REFILE-RPT-Venezuela's energy woes spread to its closest ally: Cuba
(Adds dropped word 'percent' in paragraph 5)
By Marianna Parraga and Alexandra Ulmer
HOUSTON/CARACAS, July 8 (Reuters) - Venezuela's falling crude output and financial woes have left it struggling to maintain a 15-year-old oil assistance program to its closest ally, Cuba.
State-run oil firm PDVSA has slashed its exports to Communist-run Cuba this year, according to the company's internal trade data, seen exclusively by Reuters.
The shift signals an unraveling of the oil diplomacy pioneered by Venezuela's late socialist leader Hugo Chavez and helps explain why Cuba, which generates electricity from fuels, recently ordered some joint ventures and state-owned firms to reduce power usage.
It also comes as Cuba improves its relations with the United States after decades of antagonism and a U.S. economic embargo while Venezuela, mired in triple-digit inflation and acute product shortages, is in a prolonged standoff with Washington.
Cuba, long reliant on Venezuela as its top energy supplier, has received some 53,500 barrels per day (bpd) of crude from PDVSA this year, a 40 percent decline from the first half of 2015, according to the company's data.
When it was flush with cash from oil exports, Venezuela's socialist government won political support in Latin America and the Caribbean by sending oil on advantageous terms to allies.
Cuba, which receives some 4 percent of Venezuela's total oil exports, has been the biggest beneficiary of the program and until this year was spared the fallout from PDVSA's growing cash flow problems, which already undermined oil supplies to Uruguay, Jamaica, Dominican Republic and Curacao. Continuación...