Tag Archives: Cuba-Russia Relations

New Publication, CUBAN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AT 60

Reflections on Global Connections

Edited by Mervyn J. Bain and Chris Walker – Contributions by Mervyn J. Bain; Jeffrey DeLaurentis; H. Michael Erisman; Liliana Fernández Mollinedo; Adrian Hearn; Rafael Hernández; John M. Kirk; Peter Kornbluh; William LeoGrande; Robert L. Muse; Isaac Saney; Paolo Spadoni; Josefina Vidal and Chris Walker

Cuban International Relations at 60 brings together the perspectives of leading experts and the personal accounts of two ambassadors to examine Cuba’s global engagement and foreign policy since January 1959 by focusing on the island’s key international relationships and issues. Thisbook’s first section focuseson Havana’s complex relationship with Washington and its second section concentrates on Cuba’s other key relationships with consideration also being given to Cuba’s external trade and investment sectors and the possibility of the island becoming a future petro-power. Throughout this study due attention is given to the role of history and Cuban nationalism in the formation of the island’s unique foreign policy. This book’s examination and reflection on Cuba as an actor on the international arena for the 60 years of the revolutionary period highlights the multifaceted and complex reasons for the island’s global engagement. It concludes that Cuba’s global presence since January 1959 has been remarkable for a Caribbean island, is unparalleled, and is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Scholars of international relations, Latin American studies, and political science n will find this book particularly interesting.

Lexington Books

Pages: 306 • Trim: 6 x 9

978-1-7936-3018-6 • Hardback • May 2021 • $110.00 • (£85.00)

978-1-7936-3019-3 • eBook • May 2021 • $45.00 • (£35.00) (coming soon)

Table of Contents

Introduction: Reflections on Cuba’s Global Connections (1959-2019)

Mervyn J. Bain and Chris Walker.

Part I: Cuban – U.S. Relations

Chapter 1 The Process of Rapprochement Between Cuba and the United States: Lessons Learnt. Remarks at the “The Cuban Revolution at 60” conference. Dalhousie University, Halifax, October 31, 2019.  Josefina Vidal

Chapter 2 US-Cuban Relations: Personal Reflections. Remarks by Ambassador (ret.) Jeffrey DeLaurentis. Saturday, November 2, 2019  Jeffrey DeLaurentis

Chapter 3 Coercive Diplomacy or Constructive Engagement: Sixty Years of US Policy Toward Cuba.  William LeoGrande

Chapter 4 The President has the Constitutional Power to Terminate the Embargo.  Robert L. Muse

Chapter 5 [Re]Searching for the ‘Havana Syndrome’.  Peter Kornbluh

Chapter 6 From Eisenhower to Trump: A Historical Summary of the US-Cuba Conflict (1959-2020).  Liliana Fernández Mollinedo

Part II: Cuba on the Global Stage

Chapter 7 Cuba is Africa, Africa is Cuba.  Isaac Saney

Chapter 8 Cuba-Canada Relations: Challenges and Prospects.  John Kirk

Chapter 9 Cuba-China Relations and the Construction of Socialism.  Adrian H. Hearn and Rafael Hernández

Chapter 10 Cuba-European Union Relations. A Complex and Multifaceted Relationship.  Liliana Fernández Mollinedo and Mervyn J. Bain

Chapter 11 Havana and Moscow; Now, the Future and the Shadow of the Past.  Mervyn J. Bain

Chapter 12 Havana and Caracas: Counter-Hegemonic Cooperation and the Battle for Sovereignty. Chris Walker

Chapter 13 Cuba’s Struggling External Sector: Internal Challenges and Outside Factors.  Paolo Spadoni

Chapter 14 Cuba as a Petropower? Foreign Relations Implications. H. Michael Erisman

Conclusions: Reflections on Cuba’s Global Connections.  Mervyn J. Bain and Chris Walker

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RUSIA SUSPENDE HASTA NUEVO AVISO LA MODERNIZACIÓN DEL FERROCARRIL CUBANO

El secretario ejecutivo de la Comisión Intergubernamental Ruso-Cubana de Comercio, Oleg Kucheriáviy,  lamentó el “silencio” y “dilación” de las autoridades de la Isla.

