Díaz-Canel in Algeria, Turkey, Russia, & China
The daily construction of a more just pluripolar world
Since the 1950s, the vanguard nations and leaders of the Third World have been struggling to create an alternative international world order characterized by respect for the true sovereignty of all nations; mutually beneficial trade among nations; and the economic and social development of all nations and regions. It is an anti-colonial vision that seeks to transform global structures imposed by Western colonial domination and sustained by Western imperialism.
The Third World project suffered a great setback in the 1980s, when the Western powers, reacting to world-system contradictions that they did not understand, imposed the neoliberal project on the world, a direct antithesis to the Third World vision of equality and genuine independence. Although some pronounced the Third World project dead, in fact it remained alive in the consciousness and hearts of the people. When the peoples were moved to action in response to the brutal consequences of neoliberal economic policies, the Third World project was born again, growing in maturity in theory and practice from the late 1990s to the present (see “China and the Third World: The construction of an alternative, more just world-system,” 10/1/2021).
At the present time, an important dimension of the renewed Third World project is the effort to construct a pluripolar world, replacing the unipolar neocolonial world-system directed by the United States. It is not a question of armed attacks or military threats; nor is it a matter of radical, threatening rhetoric. It is a question of building, day by day and step by step, the economic relations that are the foundational structures of the alternative, more just world order, a process that is often unseen and always misunderstood by the myopic Western media and political establishment.
An example of the unfolding alternative construction was the recent trip by Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel to Algeria, Turkey, Russia, and China. The four nations are important actors in the alternative construction, and much was accomplished during the tour with respect to expanding economic relations. The Cuban delegation included the Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez; the Minister of the Economy, Alejandro Gil; the Minister of Foreign Commerce, Rodrigo Malmierca; Minister of Health, José Angel Portal Miranda; and the Minister of Energy and Mines, Vicente de la O Levy. The composition of the delegation reflects the key sectors of the alternative construction.
Cuba was the first nation in America to recognize the independence of the Algerian People’s Democratic Republic, which was attained through several years of armed struggle against French colonial rule. Cuba and Algeria established diplomatic relations a few months later, on October 17, 1962. In 1963, Cuba sent twenty-nine medical volunteers to Cuba, a first gesture of solidarity that over the course of sixty years would reach a cumulative total 4,500 medical collaborators in Algeria, part of the 605,000 Cuban health workers that have aided 164 nations. Over the decades, the two nations have developed ties of cooperation in other strategic sectors in addition to health, including the pharmaceutical industry and biotechnology, agriculture, higher education, and sport.
Both nations participate in international organizations and forums, advocating cooperation, friendship, and solidarity among peoples and governments. As Foreign Commerce Minister Malmierca declared, “solidarity is not an option, but a necessity.”
Following their private meeting, Díaz-Canel and Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune declared that the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to continue with the friendship cemented by the historic leaders of their nations. And they announced various agreements, including partial forgiveness and postponement of payments on the debt Cuba has with Algeria, deferring them to another moment; and the establishment of a stable supply of fuel and electricity-generating equipment to Cuba. Algeria also offered to donate a solar energy plant for the production of electricity. In addition, both governments agreed to mutually beneficial cooperation in the production of medicines and in the creation of joint ventures for the production of sugar, sources of renewable energy, and vaccines against various African infirmities as well as other diseases. At the beginning of 2023, a commission on joint ventures will be held in Havana, in which 150 Algerian investors will offer possibilities for investment in biotechnology and medicine.
The visit of the Cuban delegation to Algeria, which extended from November 16 to November 19, included a visit to the Monument of Martyrs, an emblematic site of the capital city of Algiers. At the National Museum of the Combatants, situated below the Monument, the Cuban President pointed out his great satisfaction of being in the important Algerian museum, where the traditions of struggle, resistance, and combat of the heroic Algerian people are guarded. He signed the visitor’s book with a dedication to a “heroic people, always disposed to battle to the death in defense of its independence and sovereignty.”
It should be recalled that in the 1960s Cuba and Algeria had earned worldwide fame as two nations that had attained their independence through armed struggle, heroically waging guerrilla war against two colonial and imperialist powers that knew no moral limits to their bellicose and dominating impulse. Both nations inspired anti-colonial revolutionary theories during that period.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez declared that “there is in Algeria an enormous sentiment of friendship and solidarity with Cuba, an understanding of the heroic struggle of our people in the midst of difficulties, and a sentiment of profound gratitude for Cuban cooperation in the field of health, that began in the year 1963, continuing until today.”
The Cuban delegation also visited the Great Mosque of Algeria, where it was received by the director of the religious-cultural complex, Mohamed Mamoune El-Kacimi El-Housseini. The rector gave thanks to the delegation for the dignified positions of Cuba in international affairs expressed in the Non-Aligned Movement and in support for struggles of liberation; and he expressed thanks for decades of Cuban collaboration in the field of health.
