14ymedio, Havana 6 October 2019 — The Cuban government asked Russia to use its military ships to escort Venezuelan oil tankers to the Island. A proposal to which the Eurasian power responded with evasion, as reflected on Saturday by the state news portal Sputnik .
In an interview Russian Prime Minister Dimitri Medvedev gave to the Russian Vesti v subbotu (Saturday News) program, when the presenter asked about the Cuban proposal to escort oil tankers with military ships, the prime minister said they will find “other methods to help Cuba receive oil and its derivatives.”
Medvedev has just finished an official two-day visit to the Island, which has been hit by the economic crisis of it ally and benefactor, the regime of Nicolás Maduro, as well as by US sanctions and the chronic inefficiency of the national economy.
During his visit, the Russian Prime Minister did not promise that his country will replace Venezuela as Cuba’s main support for energy supplies, but he did sign numerous collaboration agreements, among which is the restoration and modernization of the railway infrastructure in Cuba to the tune of 2.064 billion dollars over an implementation period of ten years.
Medvedev also attended the inauguration of the first horizontal oil well in Cuba, a joint project between the Eurasian country and the Island, under the signatures Zarubezhneft and the Cuba-Petroleum Union.
Since the coming to power of Raúl Castro, relations between Cuba and Russia have strengthened after a long period of cooling after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The youngest member of the Castro clan, a fervent communist before climbing the Sierra Maestra to fight the Batista dictatorship, was always looked on kindly by Moscow.
In times of the now defunct USSR, the Kremlin gave Cuba more than $65 billion in subsidies and development aid. The Island owed Russia, legatee of the extinct empire, about 35 billion dollars, but 90% of the debt was forgiven by Vladimir Putin and the rest is paid with investments in Cuban territory.
Now “our Cuban friends pay the debt, unlike the situation 20-30 years ago, in the Soviet era,” the prime minister said in the interview.
According to Medvedev, Miguel Díaz-Canel reiterated during the negotiations the willingness of his country to pay all of the debt.
“Our trade has increased considerably in recent years, around 20-30% (…), and secondly, the investments are growing,” added the Russian premier.
The trade between both nations is barely 500 million dollars a year, however, Russia is among Cuba’s top 10 trading partners.
Medvedev stressed that Cuba “is a sister country” for Russia. “A large number of Cubans studied in our land, and we simply know that country well,” he added.
Russia’s lukewarm response to Cuba’s request for escort ships for Venezuelan oil tankers is bad news for the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana at a time when at least three Venezuelan ships of the six planned are headed for Cuba loaded with oil as part of a flotilla.
The total shipment will be about 3 million barrels of refined products and heavy crude from Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA), according to Argus Media, a portal specializing in the sector.
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