14ymedio, La Habana | Diciembre 29, 2020

Original Article: RUSIA SUSPENDE

Rusia ha suspendido el proyecto de modernización de los ferrocarriles cubanos “debido a las dificultades económicas y las restricciones de cuarentena en la Isla”, según informó al diario Gudok el director de la empresa estatal de ferrocarriles del país euroasiático (RZD), Serguéi Pávlov.

“Lamentablemente, hemos tenido que suspender nuestro proyecto de modernización integral de la infraestructura ferroviaria cubana debido a las dificultades económicas y las restricciones de cuarentena en la Isla, pero esperamos reanudar las obras después de que la situación se haya estabilizado”, apuntó Gudok.

En octubre de 2019, RZD firmó con la Unión de Ferrocarriles de Cuba un convenio para modernizar toda la estructura ferroviaria cubana, que ha sufrido un profundo deterioro en las últimas décadas. Según el acuerdo, Rusia financiaba completamente el proyecto, valorado en 2.314 millones de dólares.

En los planes iniciales estaban el diseño, la reparación y la modernización de más de 1.000 kilómetros de la infraestructura ferroviaria

En los planes iniciales estaban el diseño, la reparación y la modernización de más de 1.000 kilómetros de la infraestructura ferroviaria con materiales, tecnologías y equipos de producción rusa. También la creación de un centro único de control de circulación de trenes y la formación, en centros educativos rusos, de personal de la Isla.

La noticia llega menos de una semana después de que el ministro de Transportes de Cuba, Eduardo Rodríguez, el embajador de Rusia en La Habana, Andrei Guskov, y el representante comercial ruso en la Isla, Alexander Bogatyr, recibieran en La Habana siete locomotoras, en medio de fuertes dudas sobre el futuro de la cooperación entre los viejos aliados.

“La llegada de estas locomotoras a Cuba coloca al ferrocarril en una mejor posición para enfrentar los retos de transporte del próximo año; vemos a este proyecto, que se ha desarrollado como parte de los acuerdos de la Comisión Intergubernamental Cuba-Rusia con la compañía rusa Sinara, como ejemplar”, dijo entonces Rodríguez a la agencia rusa Sputnik.

Los funcionarios presentes en el acto de recibimiento de los equipos se esforzaron en declarar que la cooperación seguía adelante aunque “los efectos del covid y de esta crisis derivada de la pandemia nos han obligado a extender los plazos y a reorganizar los proyectos, pero la voluntad y continuidad de estos proyectos se mantienen vigentes y continuaremos en 2021 trabajando en esa dirección”, remarcó Rodríguez.

El mensaje apoyado por Bogatyr, que lamentó que fuera “la única entrega de locomotoras este año, pero estamos seguros de que el año próximo será más fructífero (…) así que los planes de colaboración son importantes en la esfera de los ferrocarriles, no solamente con Sinara, sino con otras importantes empresas rusas que tienen proyectos y esperan continuar desarrollándolos”.

Ninguno de los dos hizo alusión a las palabras del secretario ejecutivo de la Comisión Intergubernamental Ruso-Cubana de Comercio, Cooperación Económica, Científica y Técnica, Oleg Kucheriáviy, que unos días antes dejaban entrever una cancelación masiva de inversiones en Cuba por incumplimientos por parte de La Habana.

El funcionario detalló a la prensa rusa que, de los 60 proyectos conjuntos, apenas diez estaban llevándose a cabo

El funcionario detalló a la prensa rusa que, de los 60 proyectos conjuntos, apenas diez estaban llevándose a cabo y señaló en una reunión de la Comisión de Asuntos Internacionales del Senado que la última sesión de la comisión intergubernamental, que debía celebrarse en la Isla, fue cancelada por “silencio” y “dilación” de las autoridades cubanas.

Yuri I. Borisov, viceprimer ministro de Rusia y encargado desde 2018 de las relaciones económicas con Cuba ya dijo aquel año a la televisión de su país, tras un viaje a la Isla, que los funcionarios cubanos no tenían interés en poner dinero para las inversiones necesarias y que en las negociaciones imperaba una mentalidad de la Guerra Fría que en la Rusia postsoviética ya no tiene lugar.

