Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez recently returned home after his latest trip to Cuba to seek cancer treatment. In an email interview, H. Michael Erisman, a professor of international politics and Latin America at Indiana State University specializing in Cuban foreign relations, discussed Cuba-Venezuela relations.
WPR: What is the recent history of the Cuba-Venezuela relationship?
H. Michael Erisman: In a nutshell, the relationship has been extremely close in both the bilateral and the larger multilateral dimensions. The multilateral dimension refers to Cuban-Venezuelan cooperation in hemispheric affairs. The centerpiece project here is the Bolívarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA), which seeks to promote regional economic and social integration under Cuban and Venezuelan leadership. It is intended to serve as an alternative and a challenge to U.S. efforts to promote regional integration initiatives, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas and various bilateral free trade agreements. ALBA is an extremely ambitious and multifaceted experiment, at the core of which are Cuban medical aid programs and Venezuelan petroleum preferences for members. ALBA currently has eight members -- Honduras was a member, but withdrew in early 2010.