Sunday, November 30, 2008

Russian president visits Cold War ally Castro

Posted on Friday, 11.28.08
Russian president visits Cold War ally Castro
Associated Press Writer

HAVANA -- Russia's president met with revolutionary icon Fidel Castro on
Friday, discussing Guantanamo Bay and hopes for a multipolar world with
Cuba's former leader during a tour of Latin America aimed at raising
Moscow's presence in the region.

Dmitry Medvedev spent hours talking and sightseeing with President Raul
Castro before meeting privately with his 82-year-old older brother.

Medvedev said he was happy with his visit when he left the island Friday
evening on a flight from the beach resort of Varadero east of Havana,
Cuba's Prensa Latina news agency reported.

"We have defined what we are going to do next, we have cleared up
everything regarding credits, and in Russia we will await President Raul
Castro's visit," Prensa Latina quoted the Russian president as saying.
The news agency offered no details about what had been defined and
cleared up.

In an essay released hours after the meeting with Russia's president,
Fidel Castro wrote that he emphasized to Medvedev Cuba's demand for the
return of "up to the last square meter" of land occupied by the U.S.
military base at Guantanamo.

"No country could understand that policy better than Russia, constantly
threatened by the same adversary of peace," Castro added, referring to
U.S. plans to build a missile-defense system in Europe.

In the essay, which appeared in the government Web site Cubadebate, the
older Castro said he and Medvedev also discussed the need for a
"multipolar world."

Earlier Friday, Medvedev and Raul Castro laid a wreath at a monument to
Soviet soldiers who died while serving in Cuba in the early 1960s, a
symbol of Cuba's once-prominent part in the communist bloc and the
history of its ties to Russia.

Russian officials deny that Medvedev's four-nation trip is meant to
provoke the United States, but the chat with Fidel Castro capped
meetings with Washington's staunchest opponents in the region.

Medvedev toured a visiting Russian warship on Thursday with Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez and earlier met with Bolivia's Evo Morales and
Nicaragua's Daniel Ortega, saying Russia might participate in a
socialist trade bloc founded by Chavez and Cuba.

Medvedev also signed deals with Brazil and Peru, part of an effort to
strengthen Russia's political, economic and military connections across
a region long dominated by U.S. influence.

"We visited states that no Russian leader, and no Soviet leader, ever
visited," he told reporters. "his means one thing: that attention simply
was not paid to these countries."

Medvedev's Latin America tour is in some ways a response to U.S. moves
in eastern Europe, where Russia sees its own security threatened by U.S.
plans to build a missile-defense system in former Soviet satellite states.

Medvedev said he and Raul Castro had discussed economic and
"military-technical cooperation" - apparently arms sales - "as well as
security and regional cooperation."

Raul Castro, 77, served as Cuba's defense minister for nearly five
decades, working alongside Soviet military officials. A steadfast
communist, he often visited the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union was Cuba's chief source of aid and trade until it
disintegrated in 1991 and Cuba's relations with the Russian Federation
soured - though Havana's streets still echo with the clatter of
Russian-built trucks and cars.

Now, Russia is looking to spend money again on projects such as oil
exploration in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico and in a Venezuelan
effort to refurbish a Soviet-era refinery in the port city of Cienfuegos.

Fidel Castro has not appeared in public since undergoing emergency
intestinal surgery in July 2006. Suffering from an undisclosed illness
in a secret location, the ex-president has continued to release essays
several times a week.

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