CubaBrief: Havana’s unconditional support for Moscow in its invasion of Ukraine. The dangers of dissent in Cuba and Russia. Giving homage to Cuba’s Ladies in White 20 years after their founding

Miguel Diaz-Canel meets with Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Chernishenko in Havana.

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel on May 19, 2023 declared to  Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Chernishenko, “Cuba’s unconditional support for the Russian Federation in its confrontation with the West.” This blog has examined over the past year and three months how Havana has backed Moscow’s illegal invasion of Ukraine on the diplomatic and propaganda front.

On May 18, 2023 a high ranking Belarusian military official Valery Revenka, Head of the Department of International Military Cooperation – Assistant to the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Belarus for International Military Cooperation, revealed that Cuban military personnel will carry out military training in the Republic of Belarus.  

This is the same country that permitted Russian Armed Forces to carry out military drills on its territory prior to the war, and to start part of the invasion of Ukraine from its territory. They have also allowed Russian  missile launchers in their territory to attack Ukrainian targets. A Cuban military presence in Belarus raises the specter that support will now also include a military component.

Diaz-Canel’s statement was made in the midst of the latest high level Russian delegation visiting Cuba, made up of Russian officials and business leaders signing multiple deals with Cuban counterparts to work together allegedly to boost sugar and rum output, assure wheat and crude oil supply to the communist-run island, and overhaul tourist facilities. The reality is that communist Cuba is a dead beat that cannot be relied upon for profitable business transactions. In 2014, according to The Guardian, Russia wrote off $32 billion in debts that Cuba owed Moscow. This relationship was never based on trade or markets, but geopolitics and a shared hostility to multiparty democracy,transparency and the rule of law.

Pyotr Kucherenko, age 46, on the left in Cuba last week.

The death of  Russia’s Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education, Pyotr Kucherenko, age 46, on his flight back from Cuba to Russia on May 20, 2023 is the latest in a string of mysterious deaths among Russian elites, and dissidents.

This is a phenomenon shared with their Cuban counterparts. Following mass protests in Cuba in July 2021, a string of Cuban members of the military deaths were announced that were attributed to natural causes, but questions were raised. Most were retired, but Agustín Peña Porres (age 57) commanded the army in the East of Cuba.

Agustín Peña Porres (age 57) commanded the army in the East of Cuba.

May 22, 2023 marks the day twenty years  ago when a group of brave Cuban women took the name the Ladies in White. They first came together on March 30, 2003 in the aftermath of a major crackdown that began on March 18, 2003, and with political show trials underway targeting their loved ones. These courageous women carried out marches demanding the freedom of all prisoners of conscience and recognition of international human rights standards. Their objective was to see an end to prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Recognizing their struggle, the European Parliament awarded the Ladies in White the Sakharov Prize in 2005. Like their Russian dissident counterparts, they’ve paid a high price for this stand. Movement leader Laura Pollán may have paid the highest price.  She died under mysterious circumstances on October 14, 2011, but the movement has carried on.

​ Laura Pollán died in 2011 under suspicious circumstances.

Dissidents the world over need to come together, and compare and contrast the most effective methods to confront these regimes, and areas of possible collaboration. The dictatorships that they oppose have been doing this with increasing effectiveness over the past thirty years.

14ymedio, May 23, 2023

Moscow Does Not Believe in Islands: Cuba Embraces the Russian Bear Again

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Chernishenko and Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, last Friday in Havana. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 22 May 2023 — In many Cuban houses there is still a wooden Matryoshka, an empty bottle of Moscow Red perfume, or a copy of Sputnik magazine. The Soviet presence was so intense on our Island that, for the children who grew up between the 70s and 80s, the USSR was like a powerful and severe stepmother. Today, we see the Kremlin envoys arrive again and, although they look different in their suits and ties, we know that they are seeking the same thing: to use our country as a geostrategic chess piece that is too big for us, very big.

