One of the most important events of February was the “Latin American tour” of the Russian Foreign Minister, in the framework of which Sergey Lavrov visited the nearest neighbor of the USA for the first time in 10 years. The last time he was in Mexico City in 2010, when Felipe Calderon was president of the country. Since then, leaders in the Latin American state have changed twice – in 2012, Enrique Peña Nieto became president, and since December 2018, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has been the head of state. After his election, Moscow reiterates new approaches to bilateral relations and enhanced cooperation. On the way to Mexico, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry made a short stop in Cuba. Why did Lavrov arrive on the Liberty Island?
Opening his second “Latin American tour” in the last six months, Lavrov made a short technical stop in Cuba on the way from the Russian capital to Mexico City. On February 6, on the way to Mexico, the plane of the Russian minister landed in Santiago de Cuba.
Santiago de Cuba is a landmark for the history of the revolutionary movement of the Liberty Island. In the 1950s of the 20th century, the liberation struggle began against the regime of Fulgencio Batista (Spanish – Fulgencio Batista Zaldívar). In 1953, Fidel Castro (Spanish – Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz) with his comrades undertook an unsuccessful assault on the Moncada barracks, and six years later, from the balcony of the city hall of Santiago de Cuba, he announced the victory of the Cuban Revolution. In 2016, the urn with the ashes of the great Comandante was taken along the return route of the “Freedom Caravan”: the victorious way of the partisan detachments of the Cuban revolutionaries, who on January 2, 1959 went from Santiago de Cuba to Havana.
During his short visit, Sergey Lavrov visited the memorial complex, where he laid flowers at the grave of the Cuban Comandante Fidel Castro, and also held negotiations with his colleague Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla. On the eve of his trip, the Russian Foreign Minister noted that he specially chose such a route to honor Comandante and visit the cemetery of St. Iphigenia, where the remains of other fighters for independence of Cuba also rest.
It is noteworthy that before his working trip to Latin America, Sergey Lavrov said that the White House, imposing sanctions against Cuba, deliberately violates human rights. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry at a press conference on February 5, explained to reporters that the lifting of the moratorium on the third extraterritorial section of the Helms-Burton Act (the Law, which entered into force in 1917 and allows to limit trade with countries hostile to USA. At the moment, Cuba is the only country covered by this Act), a ban on charter and regular flights to all airports in Cuba, except the capital (in Havana), restriction against transport companies cooperating with the Liberty Island, multiple visa and financial restrictions, expanded campaign against the Cuban doctors working in other countries in the region – all of these measures caused the condemnation and rejection by the vast majority of the world community. A vivid confirmation of these words was the vote on November 7, 2019 in the UN General Assembly on anti-blockade resolution.
According to Lavrov, the sanctions imposed by Washington against Havana prove that in the pursuit of “strangulation” of the Cuban economy, the United States knowingly violates human rights: after all, ordinary citizens suffer. He stressed that the Russian side is considering the introduction of new restrictive measures against Havana “as a manifestation of Washington’s powerlessness to break the will of the people of Cuba, to impose their views and values”.
In addition, the Russian Foreign Minister concluded that Moscow categorically does not accept these steps and expresses solidarity with the Cuban friendly people. “We urge a full-scale lifting of the financial and economic blockade to ensure the full social and economic development of the country, to implement in practice the principle of sovereign equality of states and ensure the legitimate rights of Cuban citizens”, – he concluded.
As part of the talks between Sergey Lavrov and his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez, the Russian Foreign Minister expressed the Kremlin’s official position that the Russian side intends to deepen cooperation with Cuba, especially in the context of illegitimate sanctions that Washington continues to build. According to Lavrov, Moscow is fully committed to the agreements that were reached during the meeting of the presidents of the two states in October last year. All these and other issues will be substantively considered during the planned meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which will be held in the Russian capital. As noted by Sergey Lavrov, this applies especially to steps that must be agreed upon for the practical implementation of the cooperation program in the field of the fuel and energy complex.
In turn, Bruno Rodriguez expressed satisfaction with the level of bilateral exchanges, as well as the willingness of the Cuban side to continue joint work in accordance with projects in various fields. Rodriguez noted that he admires the important role that the Russian Federation plays in protecting international peace, law and security.
Concluding his visit to Santiago de Cuba, the Russian Foreign Minister thanked the Cuban government for organizing the reception of the Russian delegation. Lavrov recalled that Vladimir Putin is expecting the Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel (Spanish – Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez) in Moscow to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the victory in World War II and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. According to Sergey Lavrov, Cuban delegations are expected to take part in a number of other events that are coming in the coming months, including the International Security Conference, the International Legal Forum, the St. Petersburg Economic Forum and other world-wide events.
The results of the negotiations between the Russian Foreign Minister and his Mexican counterpart Marcelo Luis Ebrard Casaubón on February 6 the network edition of the “LACRUS” project was already covered in detail, and after Mexico City Sergey Lavrov went to Caracas, where he held a series of meetings with representatives of the Venezuelan government. Despite allied relations and regular meetings with the leadership of Venezuela, Lavrov wasn’t for several years before this trip to Caracas, the last time he came in 2011, when Hugo Rafael Chávez Frías was the leader of the Latin American country. And in 2013, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry was in Caracas at his funeral. The results of Sergey Lavrov’s working trip to the Venezuelan capital on February 7 will be already in the next analytical review.