“Son negociantes complicados, no lo voy a esconder, la mentalidad del pasado pesa sobre ellos constantemente. Durante las negociaciones, en las posiciones que llevan, siempre aparece que somos un puesto de avanzada de la revolución mundial y simplemente nos tienen que ayudar”, señaló.

La pausa en el acuerdo llega en un mal momento para el transporte de pasajeros y cargas en la Isla, muy afectado por la obsolescencia tecnológica y los problemas de infraestructura. El total de locomotoras que tenía previsto suministrar Rusia en el marco del acuerdo era de 75, de las cuales ya han llegado 60. Según el ministro de Transportes, muchas de ellas ya “participan en los principales tráficos de transportes del ferrocarril en Cuba”.

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An Energy Crisis Is Putting Cuba’s Post-Castro Leadership to Its First Test

William M. LeoGrande | Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2019

Venezuela’s economic collapse and Washington’s new sanctions on companies shipping Venezuelan oil to Cuba have plunged the island nation into its most severe energy crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. In response, Havana is looking to its old ally Russia to plug the hole in energy supplies left by the decline in Venezuelan shipments. But the crisis is hampering plans to implement economic reforms that Havana hopes will respond to popular demands for economic liberalization while retaining the Communist Party’s political dominance.

Continue reading: An Energy Crisis Is Putting Cubas Post-Castro Leadership to Its First Test

Image result for cuba energy refineries gas

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New Book: CUBAN FOREIGN POLICY:,Transformation Under Raúl Castro

Edited by H. Michael Erisman and John M. Kirk

This volume illustrates the sweeping changes in Cuban foreign policy under Raúl Castro. Leading scholars from around the world show how the significant shift in foreign policy direction that started in 1990 after the implosion of the Soviet Union has continued, in many ways taking totally unexpected paths—as is shown by the move toward the normalization of relations with Washington. Providing a systematic overview of Cuba’s relations with the United States, Latin America, Russia, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, this book will be invaluable for courses on contemporary Cuban politics.

THE AUTHORS:

Michael Erisman is professor of international affairs at Indiana State University.

John M. Kirk is professor of Latin American studies at Dalhousie University.

 

PUBLICATION DETAILS:

Rowman & Littlefield Publishers

Pages: 314 • Trim: 6 x 9

978-1-4422-7092-3 • Hardback • April 2018 • $85.00 • (£54.95)

978-1-4422-7093-0 • Paperback • April 2018 • $35.00 • (£23.95)

978-1-4422-7094-7 • eBook • April 2018 • $33.00 • (£22.95)

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Historical Introduction to Foreign Policy under Raúl Castro, John M. Kirk

Part I: Key Issue Areas

  1. The Defense Contribution to Foreign Policy: Crucial in the Past, Crucial Today
    Hal Klepak,
  2. Cuba’s International Economic Relations: A Macroperspective on Performance and Challenges, H. Michael Erisman
  3. The Evolution of Cuban Medical Internationalism, John M. Kirk

Part II: Cuba’s Regional Relations

5. Cuba and Latin America and the Caribbean, Andrés Serbin
6. Cuba and Africa: Recasting Old Relations in New but Familiar Ways, Isaac Saney
7. Cuba and Asia and Oceania, Pedro Monzón and Eduardo Regalado Florido
8. Cuba and the European Union, Susanne Gratius
9. Cuba, Oceania, and a “Canberra Spring”, Tim Anderson

Part III:Cuba’s Key Bilateral Relations

10. The United States and Cuba, William LeoGrande
11. Canada and Cuba, John M. Kirk and Raúl Rodríguez
12. Spain and Cuba, Joaquín Roy
13. Venezuela and Cuba, Carlos A. Romero
14. Brazil and Cuba, Regiane Nitsch Bressan
15. Russia and Cuba, Mervyn Bain
16. China and Cuba, Andrian H. Hearn and Rafael Hernández

Part IV: Retrospective and Prospective Views

17. Conclusion, H. Michael Erisman and John M. Kirk

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New Publication: CUBA: LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

