Quico says: Here's a galling number for you. In 2006, Venezuela sent Cuba oil shipments worth $3.4 billion. Cuba doesn't seem to be actually paying for it, as far as anyone can tell - which isn't very far, because the details of the deal and the payment mechanisms (if there are any) are secret.
3,400,000,000 dollars. Picture it. You can't? Of course you can't...you're only human.
As scientists know, humans aren't very good at grasping the meaning of very large numbers. 3.4 billion is an abstraction too far for our weak little brains. I could tell you that the giveaway is worth nearly 2% of Venezuela's economy, almost three times the UN's guideline for developed countries' total foreign aid to poor countries. I could tell you it accounts for a staggering 15-20% of Cuba's GDP (depending on who's doing the counting). But those numbers are just as abstract: they fail to cause much of an emotional ripple.
So I'll fall back on my favorite heuristic device, the Mexican Drug Cash Pile (MDCP). Earlier this year, this stash worth $206 million, mostly in $100 bills, was confiscated from a Mexican drug cartel:
Venezuela's oil giveaway to Fidel last year was worth over 16 MDCPs. About this much:
Basically, we pay for their totalitarianism.