The same day that the Group of 7 summit began in Japan, Cuba President Miguel Díaz-Canel ratified to the Russian Deputy Prime Minister, Dmitri Chernishenko, “Cuba’s unconditional support for the Russian Federation in its confrontation with the West.” In Hiroshima the meetings revolved around how to tighten sanctions to corner Vladimir Putin over his invasion of Ukraine, but in Havana the red carpet was rolled out for the former KGB agent’s narrow circle of power. It was no coincidence.

Increasingly isolated internationally and with a war in which it has not won the stunning victory it had hoped for, the Russian regime is in dire need of alliances. The urge is not only on the diplomatic level to pretend that it maintains loyal partners in some parts of the planet, but also for its friends help it evade sanctions. Until the beginning of the invasion, Putin had shown several signs of disinterest towards the Island, several joint projects were even canceled due to the inefficient actions of the Cuban side. But the war campaign changed everything.

Havana rapidly aligned itself with Moscow’s discourse and began to call the entry of troops into Ukrainian territory a “special military operation.” It avoided condemning the Russian actions at the United Nations and blamed Kiev for the start of the conflict. Then began a slew of announcements of new agreements signed, of credits granted by the Kremlin and of visits by officials to both sides of the Atlantic. As more photos surfaced with bureaucrats from both countries signing contracts and memorandums of understanding, concern grew among Cubans.

The unease that overwhelms us now comes for several reasons. We know the intensity of the presence that the Russians can have in our country, their infinite willingness and ability to meddle in ministries, offices and barracks. We know that the Díaz-Canel regime is bankrupt and that to save what remains of Castroism it is capable of auctioning off the Island piece by piece. We intuit that a fat check from Moscow would allow the unpopular engineer in the president’s seat to continue at the helm of the nation and reinforce the repression. We also understand that Putin is only interested in us because we are 90 miles from the United States, his archenemy, and located in Latin America, a region in which he wants to have a significant area of influence.

Furthermore, we suspect that with those collar-and-tie envoys who arrive in Havana these days, a democratic change will not come to us, nor more freedoms, much less greater respect for human rights. It points to the opposite. When Chernishenko announced last Friday the creation of “a road map” to accelerate the rapprochement between the two countries, “which might require some changes in Cuban legislation,” he is not thinking of decreeing more spaces for dissidence or a framework of respect for independent media. Rather, it is about paving the way for the Russians to control portions of the national economy and run wild in other spheres as well.

They will bring us, yes, their methods. The ability for obscure agents of the political police to amass an empire, for Party bigwigs to take over the most appetizing industries, and for money from public property liquidations to end up mostly in in the hands of ideological comrades who will exchange their military uniforms for the elegant clothing of the oligarchs.

________________________

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Deutsche Welle in Spanish.

https://translatingcuba.com/moscow-does-not-believe-in-islands-cuba-embraces-the-russian-bear-again/

CNN, May 23, 2023

Death of Russian minister on return from Cuba is latest unexplained incident involving Moscow’s elites

By Ivana Kottasová, Josh Pennington and Anna Chernova, CNN

Updated 5:46 PM EDT, Tue May 23, 2023

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education Pyotr Kucherenko died while returning from Cuba.

CNN  — A Russian politician died of – as of yet – unknown causes after falling ill on a plane on Saturday, the latest in a string of mysterious deaths among Russian elites.

Russia’s Deputy Minister of Science and Higher Education, Pyotr Kucherenko, 46, died while returning from a trip to Cuba on Saturday, according to the ministry.

“Kucherenko was feeling ill while on a plane with a Russian delegation that was returning from a business trip to Cuba. The plane landed in the city of Mineralnye Vody, where doctors tried to assist,” the ministry said in a statement posted on its website, adding that the minister could not be saved.

Kucherenko’s family said his death may have been from a heart condition but a forensic examination will be held on Wednesday, according to the state-run broadcaster Zvezda.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said he was not aware of Kucherenko’s cause of death.

Journalist Roman Super, who fled Russia shortly after it invaded Ukraine last February, said on his Telegram channel that he had spoken with Kucherenko “just days” before fleeing. He said Kucherenko feared for his safety and encouraged him to leave Russia.

