Friday, November 28, 2008

Old friends

The Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, has arrived in Havana on the last leg of what seems to have been an action-packed tour of Latin America.
And as you would expect, the visit has raised plenty of expectations in and outside Cuba about a new “golden age” of co-operation between Havana and Moscow.
True, the Russians will probably want to invest some cash in Cuba, obviously with an eye to a future without either of the Castro brothers.
And they will use the opportunity to engage in a bit of anti-American rhetoric, too, in order to annoy Washington.
But it’s a long way from the days when Moscow was happy to sink billions of roubles into Cuba - effectively keeping the island afloat – in exchange for an unshakable commitment from Fidel Castro to do well, pretty much whatever the Soviets asked him to do.
Despite the close relations between the two countries during the Cold War, this is only the fourth visit to Cuba by a Soviet or Russian leader.
The first, in 1974, was by an ageing Leonid Brezhnev, who arrived wearing one of those peculiarly ill-fitting Soviet suits of the time but was soon sporting short-sleeve “tropical” shirts and straw hats.
The next visitor, in 1989, was Mikhail Gorbachev. It was not a pleasant stay. By then, the Soviet empire was near collapse and the roles had been reversed: Fidel Castro was the old, inflexible Stalinist, while the young and energetic Gorbachev was seen as the true revolutionary. Castro hated it.
By the time Vladimir Putin arrived in 2000, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Castro was already declining visibly. There was much talk then, too, about a new golden age of co-operation, etc, etc, but it didn’t last long. Within months of the visit, Putin ordered the very expensive Russian spy base at Lourdes closed, to the annoyance of the Cubans.
As for Medvedev, he has already held talks with Raul Castro, done the old trip to the Plaza de la Revolucion to place a wreath, and then visited the recently consecrated Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Havana.
Whether the Russian will get to meet the now semi-retired and rapidly diminishing Fidel Castro remains to be seen.


Blogger Lazaro Gonzalez said...

Good pictures

10:21 am  

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