(The following scene was prompted by a discussion in this post in Quico’s and Juan’s blog)
Miraflores Palace, evening of Monday, February 4th., the day the new Venezuelan President was sworn in. The President asks to be connected to Raul Castro and his side of the conversation goes something like this:
-Hello Sr. Castro, is President O from Venezuela.
-Thank you, thank you. It was a hard campaign and harder now, but ready to start doing things. In any case, I am calling you after the first Cabinet meeting, which ended about half an hour ago. We have looked at what we pay for your Doctors and will unilaterally change the terms starting tomorrow. Basically, we will pay US$ 400 per month per Doctor for sixteen months a year, which amounts to US$ 128 million and we will pay the Cuban Government a 20% outsourcing fee, for a total of 153.6 million a year, which we will pay at the end of each month to each doctor and we will transfer the outsourcing fee to you.
-Oh, yes indeed, US$ 400 per month is less than what a Venezuelan Doctor makes, so you do know what a Venezuelan Doctor makes? How interesting! Well, we provide housing and utilities for your Doctors Sr. Castro, thus the difference. As for transportation charges to and from Cuba, don’t worry, we will take care of that for you from now on, we have to create some jobs and that sounds like a good way to do it.
-I know Sr. Castro, we all have problems, imagine mine with the debt and the holes Hugo left all over the place. But just think, if I send back the Doctors, you will have 20,000 more mouths to feed, I am not sure you want that either.
-No Sr. Castro, I can not add US$ 10 million more to help you out. I mean, Haiti wants only US$ 5 million and I have to wait to decide on that. And they are starving there.
-Ok, good, I am glad you understand, we have a deal on the Doctors then. The second point Sr. Castro, is that we are suspending all oil shipments to Cuba, we have noticed you have yet to make an interest payment since 2003, you had two years grace period, but it has been now ten years without a single penny coming our way.
-I know, I know, don’t get upset. We have problems too, Hugo left US$ 150 billion in debt and we are trying to put the house in order. I know you need the oil, but we also know that Cuba does not use as much oil as Venezuela sends there. We are just asking everyone that is behind on the interest payments to pay, we can negotiate terms, but also all terms will be equal to all countries, except Haiti, of course. Essentially, it’s 50% within thirty days and the remainder in 25 years, but we will charge market rates for the 25 year financing, we have our own load to pay. As for the Cienfuegos refinery, we rebuilt it for free and we have been providing the oil you sell in the international markets for three years, so we really should own it. But don’t worry, we don’t plan to make such a claim.
-Yes, I understand I can not leave Cuba without oil, but we have to negotiate payment for 12 years of oil, if you want us to send some oil, send your Minister of Finance and I am sure we can find 10 o 20 thousand barrels a day to give you a hand temporarily until you can adjust.
-I know, things are hard everywhere, but just think, with these measures Venezuela will save some US$ 16 billion a year, which means we will not incur in any new debt in the upcoming years, except with multilateral organizations. With these loans, we will buy back some debt at cheaper rates and essentially have the macro part fixed, so we can work on the hard parts, the people, reconciliation and the financial mess at every local Government institution.
-Oh yes, your country has done a great service to Venezuela in providing health care. But I am not sure it applies to the case you mention. After all, he is not amongst us now, is he?