CUBA (Conspiracy Talk news) – Cuban President Raúl Castro took the unusual gesture of personally receiving Igor Sechin, president of Russia’s state oil company Rosneft, on a Saturday night.
It was an intimate meeting, in the same office where he announced the death of his brother Fidel last year.
The details of the meeting that occurred have not been disclosed, but Rosneft is expected to take the place of the state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) in a Cuban-Venezuelan refinery located in Cienfuegos, in the centre of the island. They sign an agreement favourable to Cuba. Only a few hours earlier, Sechin had met with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, who granted the exploitation of two gas fields to the Russian company.
Then, Castro announced that he will postpone his departure until April , which would give him time to finalise an agreement that would leave the country in a better economic situation.
The crisis in Venezuela and the need for oil and foreign investment from Cuba have created the doorway for Vladimir Putin to affirm his presence in Latin America, in a geopolitical game with all the pints of the Cold War.
“Russia is a less important economic player in the hemisphere than China. He has less interests in the Americas but he likes to intervene in what he perceives as our backyard, “said Mark Feierstein, policy director for Latin America at the White House during the government of former President Barack Obama.
Publicly, President Donald Trump said in his new national security strategy that rival powers have found “space to operate” in the Western Hemisphere.
“Russia continues its failed Cold War policy by strengthening its radical Cuban allies while Cuba continues to repress its citizens,” the document issued by the White House indicates. Both China and Russia “support the dictatorship in Venezuela and seek to expand military ties and arms sales throughout the region.”
In private, the White House has other more pressing problems and having Russian going to rescue almost bankrupt economies is not necessarily bad news for the United States. After all, the Russian economy has also resented sanctions from the US and the European Union – Sechin himself is on the Treasury Department blacklist. And the White House has more serious problems related to Russia with the FBI investigation.
At the same time, the Trump Administration has put more economic pressure on the Castro government and has made access to the Cuban market more difficult for US companies.
“The steps that Trump has taken to limit the US trade relationship with Cuba create an opportunity for other countries. One of them is Russia, “said Feierstein.
A natural approach
For Cuba, the approach to Russia – which has been happening gradually – is almost a natural process, experts say. In addition to decades of partnership in the past, “Raúl Castro has always been pro-Russian,” said Andy Gómez, former interim director of the Institute of Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami.
But the youngest Castro is also known for his pragmatism. His flirting with Russia probably has more to do with oil and an economy in recession than with ideology.
The governments of Cuba and Venezuela renewed their alliance at the end of the year with a visit from Maduro to Havana. Although officially, the economy would have grown 1.6 percent – contrary to what many economists and international organisations have estimated – Castro knows that the situation is unsustainable.
As reported by the Minister of Economy to the National Assembly meeting at its last session of the year, “the importation of fuel has been very tense and at the end of November the deliveries were breached by 431,000 tons”.The country also stopped producing another 38,000 tons of oil.
Most of this fuel came from Venezuela, through an oil exchange agreement for medical services that, at its peak, in 2012, generated shipments of 125,000 barrels a day, Horacio Medina told Conspiracy Talk News.
The Venezuelan government has not been able to maintain the shipments and Cuba is withdrawing its personnel from that country.