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“Cuba is far away or Cuba is near”: what is Russia waiting for on the island of Freedom with the new leadership?

On the 19th of April Cuba finally said goodbye to the rule of the Castro dynasty, which lasted 59 years. It cannot believe that Castro’s surname left the political lexicon of this country. Since 1959, after the victory of the Great Cuban Revolution, Castro’s brothers – Fidel and Raul – were inextricably linked with the modern history of the island of Freedom. Half a century is a record that has never been beaten by anyone else in the world, Raul was the head of the Cuban Ministry of Defense (Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces). In addition, he was the deputy of Fidel on the posts of the head of the Communist Party and the chairman of the supreme executive organism – the State Council. In July of 2006, in fact, took over the leadership of Cuba, after his legendary brother has finally transferred him to perform duties in his key positions, including – and on the party. What awaits Freedom Island after leaving the political arena of the Castro dynasty? What will be the new economy of the island of Freedom?

Cuba without Castro like “Cuba Libre” but without rum. However, no matter how hard it was to imagine, the new Cuba should be. At the helm of the island of Liberty, the former First Deputy State Council and Government, the member of the Politburo of the Cuban Communist Party, Miguel Mario Díaz Canel Bermúdez, now stands. Díaz Canel Bermúdez was confirmed as the head of the State Council of Cuba, replacing Raul Castro at the highest state post. However, Raul Castro remains the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, which, according to the Constitution of the country, is the guiding and guiding political force. According to Castro, he intends to leave the post of first secretary at the upcoming congress in 2021.

At the moment, the economy of Cuba is in a contradictory state. In Havana, it is often said that the country’s GDP grows by 1.5%. According to the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), this indicator actually increased by only 0.5%. But according to many analysts and experts, for the third year on the island of Freedom, the economic crisis has been going on. It is difficult for the international community to assess the situation, the country still does not cooperate with leading international organizations, and therefore, statistics are inaccessible.

One of the first things a new state leader will do is to unify the currency. Today in Cuba, calculations are made in two systems: in the national and in the convertible peso, which is equivalent to the dollar.

The second important direction of economic policy should be the modernization of the energy and transport infrastructure, the long-awaited abandonment of the card system, the development of private business, and the attraction of foreign investment. The opening of Cuba for foreign investors should be supported by the Mariel Special Economic Zone, established as early as 2014, with tax breaks, a one-stop shop for documents and free money transfers. But for all this time, since 2014, only 26 projects have been approved for a total of about $ 1 billion. Of course, this figure is very low.

Today, the open zone of ​​Mariel attracts many countries, the Brazilians have already settled there, Russia is also going there. One of the main evidence of this fact is the discussion on the establishment of a joint venture for the production of composite materials.

One of the main economic difficulties to be overcome by the new government is the economic problems of Venezuela that hit Cuba. For a long time, the island of Freedom received help from Hugo Chavez, and then from Nicholas Maduro, – oil at preferential prices. However, after the introduction of the US sanctions against Caracas, supplies fell significantly.

In addition to all, there remains an unclosed debt issue, although Raul Castro has managed to significantly reduce it. For many years, Cuba lived on foreign loans. For ten years in power, Raul Castro was practically able to pull the country out of the “debt hole”, paying less than the debt. It is worth noting that Russia has written off 90% of the debt, the Paris Club of creditors, in turn, is actually two-thirds. But, as the Cubans themselves argue, the social sphere is very well established – a good level of education and medicine. The card system is still preserved, but the Cuban people are not starving. People on the island of Freedom do not face a choice: to give the child to school or to eat. There are no problems with obtaining education, with health and with food.

Cuba, like in ancient times, lives mainly due to imports, because the country cannot boast of exports especially: nickel, seafood, vegetables and tropical fruits, pharmaceuticals, sugar and, of course, cigars. Half of the state income of Cuba brings tourism.

Last year, in 2017, Cuba was visited by about 4.7 million foreign tourists, including 1.1 million Americans – this is three times more than before. This year, Cubans are waiting for at least 5 million, because the largest US airlines are planning an increase in the number of flights.

Since January of 2015, the long-awaited “warming” of the Cuban-American relations began, the United States eased the conditions for the Americans to conduct financial transactions and conduct business in Cuba, allowed visits to the island of Liberty, American telecommunications companies began to enter the Cuban market. However, the new leadership of the White House reversed, Trump called Barack Obama’s deal with Raul Castro to normalize relations “terrible” and immediately announced its abolition. Nevertheless, analysts believe that the United States will not leave Cuba at all, because it is economically unprofitable for them.

Many international economists believe that the United States has now postponed its “triumphant” return to Cuba. If this trend is strengthened, China can quickly take their place, as today China is Cuba’s largest trading partner. The 30% of the total Cuban import belongs to China.

Given this Chinese factor, Russian experts believe that Russia should not “relax” in this direction and it is necessary to systematically increase its presence on the island of Freedom. To date, we have favorable political conditions, and Russian locomotives, cars – these are new supplies of “KAMAZ” and Lada along with Chinese brands, are presented in Cuba. “Rosneft” and “Zarubezhneft” are already successfully acting from Russian oil and gas companies on the Island of Freedom. The representatives of the Russian agricultural sector also intend to supply wheat there. The tourism sphere is actively developing. The tourist flow from Russia has grown significantly lately: over 9 months of the last 2017 Russians made 53 thousand trips, which is more than twice as high as in 2016. There is a movement in the opposite direction. For example, the upcoming World Cup, which is known to be held in Russia, is of great interest to Cubans today.

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