposite direction, becoming more stridently anti-American.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and leaders across Latin America applauded Cuba's decision to swap prisoners with the US and Washington's easing a longstanding embargo on Wednesday. But analysts said the news is bound to shift geopolitical relations across the region and leave Venezuela more isolated.

The restoration of diplomatic relations between the US and the communist island nation came just days after Mr. Maduro called thousands into the streets to protest American imperialism and said he was thinking about breaking all ties with the "insolent Yankees."

Last week, the US Congress approved sanctions on high-level officials in Venezuela's socialist regime.

US allies in Latin America say the resumption of diplomatic relations between the two countries is evidence that nations can work through differences, while members of region's socialist bloc are saying the news shows that developing countries can triumph over the Yankee empire.

Maduro's predecessor, the late President Hugo Chávez, proclaimed Fidel Castro as a mentor. When Chávez came to power 15 years ago, Venezuela began supplying Cuba with oil in exchange for doctors and other in-kind services, providing relief for the island nation that had struggled following the collapse of its previous backer, the Soviet Union.

But the price of is oil crashing, Venezuela is supplementing its foreign reserves with loans from China and Maduro's approval ratings are dipping below 30 percent. Cuba may no longer see its staunchest ally as a solid source of support, according to Elsa Cardozo, a political analyst at the Central University of Venezuela.

"Cuba had to solve its dependence on Venezuela," she said.

Maduro went farther than other socialist Latin American leaders Wednesday, saying President Barack Obama had made a courageous gesture.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, on the other hand, said Thursday that Cuba's ability to twist the US's arm shows that "unbowed resistance to the empire has results."

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