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| Cuba, China, Venezuela: New Developments [1 of 9] - By Daniel Erikson||Hits: 3376|
|Bjørn-Olav Kvidal [NemoEtomer]
on 2008-21-03 13:13
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Cuba’s international relations have undergone significant shifts in recent years, with old alliances unraveling and new partnerships emerging. In particular, the Cuban government of Fidel Castro has embarked on a path of deeper engagement and cooperation with Venezuela and China that has transformed those two countries into the most important international allies of Cuba today. Since 2001, the rising influence of Venezuela and China constitute the most significant realignment of Cuba’s foreign relations since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. This is all the more striking because it has occurred against the backdrop of modest U.S. efforts to tighten existing sanctions and hasten change in Cuba.
Without question, the emergence of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez has provoked the most dramatic change in Cuba’s international relations in this hemisphere. Elected to the helm of the most significant oil-producing country in Latin America in the late 1990s, Chavez has steadily proceeded down a path of closer political and economic ties with Cuba. After his temporary removal by force in April 2002, Chavez has become increasingly reliant on the advice and counsel of Fidel Castro to help maintain his power in Venezuela. At the same time, Chavez has offered hundreds of thousands of barrels of discounted oil to the Cuban government, which has helped the island to keep its rickety economy afloat despite tougher U.S. measures. The scope and nature of the Venezuela-Cuba relationship has also sparked concerns that the two governments may seek to advance proposals that run counter to the strengthening of market-oriented democracy in the region.
A second major shift in Cuba’s international profile is its deepening ties with the People’s Republic of China, a country of 1.3 billion people that has achieved sustained growth through introducing market reform into its communist political system. China has prioritized Cuba as a key partner in Latin America, and quickly surged to become the island’s third largest trading partner after Venezuela and Spain. China’s interest in Cuba has led to frequent high-level meetings, a series of economic cooperation agreements, and growing exchanges in the areas of science, technology, and defense. China plans to invest millions in Cuba to help secure needed commodities such as nickel and agricultural products, and it has been a strong supporter of Cuban positions in international forums such as the United Nations. The emergence of China as an economic power has strongly benefited the Cuban economy and become a crucial component of the island’s economic planning.
Cuba’s strong ties with Venezuela and China contrast sharply with its deteriorating relations with other partners. While the European Union remains an important economic player, Cuba’s dissident crackdown in 2003 and subsequent hostile rhetoric have cooled relations considerably, despite moves by Spain to help improve ties. In Latin America, Cuba has experienced a partial renaissance as a large swathe of South American countries have elected center-left leaders, including Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. While most countries have been hesitant to deepen ties with Cuba, almost all have at least established normal diplomatic relations and several have stepped up their trade and investment with the island. Meanwhile, Cuba’s once staunch alliance with Mexico has verged on total breakdown during the administration of President Vicente Fox, mainly because the Mexican government has backed successive UN resolutions condemning the human rights situation in Cuba.
(To be continued)
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