CUBA: LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE

William LeoGrande, Guest Co-editor; Arien Mack, Journal Editor

TABLE OF CONTENTS

William M. Leogrande, Introduction: Cuba Looks to the Future                235

 

PART I: UPDATING THE ECONOMY

Ricardo Torres Pérez, Updating the Cuban Economy: The First 10 Years                                                                                                                            255

Archibald R.M. Ritter,   Private and Cooperative Enterprise in Cuba’s Economic Future                                                                                                                           277

Richard E. Feinberg,  Bienvenida—Maybe: Cuba’s Gradual Opening to World Markets                                                                                                                          305

Katrin Hansing,  Race and Inequality in the New Cuba: Reasons, Dynamics, and Manifestations                                                                                                               331

 

PART II: FACING POLITICAL CHALLENGES

William M. Leogrande,  Updating Cuban Socialism: The Politics of Economic Renovation                                                                                                                     353

Margaret E. Crahan, Cuba: Religion and Civil Society                                          383

Rafael Hernández, Intellectuals, Civil Society, and Political Power in Cuban Socialism  407

Ted A. Henken, Cuba’s Digital Millennials: Independent Digital Media and Civil Society on the Island of the Disconnected                                                                                     429

 

PART III: ENGAGING THE WORLD

 

Philip Brenner And Teresa Garcia Castro,  A Long Legacy of Distrust and the Future of Cuban-US Relations                                                                                                    459

Carlos Oliva Campos And Gary Prevost,  Cuba’s Relations with Latin America   487

Mervyn J. Bain, Havana, Moscow, and Beijing: Looking to the Future in the Shadow of the Past                                                                                                                                          507

 

 

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CUBA, RUSSIA, TRUMP AND COMEY

William M. LeoGrande, Contributor, Professor of Government at American University

Huffington Post, 06/05/2017 07:50 am ET

President Trump has a knack for bad optics. The day after he fired FBI Director James Comey in hopes of taking the pressure off the investigation into whether his campaign colluded with the Kremlin during the 2016 election, Trump received Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak in the Oval Office. Now, as Comey prepares to testify before Congress about Trump’s request that the FBI halt the investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia, the president is preparing to announce a Cuba policy that would clear the way for Moscow to re-establish itself as Cuba’s principal foreign patron.

President Trump and Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak

According to press reports, Trump is on the verge of reversing key elements of Barack Obama’s policy of engagement with Cuba, even though his own government’s review concluded it is producing positive results across a range of issues, including security. If the United States reverts to a policy of hostility, U.S. adversaries will once again reap the rewards, and Russia will be first in line—just like it was in 1960.

The end of the Cold War severed Cuba’s partnership with the Soviet Union, but Vladimir Putin has been restoring Russia’s global influence by repairing relations with traditional allies. Russia’s resurgence in the Caribbean dates to Putin’s 2000 trip to Havana, followed by Raúl Castro’s 2009 visit to Moscow—the first since the end of the Cold War.

In July 2014, Putin visited the island again and agreed to forgive 90% of Cuba’s $32 billion in Soviet-era debt. By the time Raúl Castro returned to Moscow in 2015, Russia had signed agreements to invest in infrastructure development and oil exploration, and agreed to lend Cuba 1.2 billion Euros to develop thermal energy. When Venezuela failed to meet its promised oil shipments to Cuba, Russia stepped in to cover the shortfall.

 Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuban President Raúl Castro, July 11, 2014.

The linkages extend beyond commerce. Both sides refer to their revived relationship as a “strategic partnership” with diplomatic and military components. Russia is refurbishing and replacing Cuba’s aging Soviet-era armaments. Russian naval vessels visit Cuban ports, the most prominent being the ostentatious arrival of a large Russian surveillance vessel in January 2015, the day before U.S. and Cuban diplomats began talks on normalizing diplomatic relations. Russia reportedly wants to establish a military base on the island.

At the Pentagon, the intrusion of extra-hemispheric powers in Latin America has been a serious concern since 2010 when the U.S. Southern Command’s annual Posture Statement first identified Russia, China, and Iran as challenging U.S. interests. Every year since, SouthCom has warned that Washington needs to increase its engagement with the region to counter the influence of outsiders.