“Save yourself and your family. Leave as soon as possible. You cannot imagine the degree of brutalization of our state. In a year you won’t recognize Russia at all. By leaving you are doing the right thing,” Super quoted Kucherenko as saying.

Super said he asked Kucherenko if he too wanted to leave Russia, to which, he said, the minister replied: “It is no longer possible to do so. They take away our passports. And there is no such world where they will now be happy with the deputy Russian minister after this fascist invasion.”

The journalist added that Kucherenko told him he’d been taking antidepressants and tranquilizers, quoting him as saying: “I drink them in handfuls. And it doesn’t help much. I hardly sleep. I feel terrible. We are all taken hostage. Nobody can say anything. Otherwise, we are immediately crushed like bugs.”

It has been reported that senior Russian officials at the Kremlin and in the regions have been forbidden from leaving their posts. IStories, an online investigative news outlet based outside Russia and run by a well-known journalist Roman Anin, reported last week that several governors, officials within the security forces and people from the presidential administration had tried to quit but had not been allowed to. Peskov dismissed the report as a hoax.

Mysterious deaths pile up

Kucherenko’s demise is not the first unexplained Russian death to spark interest.

At least 13 high-profile Russian businessmen have reportedly died by suicide or in unexplained accidents in the last year, with six of them associated with Russia’s two largest energy companies.

Russian sausage magnate-turned-lawmaker Pavel Antov died in India in December after falling from the third floor of his hotel, according to the Indian police.

Antov’s death came after his friend and travel companion Vladimir Budanov died of a heart attack on Antov’s 65th birthday, two days earlier, according to the police. Budanov was 61 years old and had a preexisting heart condition, the police said, adding that they believed Antov’s death was a suicide.

Alexander Buzakov, the head of a major Russian shipyard that specializes in building non-nuclear submarines, died suddenly in December, with no cause of death given by the authorities, Reuters news agency reported.

Anatoly Gerashchenko, the former rector to the Moscow Aviation Institute, died in an unspecified accident in September, according to a statement from the institute.

Lukoil chairman Ravil Maganov died at the beginning of September after falling out of the window of a hospital in Moscow, according to TASS.

In mid-September, Russian businessman Ivan Pechorin, who was the top manager for the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, was found dead in Vladivostok, according to Russian state media. Pechorin drowned on September 10 near Cape Ignatyev in Vladivostok, regional media reported.

Another top Lukoil manager, Alexander Subbotin, was found dead near Moscow in May after reportedly visiting a shaman, TASS reported.

How to get help: In the United States, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The International Association for Suicide Prevention and Befrienders Worldwide also can provide contact information for crisis centers around the world.

CNN’s Tim Lister, Jennifer Hause and Swati Gupta contributed reporting.

https://www.cnn.com/2023/05/23/europe/russia-minister-dies-falling-ill-on-plane-intl/index.html

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, May 22, 2023

Twenty years ago brave Cuban women took the name Ladies in White.

Today four Ladies in White are in prison for demanding freedom for political prisoners and respect for human rights.

Ladies in White Tania Echevarría, Saylí Navarro, Sissi Abascal and Aymara Nieto jailed

May 22, 2023 marks the day twenty years  ago when a group of brave Cuban women took the name the Ladies in White.  

They first came together on March 30, 2003 in the aftermath of a major crackdown that began on March 18, 2003, and with political show trials underway targeting their loved ones. 

These courageous women carried out marches demanding the freedom of all prisoners of conscience and recognition of international human rights standards.

Claudia Márquez (L) , Blanca Reyes (center) y Miriam Leiva (Rt), on 4/7/03 (Martí Noticias)

Their objective was to see an end to prisoners of conscience in Cuba. 

Recognizing their struggle, the European Parliament awarded the Ladies in White the Sakharov Prize in 2005.

They’ve paid a high price for this stand. Movement leader Laura Pollán may have paid the highest price.  

