Russia Promises Cuba a Stable Supply of Petroleum, Wheat and Basic Necessities

Cabrisas and Chernishenko, during a high-level meeting in Moscow

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 March 2024 — Being a key partner and reliable ally of the Kremlin has its advantages. Cuba knows this well all too well. During an intergovernmental meeting in the Russian capital on Friday, Russia committed to prioritizing “the supply of hydrocarbons, wheat and fertilizers” as part of its alliance with the island.

Cuba’s state news agency, Prensa Latina, reported that the Cuban delegation, headed by Minister of Foreign Commerce Ricardo Cabrisa, was informed by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko that the island would be receiving new loans intended to “guarantee the stable supply of oil, petroleum products, wheat and fertilizers, an issue that is extremely important to Cuba.”

The high-level meeting, which the news agency described as “plenary” in nature, was preceded by meetings of seventeen working groups that make up the Cuban-Russian intergovernmental commission. “With no other partner country in Latin America does Russia have such a long and diverse experience in the commercial and economic sphere as with Cuba,” Chernishenko stated. “We value the special nature of bilateral relations, which are not affected by external conditions.”

Chernishenko revealed that roughly a hundred Russian companies have been operating in Cuba since 2003 and that they have made significant economic investments in the country

The Russian official revealed that roughly a hundred Russian companies have been operating in Cuba since 2003 and that they have made significant investments in heavy industry, energy, banking, agriculture, information technology and tourism. He added that several Russian banks will be opening branches on the island in the future.

Jorge Piñón, a senior research fellow at the University of Texas and former oil industry executive, has no doubts about the significance of this event: Russia is coming “to the rescue” of its ally at moment of extreme crisis. The movement of tankers towards Cuban ports, which Piñón regularly monitors, confirms this.

One example is the NS Concord, an oil tanker carrying 697,000 barrels of crude oil that set sail from the Russian port of Ust-Luga, and is expected to arrive in Matanzas on March 29. Piñón also recalls that Cuba’s Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy, recently mentioned — wihout providing details — that a “ship carrying 40,000 tons of diesel that would be arriving in Cuba “in the coming days,” which would have been in late February.

Piñón believes that it is under the direction of Eco Fleet, which has been transporting approximately 260,000 barrels of diesel fuel from Tunisia since February 7 and which has been in Cuban territorial waters since the 25th. As he points out, the ship has been waiting to dock and unload for twenty days, something he finds suspicious.

“Have they not had the money to pay for the cargo? Is there a problem with the ship? Are there problems with the quality of the fuel?” he asks. Someone will have to pay for the delay, he points out, if — as is customary — the Cuban government does not provide an explanation.

At a meeting with journalists on Wednesday, Vicente de la O Levy stated, “The path outlined for Cuba is to advance with our own resources, to move towards sustainability and energy sovereignty with our own crude oil, our gas and renewable energy sources.” The claim, in Piñón’s opinion, is naive at best.

Cuba’s dependence on Russia and its other allies, cemented by their political similarities, is the only thing the country can count on

Cuba’s dependence on Russia and its other allies, cemented by their political similarities, is the only thing the country can count on. “Russia has plenty of crude oil and, because of U.S. sanctions imposed on Moscow after Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, is looking for new markets.” Also, Russian crude from the Urals region is the kind best suited to Cuban refineries’ capabilities. In fact, the refinery in Cienfuegos was designed specifically handle it. The most pressing problem for Havana is how to pay for it.

Another country that has been coming to Havana’s rescue is Mexico, whose exports to Cuba have exceeded those of Russia. The cargo ship Esperanza, notes Piñón, left the Mexican port of Pajaritos on March 5 headed towards Cienfuegos, where it arrived three days later. It is the only such transport between Mexico and Cuba that has, so far, been recorded this month.

Piñón also reports that the tanker Ocean Mariner – one of the most active vessels in Cuba’s oil fleet – is now somewhere off the coast of Pinar del Río, though he adds that its exact location cannot be determined until it crosses Cape San Antonio.

The shipments from Russia, however, pose a key question for the island’s energy future. With Russian oil now on its way, will the Mexican supply be discontinued? We will have to wait and see, concludes Piñón, adding that we will also have to keep a close eye on Venezuela, the third point in the oil triangle.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORKThe 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.