Just this past April, Admiral Kurt W. Kidd presented the 2017 Posture Statement to Congress, declaring, “For Russia, China, and Iran, Latin America is not an afterthought. These global actors view the Latin American economic, political, and security arena as an opportunity to achieve their respective long-term objectives and advance interests that may be incompatible with ours.”

For some policymakers, this geostrategic challenge mandates support for engagement with Cuba, giving Havana less incentive to expand its economic relationships with Russia and China into politico-military ones. K. T. McFarland, who served briefly as Trump’s deputy national security advisor, succinctly summarized the argument for engaging Cuba before she joined the administration: “It would be foreign policy malpractice if we stood aside while our adversaries develop strong bilateral and economic — and possibly military relations.”

A few months after Donald Trump’s inauguration, 16 retired senior military officers, including a former commander of SouthCom, sent National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster an open letter urging the administration to maintain engagement with Cuba on national security grounds, citing successful cooperation on counter-terrorism, border control, drug interdiction, environmental protection, and emergency preparedness. “If we fail to engage economically and politically,” they warned, “it is certain that China, Russia, and other entities whose interests are contrary to the United States’ will rush into the vacuum.”

So why would President Trump reverse a policy that his own government judges to be largely successful, and that enjoys broad support with the general public, business community, and national security establishment—especially when that reversal would give adversaries like Russia, China, and Iran a new foothold in the hemisphere? According to the White House, the answer is human rights: “As the President has said, the current Cuba policy is a bad deal,” spokesman Michael Short claimed. “It does not do enough to support human rights in Cuba.”

The invocation of human rights is clearly an excuse rather than the real reason. The administration has shown no interest whatsoever in human rights in Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, or the Philippines. On the contrary, the president has gone out of his way to praise and encourage leaders whose human rights records are far worse than Cuba’s. Moreover, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said explicitly that “America First” means human rights will take a back seat to U.S. national security and economic interests.

The real reason for changing Cuba policy is raw, naked politics. Cuban American Representative Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.), one of the most vocal critics of Obama’s policy, reportedly extracted a commitment from the White House to be tough on Cuba as the price for his vote to repeal Obamacare. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), the other main proponent of turning back the clock, sits on the Intelligence Committee investigating the Trump Campaign’s Russian connections. Instead of draining the swamp, the Trump team has apparently decided that to swim in it, you have to feed the alligators.

It would be exquisitely ironic if Trump adopted Marco Rubio’s failed Cuba policy in order to curry favor with him in hopes of blunting the Senate’s Russia investigation— and by so doing ceded to Moscow a dominant geostrategic position on our doorstep in Cuba.

William M. LeoGrande is co-author with Peter Kornbluh of Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

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Proyecciones macroeconómicas de una Cuba sin Venezuela

Pavel Vidal Alejandro

from the  Cuba Study Group, Desde la Isla; original source:  full article

Análisis de Pavel Vidal acerca del impacto a la economía cubana en el supuesto caso de una reducción importante en la cooperación económica con Venezuela.

New PictureDesde inicios de la década pasada la economía cubana ha venido incrementando sistemáticamente sus relaciones con Venezuela. Actualmente el comercio de bienes representa el 40% del intercambio total de la isla, muy por encima del segundo lugar ocupado por China con 12,5%. En este porcentaje pesa sobre todo la importación de petróleo venezolano; en 2011 la factura llegó a US$2.759 millones. La importación del crudo venezolano cubre el 60% de la demanda nacional y además permite la reexportación de una parte del mismo. Solo el 50% del pago de las importaciones de crudo venezolan se efectúa dentro de los primeros 90 días, el restante 50% se acumula en una deuda a pagarse en 25 años con un tipo de interés del 1% anual.

 Continue reading: Vidal,  Cuba sin Venezuela

New Picture (11)

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Exclusive: Russia signs deal to forgive $29 billion of Cuba’s Soviet-era debt – diplomats

By Marc Frank;  HAVANA Mon Dec 9, 2013 3:55pm EST

HAVANA (Reuters) – Russia and Cuba have quietly signed an agreement to write off 90 percent of Cuba’s $32 billion debt to the defunct Soviet Union, a deal that ends a 20-year squabble and opens the way for more investment and trade, Russian and European diplomats said.

