Russia Highlights Cuba’s Role As Most Loyal Ally in Western Hemisphere 4

Los presidenteS Raúl Castro y Vladimir Putin durante la visita del mandatario ruso a Cuba en 2014. Foto: AP.

Los presidenteS Raúl Castro y Vladimir Putin durante la visita del mandatario ruso a Cuba en 2014. Foto: AP.

[Cuba] is not only a strategic partner, but [Russia’s] most loyal and trustworthy ally in the Western Hemisphere.    

— Nikolai Sofinski, sub-director for Latin America at Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Cuba Debate (see below)

Relaciones estratégicas entre Moscú y La Habana no responden a coyunturas, afirma cancillería rusa

Las relaciones estratégicas entre Rusia y Cuba pasaron por una prueba y no responden a coyunturas, afirmó este viernes en Moscú una fuente del Departamento de América Latina en la cancillería del país euroasiático.

El subdirector Nikolai Sofinski ratificó el carácter de prioridad a los vínculos con la isla en la política exterior rusa, durante un panel dedicado a una actualización sobre el desarrollo socio-económico de Cuba y a la cooperación bilateral.

Sofinski definió a la nación antillana no solo como socio estratégico, sino el aliado “más fiable y seguro en el hemisferio occidental”, y no es una definición coyuntural, puntualizó el funcionario ante un grupo de investigadores del Instituto de América Latina, de la Academia de Ciencias de Rusia.

Enfatizó que las relaciones bilaterales pasaron por una prueba, que revalida esa asociación estratégica, y tienen grandes perspectivas, aseguró.

Valoró la interacción dinámica de los dos países en la arena internacional a instancias de diversos foros y el apoyo cubano manifiesto públicamente en contra de la ampliación de la OTAN cerca de las fronteras rusas, las sanciones ilegítimas unilaterales y los intentos de glorificación del nazismo, entre otros asuntos de la agenda global.

El subdirector del Departamento de América Latina de la cancillería consideró que existen amplias posibilidades de colaboración, al identificar al sector de la salud como un área en la que Cuba podría apoyar a Rusia.

Para el embajador Emilio Lozada las premisas de esa alianza ruso-cubana descansan en los sólidos lazos de hermandad y de amistad que fueron restablecidos el 8 de mayo de 1960.

Lozada destacó la constancia de unas estrechas relaciones entre los dos pueblos y gobiernos, la cual demuestran la intensidad de los contactos bilaterales al más alto nivel, con una particular dinámica entre 2009 y 2015, puntualizó el diplomático.

Recordó el Embajador la dimensión histórica de la visita del presidente ruso, Vladimir Putin, a La Habana en julio de 2014 para los vínculos bilaterales, y la presencia del mandatario cubano, Raúl Castro, en las celebraciones en Moscú del 70 aniversario de la Victoria, el 9 de mayo de 2015, además de sus tres visitas a este país.

Cubadebate

 

 

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The Roots of Venezuela’s Disorder: Russia and Cuba are Reaping What They’ve Sown in Latin America 2

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal

On Wednesday, as Venezuelan strongman Nicólas Maduro was promising more repression to crush relentless student protests, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told reporters that Moscow plans to put military bases in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. A few days later a Russian spy ship arrived in Havana harbor unannounced.

The usual Cold War suspects are back. More accurately, they never left. Former KGB officer Vladimir Putin is warning President Obama that Russia can make trouble in the Americas if the U.S. insists on solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Meanwhile, Latin America’s aging Marxists are lining up behind Mr. Maduro, successor to the late Hugo Chávez.

Russia and Cuba are finally reaping the benefits of the revolution they have long sown in Latin America. Any chance of defeating them requires setting the record straight about how Venezuela got so poor.

Venezuelan politicians sold left-wing populism like snake oil for decades before Chávez came to power in 1999. They demagogued entrepreneurs and indoctrinated the masses with anti-businesses propaganda. From the earliest days of the Cuban revolution, Castro was a hero in Venezuelan universities where Cuban-Soviet propaganda flourished. By the 1960s school children were being weaned on utopian collectivism. The brainwashing intensified when Chávez opened Venezuela to Cuban proselytizers.

Through it all, the politically connected got rich, including the chavistas. But today a large part of the population believes that business is underhanded and greedy. This is why escaping the noose of totalitarianism is going to be difficult. The culture of liberty has been nearly annihilated, and even if Mr. Maduro is overthrown, that culture must be rebuilt from the ground up.

To be sure, social media makes it harder to put a smiley face on tyranny than in the 1980s. Back then a doctrine like sandinismo could be marketed by Cuba and Russia to naïve Americans as the salvation of the Nicaraguan poor even while the Sandinista army burned Miskito Indian villages and arrested banana-selling peasants as speculators in the highlands.

