The Russian Prime Minister, Mikhail Mishustin, met this Wednesday with his Cuban counterpart, Manuel Marrero, a meeting that he took advantage of to affirm that trade between Cuba and Russia has multiplied by nine in the first four months of this year. A statement that arouses much suspicion among experts, inclined to think that these numbers are due to the exchange rates applied and the political will to emphasize the alliance between Moscow and Havana.
“Despite the unfavorable external situation, bilateral trade last year amounted to almost 60,000 million rubles or more than 20,000 million pesos. This year the trend continues and from January to April trade grew nine times compared to the same period 2022”, he assured at the meeting, held in Sochi, on the shores of the Black Sea, where the Eurasian Intergovernmental Council will take place until this Friday.
The leader did not give any more information regarding the figure and what it is attributed to, but it is the second time in less than a month that the Russians have provided data of enormous growth in trade with Cuba. The previous one was in mid-May. in Havana, when Sergei Baldin, Russia’s trade representative in Cuba, told the Reuters agency that bilateral trade stood at 450 million dollars in 2022, “triple that of 2021.” 90% were, he specified, purchases of petroleum products and soybean oil.
The Statistical Yearbook of Cuba placed the data at 633 million dollars in 2021, therefore, if the figure indicated by Baldin for 2022 is true, there was actually a 29% reduction.
The Cuban Statistical Yearbook, however, placed the data at 633 million dollars in 2021, so if the figure indicated by Baldin for 2022 is true, there was actually a 29% reduction in that period. The increase in oil purchases from Russia so far this year, however, would explain the large commercial exchange, although the political will to strengthen the alliance between the two regimes and, above all, the exchange rates applied in the two The reference currencies, the peso and the ruble, both highly volatile and undervalued, could be distorting factors that tend to inflate the results. The data provided by Moscow is based on a change of 3.4 rubles for each peso, which corresponds to the rate of 24 pesos and 82 rubles per dollar, respectively.
Marrero, who still has nine days left to visit the country, highlighted the signing of 24 documents at the meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission held in May in Havana and praised the Eurasian country, isolated from the West since the invasion of Ukraine in February of 2022.
“Relations have always been of a high level, but in these complex times where enemies are trying to consolidate their domination of the world, many more elements unite us to continue fighting together,” said Marrero, summarizing in other words the maxim that nothing unites more than a common enemy.
Mishustin, more aware that what matters most to Russia about Cuba is having it as a gateway to the continent, did not hesitate to say that the Island is a key partner in Latin America. “For us it is very important to relaunch our cooperation to increase trade and investment. We are creating the conditions to expand the operation of Russian companies in the Cuban market. We propose to more actively develop collaboration in the tourism field after the resumption of regular flights with Cuba, starting on July 1st”.
Aeroflot returns to Havana on that date, although for months Russians have been able to travel on charter flights to the tourist poles of Varadero and Cayo Coco, without this having improved the data on Russian tourists to the island, which has gone from being the first expanding market to be one of the few that decreases. Although the Cuban authorities have attributed the drop to the lack of flights –the result of European sanctions against Russia for the war–, at the end of 2021 there was already data showing a transfer of travelers from that country to the Dominican Republic, which offers sun and beach tourism similar in landscapes but without the hardships and shortages of the Island, which are noticeable even in large hotels.
Mishustin also mentioned the complete remodeling of the old Antilles of Steel, in which Russia has invested almost 100 million dollars and which was inaugurated by Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko and Ramiro Valdés last May. “We attach great importance to the implementation of large joint projects, especially those designed for the long term, such as the modernization of the José Martí Steel Company (Antillana de Acero), in accordance with the agreements reached,” said Mishustin.
“In the bilateral and multilateral framework, we do not abandon our friends,” said Chernishenko on Wednesday, who also met with Marrero
The plant will not be fully operational until 2024, according to what Cuban Industry Minister Eloy Álvarez Martínez said at the time, but it is not clear how the island’s precarious energy system will be able to maintain it. A study by the University of Havana prepared in 2020 indicated that his oven required a power that “cannot be tolerated” by the National Electric System (SEN) and “produces dangerous oscillations” and nothing indicates that the new one will have a rational consumption with respect to the deficiencies of the Island.
“In the bilateral and multilateral framework, we do not abandon our friends,” said Chernishenko on Wednesday, who also met with Marrero.
The two parties considered the US sanctions on their countries intolerable and even Marrero pointed out that his government flatly rejects the “Russophobia that the West tries to implant in the world” and the “maneuvers” to exclude Russia from international organizations.
The prime minister did not hesitate to point out the high representative of the European Union policy, Josep Borrell, who was on the island last week on a visit – within the framework of the EU-Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement – also highly criticized by part of the Cuban opposition. Marrero attacked the European foreign minister for having gone “first” to the US embassy in Havana and constantly mentioning Russia in his speeches.
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