The two sides announced an agreement to settle the debt dispute earlier this year and finalized the deal in Moscow in October. It would have Cuba pay $3.2 billion over 10 years in exchange for Russia forgiving the rest of a $32 billion debt – $20 billion plus service and interest, the diplomats said. It must still be approved by the Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament.

800px-Embassy_of_Russia_in_Havana_-_Nick_De_MarcoRussian Embassy, Havana

Negotiations on the form in which Cuba will pay the remaining debt are ongoing, the diplomats said, as even $320 million per year represents a large sum for the cash-strapped country, which has labored under a U.S. economic embargo for decades.

Cuba’s total export earnings are around $18 billion, including tourism and medical and educational services.

Neither Cuba nor Russia has made any official comment on the debt agreement. Cuban officials were not immediately available for comment.

Cuba defaulted on its debt in the late 1980s but recently has been trying to restructure the old debts to improve its international credibility.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, during a visit to Cuba in February, signed a general agreement to work out a formula and settle the old debt by next year. The decision rankled other countries grouped in the Paris Club of creditor nations because it broke ranks with the collective approach of the organization.

PARIS CLUB CONTACTS

The Paris Club is an informal group of creditor governments including Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States as well as a number of smaller European nations. The Paris Club reported that Cuba owed its members $35 billion at the close of 2012, now estimated at around $37 billion, which would leave the island owing $5 billion to $6 billion of non-Soviet debt to the club’s members.   The organization has a Cuba working group, which does not include the United States.

Russia pledged to work with Cuba towards reaching an agreement with the Paris Club as part of the October settlement, one Russian diplomat said. “The Paris Club should be grateful as it removes a huge amount of money from the table and makes an eventual agreement more likely,” he said.

While some Paris Club members clearly preferred a united front, one European diplomat said Russia’s help in settling Paris Club debt could prove important and that a reduced debt would indeed be more easily negotiable.

Since the Medvedev visit, the Paris Club has put out feelers to the Cubans and a few months ago two representatives traveled to the Caribbean island to meet with the central bank, the first such visit in over a decade. Unlike the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, from which Cuba is excluded under the longstanding U.S. trade embargo, the Paris Club does not issue multilateral loans.

Cuba releases very little information about its foreign debt. Last month the government reported its “active” foreign debt, accumulated after it declared a default in the late 1980s, as $13.6 billion in 2010. The government no longer reports its “passive” debt from before the default and estimated at around $8 billion. The Communist-run island has never included debt to the Soviet Union in its figures, claiming the amount was in overvalued convertible rubles and that the country sustained massive damage from broken contracts when its former benefactor collapsed.

Cuba has post-1980s default debt of hundreds of millions of dollars to Russia. “The final deal recognizes some of the Soviet debt, and that’s politically important for Russia. It also opens the way for more credit which is important for Cuba,” a Russian diplomat said, like others requesting anonymity.

SEARCH FOR CREDIBILITY

Three years ago Cuba restructured its active government and commercial debt with China, estimated at around $6 billion. Last year Cuba settled a dispute with Japanese commercial creditors dating back to the 1980s. Under the Japanese agreement, 80 percent of the 130 billion yen debt (about $1.4 billion) was forgiven, with the remainder to be paid over 20 years. Mexico recently forgave 70 percent of a $478 million debt Cuba accumulated in the late 1990s, in exchange for the remaining $146 million being paid over 10 years.

“The agreements with China, Japan, Mexico and Russia ease some outside financial restrictions on the Cuban economy and should facilitate trade ties with these countries,” said Pavel Vidal, a former Cuban Central Bank economist now teaching at Colombia’s Javeriana University. “The austerity measures adopted by the government in 2009, and these accords to lower the foreign debt, help stabilize the island’s finances at a very important moment when a significant monetary reform over three years (devaluation and elimination of the dual currency system) has begun,” he said.

Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel as president in 2008, has drastically reined in imports and cut state payrolls and subsidies while insisting the near-bankrupt government get its financial house in order.

