14ymedio, Havana, 20 May 2023 — Before the satisfied gaze of Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel assured this Friday “Cuba’s unconditional support for the Russian Federation in its confrontation with the West.” The declaration of loyalty, offered in the 1930 hall of the Hotel Nacional, crowned the signing of eight important agreements related to business cooperation, macroeconomics, artificial intelligence, wheat supply, the development of joint ventures and an Action Plan that will govern the “Strategic Alliance” between the two countries until 2024.
Chernishenko’s visit demonstrates “all the understanding that the Russian Federation, and in particular President Putin, has had for the situation in Cuba and the willingness to set an intense pace of follow-up to all agreements,” continued Díaz-Canel, who asked Russia for “integral solutions to Cuba’s problems” and promised a “mutual benefit.”
“We are highlighting the important role of the Russian Federation in the goal of achieving a multipolar, non-hegemonic world,” he concluded, celebrating the conversation with Chernishenko as “a real opportunity.” However, a 24-second cut in the recording broadcast by Cuban Television prevented listening to the rest of the president’s intervention, which was also not transcribed in the other official media.
The Russian deputy prime minister, for his part, did not beat around the bush. For Putin, the Havana regime is a “trusted friend” in the Latin American region, but it is essential to “make a road map to incorporate these preferences, which may need some changes in Cuba’s legislation.” Although he did not detail what those “changes” are that the Kremlin expects, he promised a meeting at the highest level between the two governments, scheduled for June.
The Intergovernmental Commission meeting to guarantee the agreements of the Cuba-Russia Business Economic Forum, held this week in Havana with the presence of more than 150 Russian and Cuban businessmen, completes the cycle of approaches to Moscow initiated by Díaz-Canel in November, when he traveled to the Russian capital as part of his “begging tour” to allied countries.
The link with the Government of Vladimir Putin, discredited internationally after his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, has been affirmed since then, until reaching, according to Díaz-Canel, the “very particular, very special” moment that bilateral relations between the two nations are now experiencing.
During the meeting, there was no lack of allusions to Fidel Castro, who also positioned himself as an unconditional ally of the Kremlin until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
At the Business Forum, which was also attended by the Cuban Prime Minister, Manuel Marrero Cruz, and the head of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, Ricardo Cabrisas, future agreements were negotiated in the fields of transport, agriculture, innovation, digital transformation, construction and tourism.
During the meetings, Cabrisas pointed out that Russia will occupy a privileged place of participation in the National Economic and Social Development Plan until 2030 on the Island. In addition, he argued that Havana is interested in “reversing the existing imbalance” in trade between the two countries, but he did not explain how he planned to achieve it.
Of course, he said that the Island expected “significant” help from its ally in matters of “the supply of oil, raw materials, technology, energy and tourism.”
Juan Carlos García Granda, Cuban head of Tourism, said that his ministry had proposed to “reach half a million Russians arriving in Cuba in a year.” “The goals will be much higher than those we had dreamed of,” he added. During the meeting with Chernichenko on future Russian investments in the Cuban hotel sector, Putin’s envoy said that work was being done on the “construction and repair of hotels,” as well as on the administration of existing establishments. There was also talk of facilitating the ability of Russian tourists in Cuban shops to pay with their Russian MIR cards and that the “perspectives of collaboration” included other factors, such as promoting the learning of the Russian language on the Island.
“We would like Russian companies to manage hotels in Cuba,” said Manuel Marrero in the same exchange, who asked Cuban businessmen to “move at a faster speed” in business with the Russians. At the end of the meeting, two “memoranda of understanding” were signed on the subject of tourism and to make travel viable. The Russian Deputy Prime Minister had announced, on the same day, the resumption on July 1 of regular flights between Russia and Cuba.
The climate of the exchange was reflected in the words of the president of the Russia-Cuba Business Council, Boris Titov, this Wednesday: “They are giving us preferential treatment, the road is paved,” he guaranteed.
The Kremlin consultant, who has been advising the Havana regime for months, informed the Reuters agency that, among the privileges that the Russians will enjoy in Cuba, will be the right to own land in usufruct for a period of 30 years, a concession unprecedented in the revolutionary regime.
In addition, Díaz-Canel offered special conditions for the “long-term lease of land such as the tax-free import of agricultural machinery, the granting of the right to transfer foreign exchange profits, and much more,” he said.
“Cuba is being transformed, mastering new rules for the interaction between the State and businesses,” he summarized.
Cubans who read the news of Cuba’s “unconditional support” to the Kremlin expressed their concern on the social networks of the official media. In addition to pointing out that this occurred on the eve of the 121st anniversary of the founding of the Republic of Cuba on May 20, a user wrote: “I hope that what is being negotiated with the Russians is not the loss of national sovereignty.”
Translated by Regina Anavy
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