Diaz-Canel and the Photo With Sherritt, Or Is It the Other Way Around?

Díaz-Canel meets with Leon Binedell. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 5 March 2022 — I admit that I was wrong. Not long ago, I wrote an entry on this blog in which I came to say that I did not find it too interesting for foreign investors in Cuba to take a souvenir photograph with Díaz-Canel. Without a doubt, I underestimated the persuasive capacity of the heirs of Fidel Castro, or perhaps, I failed to understand what the top executive of Sherritt International can get out of a meeting with light and stenographers with a communist leader.

It is evident that these meetings take place, and more frequently than is thought, but this time the regime’s state press, always ready to campaign in favor of the communist leaders, has featured the meeting and flooded its digital editions with an extensive visual report.

A Spanish businessman who started doing business in Cuba during the Special Period [after the fall of the Soviet Union and the sudden loss of its economic support for Cuba] and who ended up fleeing Cuba when things were made very difficult for him, told me that in the first years of his stay in Cuba, there was a line, as they say vulgarly, of foreign investors, waiting to be received by Fidel Castro, and to take a souvenir photo with the Cuban communist satrap.

Those businessmen, Spanish, Mexican, Dutch, Canadian, were specialists in the techniques of flirting with the left in their respective countries. This businessman told me that a friend of his, also Spanish, wanted to take a photo with Castro to show it to the unions of his company, the Spanish CCOO, strongly anchored in the left. The photo with Castro was clearly visible on the wall of his office when he had meetings with the union. Then he would remove it. The man hated Castro, but he had to pay a price for doing business in Cuba. As you know, ethics goes as far as it goes.

Then came the tributes from the Cuban communists to those who had risked their money in Cuba, and the busts of remembrance began to multiply in the parks and gardens. It is not known how many there are. They end up being abandoned testimonials to unknown people; many of them, having paid a great deal, for monuments. Sad. The last one that has come to us from the Island was the “collection” carried out among businessmen, many of them Spanish, to finance the construction of the “Fidel Castro museum” in several stolen Vedado mansions that, in due course, will once again become the property of their true owners.

And so, when we had not yet recovered from the bittersweet taste of the 20 million dollars given by those businessmen to worship the communist dictator, we received this report in the regime’s press according to which the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and President of the Republic of Cuba, Díaz-Canel held a meeting with Leon Binedell, president of Sherritt International, which according to the State-run newspaper Granma is “a prestigious Canadian company in the mining and oil sector.” And I highlight the “prestigious” part, because Granma does not give this title to just anyone, and, furthermore, if it were not so, this company would not be able to take a souvenir photograph with Díaz-Canel.

As Granma adds in the brief note that accompanies the report (which seems more like a society note than anything else) “during the cordial exchange, held at the Palace of the Revolution, both parties discussed the potentialities that exist, even amid the tightening of the United States blockade, to deepen the participation of this company in the economic development of Cuba, especially in activities such as mining, oil prospecting and power generation.”

Wow, now it turns out that business can be increased with Sherritt, which is none other than Moa mining, and on the other hand, the Cuban communists shout to the heavens when they see that another Canadian company manages to re-establish the business of remittances to Cuba without having to go through the dark and lustful hands of state security and the army, who do not want to lose a share in this business that moves, dollar-up-dollar-down, about six billion a year. It is clear that with Sherritt they do not have this problem, and thus Ramiro Valdés and the Ministers of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, and of Energy and Mines, Rodrigo Malmierca and Liván Arronte, respectively, also appeared at the meeting.

Why yes with some and with others no? What are the communist leaders looking for with these types of meetings? Perhaps to drag Sherritt into the conflict with the United States that they do not want to resolve, or to show that these types of companies that are “obedient” are received by the “senior staff of the regime” while, on the other hand, those that do not behave well, will they ever receive such treatment?

The derivative is not this. You have to think what Sherritt gains from this report in Granma with the Cuban communist leadership. This company must have a top-level image department because there’s no free lunch. Obtaining a report like this, which will be seen by the global shareholders of this company, many of them restless and upset with doing business with a country as complicated as Cuba, is not easy and can have consequences.

At the moment, the president of Sherritt may have to face the corporate social responsibility committee of his multinational asking him a question about why do business with a country that does not respect and outlaws human rights. What is going to be done, the rules of compliance are what they are and if Mr. Leon Binedell wants to go to the financial markets in search of financing, he may find some clause against doing business with a political regime like Cuba.

It could be anything. Nothing happens naturally in communist Cuba. In this event there are winners and losers. They have chosen the moment (the prices of mineral raw materials are soaring in the world markets and Sherritt must be making a lot of money with Moa’s business in Cuba); and Díaz-Canel, who must have Putin screaming to high heaven because Cuba abandoned him in the recent United Nations vote on the invasion of Ukraine, siding with China, has used the occasion to improve his poor international image. I insist. In Cuba nothing happens by chance and this handshake between a top-level Canadian “capitalist” and a Cuban enemy of capitalism has to have some meaning. We will see.

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