In 2011, the Communist Party approved a five-year economic plan that called for efforts to “enhance Cuba’s credibility in its international economic relations by strictly observing all the commitments that have been entered into,” before and after the default. The plan also called for expediting the rescheduling of Cuba’s foreign debts and implementing “flexible restructuring strategies for debt repayment” as soon as it is practical.

(Editing by David Adams and Jim Loney)

Soviet Spy Ship, havana Harbour, 1971; Photo by Arch RitterSoviet Spy Ship, Havana Harbour, 1971; Photo by Arch Ritter

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Cuban oil hopes sputter as Russians give up for now on well

By Jeff Franks

Original Here: Cuban Oil Hopes Sputter…

HAVANA, May 29 (Reuters) – Russian state-owned oil company Zarubezhneft said this week it was giving up for now on a problem-plagued exploration well off Cuba’s north-central coast, which brings to an end the communist-led island’s only active project in its search for offshore oil fields.

The news was not all bad because the company said it would return to the same spot next year. But it was another blow to Cuba’s hopes for energy independence, which have acquired new urgency with the March death of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the communist-led island’s top ally and benefactor.

The Russians’ plan to drill 6,500 meters (21,325 feet) below the sea floor and hopefully find oil appears to have been derailed by the same issue that others have encountered in Cuban waters – difficult geology – as well as problems with its rig, the Songa Mercur, which at one point lost its blowout preventer.

The Songa Mercur Drilling Platform

“Taking into consideration geological complications, Zarubezhneft and (Cuban state oil company) Cubapetroleo have jointly decided to make changes in the initial drilling program by dividing it into two stages,” the company told Reuters this week.

“The second stage of exploration work on Block L is due to be launched in 2014,” it said, declining to comment further. The well, begun five months ago, was in shallow water about 200 miles (320 km) east of Havana, near the popular tourist destination Cayo Santa Maria.

The premature end of the Zarubezhneft well was not totally unexpected because Songa Offshore, owner of the Songa Mercur, earlier said the rig would leave by June 1 for a project in Southeast Asia. It had originally been scheduled to stay in Cuba until July 1.

There was a Russian press report that the rig would come back for another attempt by Zarubezhneft, but Songa Offshore Chairman Jens Wilhelmsen told Reuters the report was “completely without foundation.”

“We have not any agreement that Mercur will return and we have not received any inquiries from Zarubezhneft that they want it back,” he said. “So I can just deny that Mercur will return.”

BACK TO SQUARE ONE

All of which means that Cuba is back to square one in its quest to tap into fields off its northern coast that it says may hold 20 billion barrels of oil. The U.S. Geological Survey has estimated a more modest 4.6 billion barrels.

In the last year, Spain’s Repsol SA, Malaysia’s Petronas and Venezuela’s PDVSA sank wells in waters more than a mile deep off Cuba’s northern and western coasts. They all came up dry, and encountered a thick layer of dense rock difficult to drill through.

The Caribbean island’s hopes now lie with projects under consideration that may or may not come to fruition and are likely at least a year or more away if they do. Should oil be found, it would take another three to five years to put it into production, experts say.

Time is of the essence for Cuba because, under a generous deal made with Chavez, it gets 110,000 barrels per day, or two-thirds of its oil, from Venezuela in exchange for the services of more than 40,000 Cubans, most of them doctors and other medical personnel.

Chavez’s successor, President Nicolas Maduro, vowed during a recent visit to Havana to keep the oil flowing, but he faces mounting economic problems and political pressure from opponents to stop shipping oil to Cuba.

Repsol, which also drilled an unsuccessful well in deep water near Havana in 2004, pulled out of Cuba, but some of the other oil partners are still around.

Petronas is continuing to conduct seismic studies in the four blocks it leases with Russian partner Gazprom and is considering another well, as is Venezuela’s PDVSA, which has four blocks at Cuba’s western tip, industry and diplomatic sources said.

A unit of India’s Oil and Natural Gas Corp, which had a share of the Repsol wells, has two offshore blocks of its own and has been looking for a partner to drill a well.

GARDENS OF THE QUEEN

In a development that is potentially both interesting and controversial, Norway’s Statoil ASA, which also partnered with Repsol, appears to be looking at possibilities on Cuba’s mostly unexplored Caribbean side.

