14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 24 August 2023 — Pending the Cuban communist leader’s speech at the BRICS Summit on Thursday, as pro tempore president of the G-77 and China, not much was known about Díaz-Canel’s visit to Pretoria, where this meeting aroused enthusiasm in the weak Castro diplomacy. There was interest in knowing if Díaz-Canel would return to those incendiary and annoying speeches of revolutionary content that he has been pronouncing in recent times, or whether he would let himself be toyed with by the Chinese president, acting like a ventriloquist puppet, which seemed to be more likely.
The 134 countries that are attending this convention in South Africa are not there to hear communist nonsense or stupidity, and they confirm again that the Cuban communist regime is neither blocked nor embargoed and can trade, have relations and maintain investments with more than half the world. And the argument of the blockade doesn’t go very far either.
That is why, at least so far, what has aroused the most interest in this long journey of Díaz-Canel, who continues to spare no expense on his travels despite how the Cubans are experiencing their own situation, has been the meeting or encounter, or whatever you want to call it, with the Chinese Head of State, Xi Jinping, who also is attending the XV BRICS Summit.
The Cuban press is dedicated to giving information about this meeting, but they don’t ask for much. The topics discussed remained within that lack of transparency and cryptic language that characterizes the relations between communist partners. For Cuba, which persists as one of the last dictatorships of the cold war, having been invited to this international forum is an opportunity. Whether they know how to take advantage of it is another thing.
The meeting of the two communist leaders took place at the Hilton hotel in Sandton in Pretoria, and according to the Castro press, the Chinese leader began by saying, “It’s a pleasure to meet with you again, my friend,” referring to the visit made by Díaz-Canel to China a few months ago.
Given the practical sense that the Chinese have for international relations, the assessment of the Cuban leader’s visit to China was surprising, which according to Xi Jinping, did not go beyond reaching a “broad consensus.” And of course, Cubans who are going hungry and seeing their economic system collapse couldn’t care less about “consensus” and want numbers, figures, cash and hard currency. But these things don’t fall from the sky and require work, and that’s why the Castro regime prodded the Chinese.
Far from satisfying Díaz-Canel, Xi limited himself to commenting on “the deepening of relations between China and Cuba in the new era.” In short, an empty and not very concrete message, which should have fallen on Castro diplomacy like a bucket of cold water. Undoubtedly, they expected more; they didn’t want messages in the style of “we agree to work together to build the community of a shared future.”
But the Chinese leader, who is very clear about his objectives, cannot and does not want to go further with Cuba, no matter how much the Castro press says otherwise. And for this reason, Xi measured his words carefully and is looking the other way in the cold snapshot that represents the moment of his meeting with Díaz-Canel. Then, going off on a tangent, Díaz-Canel ended up expressing “satisfaction that, thanks to the united efforts of both parties, these agreements are being happily implemented.”
And then came the typical communist promise from the times of the USSR that pleases Havana so much, but which is equally empty of content, when he said that “China will work together with Cuba to deepen mutual political trust, expand practical cooperation and strengthen strategic collaboration, with a view to promoting the development of special relations of friendship between both countries and parties.” This means nothing; it’s more or less the same thing that has been said for decades, and it doesn’t appear that specific objectives have been achieved.
So when Díaz-Canel took the floor next, he could not help but show his disappointment with what was said by Xi, although he restrained himself. A good example was the reference to Raúl Castro, as if the Chinese were interested in this character. But Díaz-Canel, faithful to his canned speech, conveyed to his counterpart “an affectionate greeting from Army General Raúl Castro Ruz.” It was the same message he gave in Beijing on his road trip; in short, the same one that Cuban leaders continue to use as a business card, believing that it’s useful in this second decade of the 21st century.
The meeting could have ended at that very moment, because what came next was dispensable, but Díaz-Canel, in the presence of the media, took the opportunity to point that “it is a satisfaction to have this meeting with you, and we thank you very much because we know that your agenda is intense in the face of all the expectation that exists in this Summit with your presence, for the leadership that you and China have on the international agenda.”
Then he said that he has “pleasant memories of the successful visit we made to China in November of last year” and took the opportunity to refer again to the consensus “that was reached between both parties,” pointing out that “they today mark the road map in our bilateral relations.”
And since he was following the script for the interview, Díaz-Canel highlighted the importance and significance of Xi’s upcoming visit to Cuba, and referred to “the admiration that the Cuban people, the Cuban leaders, have for your work and for what it could mean for bilateral relations.” According to the Cuban communist leader, “we are making every effort to go forward at the rhythm we need.”
What gave a glimpse of the issues that concern the Chinese side is the fact that, since Díaz-Canel’s trip months ago, there have been no concrete agreements or investments of the Asian giant in Cuba, so the “rhythm we need” that Díaz-Canel talks about is not to Xi’s liking. The question is when he will come to visit the Island and if he will finally do it.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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