Laura Pollán, February 13, 1948 – October 14, 2011

Mary O’Grady in The Wall Street Journal on October 24, 2011 reported that Pollán instead of disbanding sought to expand “the movement across the country and promised to convert it to a human rights organization open to all women. Speaking from the Guanajay prison as her condition was deteriorating, jailed former Cuban counterintelligence officer Ernesto Borges Pérez told the Hablemos Press that making public those objectives likely sealed her fate.” Laura Pollán died on October 14, 2011 and was cremated shortly afterwards.

Twenty years later, and the Ladies in White continue to be subjected to brutal repression, and four women of this movement are now jailed in Cuba for calling for the release of political prisoners, and nonviolently defending human rights.

The current elected leader of the Ladies in White in Cuba is Berta Soler Fernandez.

Berta Soler Fernandez

[ Rest of article here ]

https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2023/05/twenty-years-ago-brave-cuban-women-took.html

NBC News, May 20, 2023

Russia and Cuba ink deals to revitalize island’s ailing economy

The longtime political allies —both subject to U.S. sanctions — are seeking to cement economic ties by facilitating trade and investment.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko and Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel at the Russian-Cuban Business Forum in Havana, Cuba, on Friday.Grigory Sysoev / Sputnik via AP

By Reuters

Russian officials and business leaders have signed multiple deals with Cuban counterparts at a forum in Havana this week, agreeing to work together to boost sugar and rum output, assure wheat and crude oil supply to the communist-run island, and overhaul crumbling tourist facilities.

The longtime political allies — both subject to U.S. sanctions — are seeking to cement economic ties by facilitating trade and investment.

The deals “constitute a milestone in the history of our bilateral and business ties,” said Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s foreign trade minister, in a speech closing the forum on Friday.

The agreements include a contract for Russia’s Prodintorg to supply wheat to Cuba’s state-owned Alimport, aimed at “guaranteeing the stability” of supply to the Cuban population, according to a document from the Cuban-Russian Business Committee viewed by Reuters.

Another deal will create a Cuba-based marketplace for Russian goods, including food and home goods, called Rusmarket, which will also help spur development of more direct and fluid shipping routes between the two countries, the document said.

A third deal states Russian and Cuban intention to revive the decrepit residential beach community of Tarara, whose white sand beaches just minutes from Havana, the document says, are “ideal for enjoying the ocean, fishing and diving.”

Russian deputy prime minister for tourism, sport, culture and communications Dmitry Chernyshenko announced separately on Friday a presidential order to reinstate by July regular flights between Russia and Cuba, suspended since March 2022 due to the conflict in Ukraine.

Other agreements announced this week include one aimed at developing a Russian-Cuban rum company, which would seek to boost exports of Cuba’s prized rum. Russia also provided funds, know-how and technology to restart a steel mill in Cuba to supply construction materials on the island, according to Cuba state-run media reports.

Top Russian business leaders lauded Cuba earlier this week for opening the door to Russian investors and for providing them with “preferential treatment,” including tariff exemptions, long-term land concessions and ease in repatriating profits.

More than 150 Russian business people attended the forum in Havana, according to Cuban officials.

Russia this week also promised to help revive Cuba’s once-vaunted sugar industry, which has nearly collapsed in recent years as its production has plunged to historic lows.

Aleksandr Bogatyr, of Russia’s Progress Agro, told Reuters on the sidelines of the forum that his firm and Cuban state-run sugar company Azcuba would begin a joint venture as early as next year to overhaul the obsolete “Uruguay” sugar mill in Sancti Spiritus province.

The firm hopes to eventually export as much as 150,000 tons of sugar per year, about one-third of this year’s countrywide target.

“Cuba was once one of the top producers (of sugar) on the international market and with this project, working together, we hope to gradually lift levels of output,” Bogatyr said.

He called the project a Russian investment, but declined to give figures.

“It would be a significant investment because we’d bring all of the new equipment and organize the supplies necessary to produce cane, such as fertilizer, and specialized technology,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times that of 2021, and soared to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, nine times that of the same period the previous year, Russian officials said.

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/russia-cuba-ink-deals-revitalize-islands-ailing-economy-rcna85408