Today word gets around. A Feb. 18 cellphone image from the Venezuelan city of Valencia—of a young man carrying the limp body of 22-year-old Genesis Carmona after she was shot in the head by Maduro enforcers—has gone viral as an emblem of the repression.

Story continues here: The Roots of Venezuela’s Disorder: Russia and Cuba are Reaping What They’ve Sown in Latin America

Cuba Studies ‘Putinismo’ for Survival Tips 2

If Havana uses a Russian recipe for clinging to power, investors beware.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady, Wall Street Journal, O’Grady@wsj.com

Vladimir Putin’s op-ed in the New York Times wasn’t a big hit with Americans. But the Russian president does have admirers elsewhere. Some are in the Cuban military, which is rumored to be studying “putinismo.” Would-be foreign investors, take note.

Ever since Fidel Castro’s glorious revolution triumphed in 1959, Cuba has been in need of a benefactor. The Soviet Union played that role until it collapsed in the early 1990s. Cuba got another lifeline when Venezuela’s Hugo Chávez, elected in 1998, began a state policy of providing it with cheap oil.

Even so, Cubans still live lives of privation. Venezuela’s own fiscal woes are on the rise, which means that the oil subsidies are in jeopardy.

Revolutionary poverty is nothing new. But regime bigwigs in Havana fear that Raúl Castro, who is now in charge, could face serious social unrest when the ailing 87-year-old Fidel passes on. Their challenge is to find ways to feed the island without letting go of power, which might prove fatal for some of them.

The Putin model offers a way out. It permits nominal elections in which the opposition gets some seats in the parliament. On the economic front, Mr. Putin has created a loyal cadre of oligarchs who do business with foreigners.

The former KGB operative can say that Russia is no longer shaped by communist ideology. But behind the scenes, putinismo blends authoritarian political control and crony capitalism to produce a lock on power.

Writing from Russia in April 2012, development economist Deepak Lal described this mix of profits for the politically correct and repression for everybody else. His essay, in the Indian daily Business Standard, explained that “ordinary profit making has been criminalized.” Citing the work of Russian lawyer Vladimir Radchenko, Mr. Lal wrote that “there are three million small and medium-scale business entrepreneurs in jail for economic crimes.”

Mr. Putin is reportedly planning on forming his own personal national guard, Mr. Lal wrote. The Federal Security Service is more interested in running businesses than putting down dissidents and the hoodlums hired to do the job are unreliable. Mr. Lal also briefly described the state’s renewed alliance with the Orthodox Church.

I was reminded of the parallels between Mr. Putin’s Russia and Castro’s promises of reform when former Cuban political prisoner Jorge Luis García Pérez Antúnez visited the Journal’s New York offices this month. The 48-year-old Cuban, who spent 17 years in Castro’s jails, calls claims of political and economic reform there “fraud.”

Mr. Antúnez describes opposition to the regime as widespread and growing. It is not more visible, he says, because the “culture of fear” remains intense. Independent reports from the island say that detentions and violent assaults on opposition groups have been increasing.

As in Russia, Cuba can no longer rely on the armed forces to control government critics. They are busy running lucrative businesses in tourism, retail, cigar manufacturing and air travel. The Castros also seem to have a Putin-style relationship with the Church. Pope Benedict met with the Castros during his 2012 visit to the island while dissidents were carted off to jail for asking to see the pontiff.

Mr. Antúnez says that allowing Cubans to run microenterprises isn’t reducing poverty. Perhaps that’s because when entrepreneurs have succeeded during prior so-called liberalization periods, the regime has accused them of the crime of illicit enrichment.

Foreign investors sometimes don’t seem to fare much better. In an Aug. 13 letter to the Economist magazine, British businessman Stephen Purvis, a former business partner of the regime, described the circumstances surrounding his incarceration in a Cuban jail for 15 months between 2011 and 2012.

Mr. Purvis says he was “accused of many things, starting with revelations of state secrets” but was eventually sentenced for “breaches of financial regulations,” even though Cuba’s central bank had “specifically approved the transactions in question for 12 years.”

He was in prison with “a handful” of other foreign businessmen and says “there are many more in the system than is widely known.” A few are charged with corruption, he wrote, but many face charges of “sabotage, damage to the economy, tax avoidance and illegal economic activity.”

What he didn’t see in prison were his island business peers from Brazil, Venezuela and China. Mr. Purvis asks: “Why is the representative of Ericsson in jail for exactly the same activities as [its] Chinese competitor who is not?” Foreigners doing business in Russia have described a similarly risky playing field.

In May, Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who claims to have contact with a number of Cuban military officers from his high school days, told the Miami Herald that they are studying “putinismo” in order to prepare for a transition. “They don’t want to suffer the same fate as the followers of [Libya’s] Kaddafi,” he said.

The Putin model may be the way to avoid that fate. But it’s a far cry from a plan to liberate the nation.