By Igor Slavinsky
Cuba and Venezuela are Belarus’ major political partners in Latin America. “We have no problems in our relations,” noted Mr. Lukashenko on meeting the Cuban Minister. Our two countries are united in having had sanctions placed on us by the USA and the EU. Within the international arena, Minsk and Havana advocate a principle of non-interference in domestic affairs, with multi-polarity and diversity in their paths of development. This ideology is the basis of the Non-Aligned Movement, of which our two states are active members.
Mr. Lukashenko last visited Cuba in September 2006, attending a Non-Aligned Movement Summit. Dozens of presidents and prime ministers arrived in Havana, with the Belarusian delegation receiving a warm welcome. Sadly, the transition from pure diplomacy to foreign economic activity has not been easy. Last year, Minsk and Havana traded just $7.5m — a modest sum in comparison to our other trading partners: Russia, Germany, Ukraine, China, Poland and, even, Venezuela.
Clearly, Cuba is not Venezuela. The economic structures of these two states differ greatly. However, large oil deposits have been recently discovered on the Island of Freedom; the fountain of ‘black gold’ is yet to be exploited.
Of course, decades of American blockade and the global economic crisis have affected Cuba and, consequently, our bilateral economic collaboration. However, the Cuban Minister has told the President that active debates are underway in his country relating to ‘the actualisation of their economic model’. Cuba is eager to enhance its economic efficiency, while preserving its social structure.
Mr. Lukashenko believes that, in these post-crisis times, it’s vital to return to previously developed projects. “For example, biotechnologies and pharmaceutical production are well developed in Cuba. Why shouldn’t you come here, to our common customs market, to establish joint ventures and generate profit? We’re ready to do everything possible to promote such projects — not only in Belarus. On the other hand, if Cuba needs technical, industrial modernisation or construction of the type of enterprises seen in Belarus, we’d be happy to help you implement these projects. I know you’re interested in establishing joint ventures to manufacture tractors and machinery,” said Mr. Lukashenko.
Answering journalists’ questions, the Cuban Foreign Minister spoke of his message for the Belarusian leadership. “Cuba is inspired by the results of the recent presidential elections. We’re against the sanctions imposed by the USA and the EU. Belarus is a sovereign state and should independently determine its fate,” he said, adding, “I’d like to express my gratitude to Belarus for its solidarity with Cuba, regarding the blockade from the USA. We appreciate Minsk’s position during voting on corresponding resolutions.” The guest from Havana handed Mr. Lukashenko an invitation to visit the Island of Freedom again. In turn, Raul Castro plans to visit Belarus in the near future.