HAVANA, CUBA — Adding to the tension between Cuba and the United States, the communist-run island will now grant preferential treatment to Russia, allowing investors to lease land only 90 miles away from U.S. shores.
SPECIAL CONDITIONS FOR RUSSIA
First reported by Reuters, Cuba is offering Russia unprecedented concessions – including the right to use Cuban land for 30-year terms, duty-free imports and the right to repatriate profits in foreign currency, currently restricted by the Cuban government.
Russia’s presidential commissioner and chairman of the Russia-Cuba business council, Boris Titov, told Russian companies on Thursday that Cuban authorities “are ready to provide special conditions for Russian businessmen.”
These concessions “are not representative of a robust government-run economy; it is almost a message of desperation,” said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
Russia seems to be pivoting to find new markets for its products after its invasion of Ukraine led to sanctions by the European Union and the U.S. Furthermore, the Cuba-Russia alliance seems to be strengthening while Cuba ignores last year’s green light by the Biden administration allowing a U.S. company to offer loans and invest in small private businesses in Cuba.
“NOTHING AND NO ONE CAN STOP IT”
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko arrived on the island on Thursday for an official visit, noting that he carried instructions from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Chernyshenko said the Cuban government will now allow Russian banks to open subsidiaries to finance Russian-based businesses using the ruble in joint projects.
On Friday, the Russian news agency Tass reported that Aeroflot – the Russian state airline – will resume regular flights to Cuba beginning July 1.
“Relations between Russia and Cuba have historical significance,” Chernyshenko said. “We intend to do everything possible to help the Cuban economy reach a decent level.”
“Nothing and no one can stop it,” Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s minister of foreign commerce, said of the partnership.
Allowing Russian companies to lease land in Cuba is controversial. Many U.S. citizens and corporations still hold certified property claims over land that Fidel Castro confiscated after he took power in 1959.
According to Reuters, bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times more than in 2021. In the first four months of 2023, trade jumped to $137.6 million, nine times more than the same period the previous year.