Way Back to Sky Blue Havana
Nil NIKANDROV | 14.07.2014 | OPINION

Way Back to Sky Blue Havana

Russian President Vladimir Putin began a six-day Latin American tour to coincide with the BRICS summit in Brasilia. The full agenda encompasses Cuba, Nicaragua, Argentina and Brazil. Western TV channels use the hackneyed mantra repeating the very same thing that the tour is a Russia’s attempt to break through international isolation. 

This kind of talk brings out nostalgia of the US administration about the times when the US called all the shots in the Western Hemisphere. Some 30-40 years ago Latin America was a US sanctuary. Puppet governments behaved obediently complying with all the directives coming from Washington. Cuba was the only one to stand up to the empire, fend off all the attacks and paddle its own canoe. Off and on nationalist regimes emerged on the continent trying to obtain independence. Washington firmly put down all the attempts to install «pro-Soviet» regimes using such methods as plots, terror, «fifth columns» , economic sabotage and physical annihilation of the politicians fallen out of favor. Guatemala, Grenada, Chile and Panama – these are just a few dissident countries punished by the United States, even if the actions required bloodshed. 

In the days of the Cold War American politicians got used to make others dance to their tune. They have always treated Latin America as a colony. Nowadays Venezuela, Ecuador, Cuba, Bolivia, many Caribbean island nations, Brazil and Argentina put their national interests at the top of priority list evoking great exasperation in Washington. The United States cultivate hatred towards those who refuse to comply. The US special services launch the plans of destabilization and provoke conflicts between Latin American states, especially in case of the countries ruled by «populist leaders». The goal is to spread chaos on the continent and create new hot spots to be used as a pretext for armed intervention. Cuba and Venezuela are the main enemies. If not for the solidarity of Latin American countries, the progress of integration and the balanced policies of Brazil and Argentina that flatly refuse hostile «anti-populist» rhetoric of Washington, then, no doubt, «humanitarian bombings» against these countries would have taken place. 

The irrationality and unpredictability of the United States gives rise to concern on the part of the US-friendly countries of the continent. They widely believe in Latin America that Washington would sacrifice any ally and use any deceit to serve its interests. After the spying scandals in Europe and the revelations of US intelligence gathering activities in German government agencies this opinion strengthened. If Americans treat their closest allies this way then what they clandestinely do in Latin America? The United States believes that it can do anything, breach any rules, ignore any reasons. That’s what my Latin American colleagues told me privately. 

Latin America is prone to cooperate with countries that respect international law and the United Nations Charter. The President Putin’s tour is welcome no matter the effect of «black propaganda» efforts. Latin America believes that Putin is the most popular contemporary politician. Some media outlets have even published pictures to compare the Russian President’s friendly smile and his hand stretched for a handshake and the threatening countenance of President Barack Obama with his hands convulsively clenched into fists. The US regional allies got fed up with the US dictatorship. These gringos norteamericanos constantly want something giving commands and intimidating with imposition of sanctions. 

Latin Americans are stunned by the US threats against Russia. If a tiny Cuba stood up to the blockade then any sanctions against Russia are nothing more than a will of a wisp. 

The President Putin’s tour started with the country which treats Russia with sympathy and love. The people of age remember the song La Paloma brilliantly performed by Klavdia Shulzhenko, 

«Cuando de tu ciudad de la Habana, navegó yo en la distancia,
Sólo has de adivinar las arregló para mi tristeza!
 
«When out of your Havana I sailed off into the distance,
Only you managed to guess my sorrow!

The Russia’s President’s visit has a symbolic significance. Having gone through hard times in recent years the alliance between Russia and Cuba that emerged so may years ago after the victory of Cuban revolution has grown even stronger adapted to new historic realities. The Putin’s agenda included the ceremony of laying wreath to the Memorial of Soviet soldier – internationalist… Raul Castro, President of the Council of State of Cuba and the President of Council of Ministers of Cuba also took part in the ceremony. 

President Putin signed 20 economic and humanitarian agreements. The most inspiring for Cubans had been the decision of Russian parliament (State Duma) to write off the Cuban debt burden accumulated since the Soviet times. The amount equal to 90% (over $30 billion) of the sum is written off while the remaining $3, 5 billion will be invested in the island’s economy. Writing off the debt opens new opportunities in energy, communications, medicine and aviation. 

Zarubezhneft signed a contract with CubaPertoleo of exploration and development of Boca de Jaruco deposit. The company had earlier executed a contract with Cuban Union de CubaPetroleo for pilot operations, appraisal and application of secondary oil recovery methods at the Boca de Jaruco field has elected ERIELL Group as its drilling contractor. Zarubezhneft, Rosneft and CubaPetrolero will develop Block 37 on the continental shelf. According to preliminary estimates, the reserves of the Cuban shelf exceed 20 billion barrels. Totally there are 59 blocks to be licensed, there are contracts signed with the companies from Venezuela, China, Brazil, India and Canada. The competition is stiff. 

