Cuba Reaches out to Brazil

Courtesy of Project Syndicate, an excellent analysis of Cuba’s gradual process of changing Cuba’s economy and international relations and – most specifically – efforts to ensure Cuba is not held captive by its one international supporter at present: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

“…Castro believes in giving farm workers greater incentives. He has authorized the sale of farm machinery and tools – centralized until now – directly to farmers, as well as handing over idle land to private cooperatives and other organizations that request them. He also cancelled the debts of some small producers and raised the prices paid by the state for milk and meat. In another measure intended to improve the lives of ordinary Cubans, he has removed restrictions on acquiring computers, microwave ovens, and other appliances.

Cuban officials stress that the purpose of these changes is to increase efficiency, “not to alter the socialist model.” But, like China and Vietnam, the government will have to embrace the market more openly if it is really to improve living conditions. Only with foreign investment and economic liberalization – a process that has already begun in some measure – can Cuba hope to offer its 11.2 million people more consumer goods and comfort, improve the social welfare system, and rehabilitate the country’s infrastructure.

…Nevertheless, with Felipe Pérez Roque as Minister of Foreign Affairs, Cuba continues to conduct a pragmatic foreign policy. Venezuela and China have become Cuba’s main economic and commercial partners, and may continue to be so. But Raúl Castro wants to avoid dependence on one or two countries alone. His objective is to diversify Cuba’s foreign relations and prevent problems that any change in these countries could cause his regime – a constant imperative since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As a result, relations with Latin America’s giants, Brazil and Mexico, are being put on a more normal footing, relations with Spain are being improved. Moreover, negotiations with the European Union have been resumed, greater understanding with the Vatican is being fostered, and Castro himself has publicly suggested the possibility of dialogue with the United States.

Although Venezuela provides between $1.5 and $2 billion annually to Cuba, Castro regards Chávez as something of a headache, owing to his rhetoric and his confrontational attitude with several countries. Chávez is simply not the right person to help Cuba normalize its international relations.

….Venezuela’s problems make collaboration and support from Brazil – the southern hemisphere’s largest industrial power – even more important. During President Luís Ignacio da Silva Lula’s visit to Havana in January 2008, Brazil and Cuba signed several economic and commercial agreements. Indeed, Brazil doubled its loan to Cuba for the purchase of foodstuffs and medicines, to $200 million, and has arranged projects to rehabilitate Cuba’s infrastructure with the participation of Brazilian companies.

Other agreements include a project in which Brazil’s state energy company, Petrobrás, and Cuba’s Cupet will extract oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and another that involves technological aid from the Brazilian Company Pessquisa Agropecuária for the development of soya production in Cuba.

Indeed, as these initiatives suggest, rapprochement with Brazil and Mercosur appears to be Cuba’s best international alternative as Raúl Castro seeks to avoid falling into America’s economic orbit.”

This entry was posted on Sunday, July 20th, 2008 at 4:28 pm and is filed under Brazil, Cuba, Cubpet, Petroleo Brasileiro, Venezuela.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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