A Cubapetroleo map on display at a recent geosciences conference in Havana indicated that as of last November, Cuba was in negotiations with the Norwegian oil giant to lease three large blocks along the central and southeastern coast, between the archipelago of the Gardens of the Queen and the coast in the Gulf of Ana Maria and the Gulf of Guacanayabo.

Statoil does not comment on pending projects, but industry sources said it may just be sniffing around as it does all over the world looking for oil prospects and that its level of interest remains to be seen. The company has not mentioned Cuba in its drilling plans for the next two years.

It is likely also mindful of the sensitivity and potential dangers of drilling near the Garden of the Queens, which is regarded as one of the world’s most pristine coral reefs and whose preservation as such has become a cause for international environmental groups.

The same Cubapetroleo map showed that a Brazilian firm, Synergy Corp, was in negotiations for a near-shore block on Cuba’s north coast that state-owned Petrobras abandoned two years ago, citing poor prospects.

Attempts to reach Synergy for comment were unsuccessful.

A number of factors are working against Cuba’s oil hopes, among them the political and logistical difficulties imposed by the long-standing U.S. trade embargo against the island.

The embargo makes it difficult to find rigs that do not violate its limitations on the use of U.S. technology in Cuba and, according to experts, adds an estimated 20 percent to costs because everything in the project has to be shipped in from distant, non-U.S. sources.

There is also Cuba’s history of failed wells, which makes it hard to compete for the oil industry’s interest in a world where there are many other areas with proven oil reserves.

“It is very difficult today with other opportunities out there for a major oil company to justify going to Cuba and spending what will certainly be over $100 million in areas where it is yet to be proven they have recoverable reserves,” said Jorge Pinon, an expert on Cuban oil at the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy at the University of Texas in Austin.

“It is going to be extremely challenging (for Cuba),” he said.

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Cuba-Russia Debt Write-Off and Aircraft Leasing: Win-Lose or Win-Win?

By Arch Ritter

Great!  Canadian tourists will once again fly on Tupelov and Ilyushin aircraft on their low-cost snow-bird visits to Cuba – just like in the 1970s to 1990s. I remember one partially half-empty flight in the early 90s when the stewards requested in mid-flight that half the passengers move to the back part of the plane to balance the load, somewhat like I often do in my 14-foot boat.

Cuba looks like the big winner in the debt-write-off and aircraft leasing agreement with Russia reached yesterday, February 21, 2013. But Russia gets a small reprieve for its civilian aircraft sector.

Over and above the massive hidden subsidization provided to Cuba back in the golden age of Soviet-Cuban relations, (amounting to 15 – 30 % of Cuba’s quasi-GDP depending on the year in the 1980s), Cuba also built up a debt to the Soviet Union that amounted to around $28 billion as on 1989.  It looked as if this debt would never be repaid and that Russia had given up all hope of repayment.

The debt write-off deal lets Cuba off the hook, at least in part. Cuba can now claim that it is a responsible economic partner and participant in the international economic system. This should facilitate access to new foreign credit and thus be of some benefit. Cubana also acquires Russian aircraft, presumably at a reasonable price relative to those of the leasers of European, Brazilian and Canadian aircraft, even if of unproven quality and competitiveness. This all looks good for Cuba.

What does Russia get out of the deal? A market for its aircraft. While its military aircraft industry appears to be highly competitive internationally, the civilian aircraft sector has almost disappeared in the face of Boeing, European Airbus, Embraer of Brazil and Bombardier of Canada – and with Chinese aircraft starting to make an appearance. This deal provides a market – albeit a small one– for Russia’s civilian aircraft. Perhaps the Cuban market provides a loss-leader for Russian civilian aircraft into international markets.

At the same time, Russia probably loses nothing in writing off Cuba’s debt as it probably never would have been paid in any case.

Cubana’s New Aircraft, the Ilyushin 94-400 and Tupelov 204SM

The above chart, based on the work of Leogrande and Thomas illustrates the magnitudes of Soviet assistance to Cuba including trade credits.

 

William Leogrande, and J. M. Thomas illustrates the magnitudes of the assistance. My own quantitative estimates placed the value of this subsidization at around 23% to over 36% of National Income in the 1980 to 1987 period.

 

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