During her official visit to Cuba, Valentina Matviyenko, chairman of the RF Federation Council, met with Cuban President Raúl Modesto Castro Ruz and Juan Esteban Lazo Hernández, the President of the Cuban National Assembly of the People’s Power, and said that relations between Russia and Cuba are having a renaissance. Matviyenko praised the expansion of bilateral partnership, trade, economic, scientific, and humanitarian cooperation between the countries. She told reporters on the flight back to Moscow, “Our delegation came to Havana to upgrade and boost parliamentary cooperation between our two countries. We discussed a number of issues during a two-hour talk, including Fidel Castro’s health. The Comandante is feeling OK; he’s following a strict régime under tight medical supervision”.
Matviyenko also said that apart from being an important strategic partner, Cuba’s also a good and reliable friend, noting, “Our countries have special bonds of fraternity and mutual respect; Russia has very warm and sincere feelings for Cubans. We love our Cuban friends and are ready for cooperation. Havana and Moscow became close allies under Fidel Castro… 2013 marks 50 years since his first visit to the USSR… Moscow and some other Russian cities noted the event. Now, bilateral cooperation is on the rise, mainly focused on trade and economy. Although last year’s trade turnover accounted for only some 220 million dollars (6.93 billion Roubles. 172 million Euros. 145 million UK Pounds), there’s a great potential for expansion”.
The streets of Havana have many signs of long-lasting friendship, such as Soviet-made cars. Despite Cuba’s turn to foreign investors, the USA doesn’t want to lift its sanctions, so, Havana eyes working with Russia. Lazo, the president of the Cuban National Assembly of the People’s Power, spoke about the prospects of bilateral energy cooperation, thinking that Russia could help in constructing new units and supplying equipment for Cuban power plants built with Soviet aid. Havana also expects Moscow’s help in exploring oil in its Gulf of Mexico wells and further construction of refineries. Russian investment in Cuba’s oil sector is important; at present, only Zarubezhneft does so, but other Russian companies shall also join in. Cuba also eyes cooperation with Russia in nickel production, tourism, and agriculture as well as seeking help to refurbish and upgrade the Mariel and Santa Cruz del Norte power plants.
Russia and Cuba are long-term partners. For instance, Cubana de Aviación uses Russian Tupolev Tu-204 planes. Cuba has imported some worth 12 million USD (378 million Roubles. 9.4 million Euros. 7.9 million UK Pounds) worth of power plant equipment from Russia in the last three years and has recently resumed purchase of Russian tractors. Russian tourists are also contributing to Cuba’s economic revival… some 90,000 holidaymakers from Russia visited the Island of Freedom last year.
19 May 2013
Voice of Russia World Service