Russia and Cuba are intent to boost joint ventures. In 2013 the trade turnover was only $185 million; it has been going down a bit this year. Experts believe the credit granted by Russia in 2009 is too limited. Primarily it was used for construction and agricultural equipment acquisition. 25 exporting contracts were fulfilled in the period of 2010-2013 with the participation of 16 Russian exporters and 5 Cuban importers. KAMAZ, IVEKTA, CHETRA - Industrial Machines, Chelyabinsk Construction and Road Machines. Cubans fully meet their obligations according to the credit deal, they pay interests rates in time and Russia has no claims. 

Russia plans to take part in developing the free trade zone in the port city of Mariel located in the vicinity of Havana. Health care and energy joint projects are on the rise. The military cooperation is also being intensified. Cubans know well how to handle the Russian systems… Some aspects of this cooperation remain in the shade for well-known reasons. 

The Russia-Cuba space agreement was signed in February 2013 to become effective till the end of this year. One of the issues is legal foundation for installation of GLONASS sites. Vladimir Putin said that Russia is interested in placing GLONASS system in Cuba. «Russia is interested in placing GLONASS ground stations in Cuba. And in this case, the Cuban side will have access to services and satellite communications technologies in the area of the station»said the President after talks with the chairman of the State Council of Cuba Raul Castro. According to RIA Novosti, the Russian-Cuban intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the space sector was signed in February 2013. It is expected that it will come into force shortly. Thus, there will be legal basis for the work on the creation of GLONASS ground stations in Cuba. Russia has held talks with the United States on deploying GLONASS stations on US soil (on the basis of reciprocity, there are 19 US sites based in Russia). The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency oppose the plans. The agencies believe the GLONASS stations could be used for spying and military purposes. The U.S. Сongress rings the alarm over Russian satellite technology by requesting senior U.S. national security officials to provide information on the threat posed by a Russian proposal to set up monitoring stations for its GLONASS satellite navigation system on American soil. As the House Armed Services Committee hammered out the final details of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, Representative Jim Bridenstine proposed an amendment that would require the Defense Secretary, along with Secretary of State and Director of National Intelligence to report to Congress on a Russian proposition to place 8 GLONASS monitoring stations in the U.S. National security officials would be required to disclose the locations of the GlONASS sites, assess the potential threats they pose to U.S. national security infrastructure, and present concrete plans to mitigate these threats. The events unfold in such a way that Russia will have to finally close the US stations on its soil. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia will help Cuba to overcome the illegal blockade imposed on it by the United States. This he said after a meeting with the President of the Council of State of Cuba Raul Castro. Minister of Foreign Trade of Cuba, Rodrigo Malmierca said Monday that the main objective of the new Law on Foreign Investment in your country is to attract capital to different sectors of the national economy.

«Our bill includes guarantees for foreign capital and defends our national interests looking at Cuba sovereignty capital projection for the economy of the nation. Never going to do what was done in that neocolonial past where virtually sold the country», the Cuban official during a special interview with Telesur. On tour in the Venezuelan capital to 200 companies presenting the details of the new regulations, Malmierca, said that, after the inauguration last January Spatial Development Area or port of Mariel Mariel-occurred again in the country openness to foreign capital.

«It is already operational. We are moving the container terminal of Havana (Havana) to the port of Mariel, a modern port», explained the diplomat after adding that it is a «great advantage to develop this special area», which aim to provide higher incentives to attract foreign capital, especially from companies that provide technology, marketing, agriculture, among others. With regard to the business relationship with the countries of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA), said it is a more integrated approach to the Cuban economy and «will be present in this effort that Cuba is doing to market the national economy». 

Regarding the trade embargo has had Havana for 50 years by the United States (U.S.) said that it is the only major obstacle facing the country, but it will not affect the course of the economic model. Likewise, he referred to the monetary and exchange rate unification implemented by the Cuban government and added that President Raul Castro had recently expressed that this process would progress gradually, protecting the people’s money. The Minister said the country will never repeat the mistakes of the past squandering away the national riches. 

As planned, Vladimir Putin met Fidel Castro who does not hold any official positions and is mainly involved in journalists’ projects. He concentrates of highlighting the burning issues of our times offering poignant and perspicacious definitions and forecasts. He is dry behind the ears and knows all about world politics. I believe it will be interesting for President Putin to know the opinion of Fidel Castro related to some events and political personalities (he is the one who knows how to make comparisons). I don’t think their views will differ much. Experience is a thing of enormous relevance in the contemporary politics. 

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