The Great Mosque of Algeria is the largest in Africa and the third largest in the Islamic world. The religious-cultural complex consists of 12 buildings, including a library that can receive nine million books and a conference hall for 1,500 participants. It encompasses an area of thirty hectares, and it includes outdoor gardens, water fountains, and planted trees, whose species are referenced in the sacred texts of the Islamic religion.
The relation between Cuba and the Soviet Union following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution was necessary for the survival of the latter. It included educational, literary, scientific, and cultural dimensions, as well as economic, thus forging a special relation between the two peoples.
With the collapse of the Soviet Union, relations were weakened, but sustained. In recent years, as Russia has regained national purpose, the relation has been renewed. There has been a constant interchange of delegations at a high level, which has consolidated an association in different areas, including energy, metallurgy, transportation, and biotechnology. An example is the Intergovernmental Commission for commercial/economic and scientific/technical collaboration, headed by Cuban Vice-Prime Minister Ricardo Cabrisas and Russian Vice-President Yuri Borisov. The Commission recently held its nineteenth session, which discussed the expansion of commercial, economic, financial, and banking cooperation as well as the implementation of previous agreements in industry, science and informational technology, transportation, culture, and sport.
The Cuban delegation arrived in Moscow on Saturday, November 19, 9:30 p.m. local time, in subfreezing temperatures. It was the third visit of Díaz-Canel to Russia as a Chief of State, having previously visited in 2018 and 2019. On those visits, Díaz-Canel met with President Putin and with authorities of the Parliament. On this occasion, Díaz-Canel was invited by Putin for the inauguration of a monument erected to the memory of Fidel Castro, concerning which I have prepared a special post for tomorrow.
Díaz-Canel met on Monday, November 21, with Dimitri Medvedev, Vice-President of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, and also President of the United Russia Party. Medvedez noted that, in the face of the complex situation in which both Russia and Cuba have sanctions imposed, it is good to interchange ideas and look for ways to strengthen economic relations and amplify political dialogue. The sanctions against Russia and Cuba, he declared, demonstrate that economic cooperation between Russia and China cannot be slowed down.
In encounters on November 21, Díaz-Canel expressed gratitude to Igor Sechin, Executive Director of the Russian petroleum company Rosneft, for providing a solution to a situation during the peak of the pandemic, when Cuba was not able to manufacture medical oxygen, due to a breakdown in the Cuban factory. The Cuban President declared that such gestures of support in a difficult situation are not customary in the unipolar world full of egoism in which we presently live.
Díaz-Canel also thanked Dmitry Chernyshenko, Russian Vice-Prime Minister, for his efforts in the Intergovernmental Commission, in dealing with and understanding the problems that Cuba confronts, and in continuing to amplify economic and commercial relations between the two countries. Díaz-Canel reviewed the difficult economic-financial situation that Cuba has confronted since the second quarter of 2019, as a consequence of the 243 measures imposed by the Trump administration, which have strengthened the blockade and are the basis for financial and energy persecution. These measures have cut, he noted, the principle sources of income in foreign currency, creating a complex situation with respect to supplies and electricity as well as the production of consumer goods and the possibilities for export. In this situation, he pointed out, Cuba has had the fundamental support of the Russian Federation, especially President Putin. He affirmed that as soon as the economy permits, Cuba will be fulfilling its commitments with Russia. In response, the Russian Vice-Prime Minister affirmed that Cuba is Russia’s key partner in the Latin American region, and that the relation with Cuba is not subject to changes in the global situation. It is a relation of a strategic character and with a vision for the future.
On November 22, the Cuban delegation met with His Holiness Kirill, Patriarch of Moscow and Russia, in the Danilovsk Monestary, the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church. Díaz-Canel thanked the Patriarch for the firm positions of the Russian Orthodox Church against the blockade. He affirmed the will of the Cuban government to continue developing relations of friendship, solidarity, and respect with the Russian Orthodox Church. For his part, the Patriarch expressed his admiration for Fidel, who did so much for the good and the freedom of his nation and always had the courage to combat the capitalist state. He observed that “we Christians know that force is in the truth, and Cuba’s sovereign and independent existence, in spite of external pressure, confirms it.” Cuba, he observed, is “a good example of how the truth can gain force.”
On November 22, Díaz-Canel addressed the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation, in which he thanked the deputies for the support they have always lent to Cuba. He particularly recognized Russian humanitarian aid when Cuba was at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and with respect to the explosion of the Hotel Saratoga in Havana, the fire of petroleum tanks in Matanzas, and Hurricane Ian. He made special reference to the situation provoked by the breakdown of the medical oxygen plant at the height of the pandemic, during which Cuba solicited the support of the Russian government, which immediately responded with a cargo plane full of oxygen containers. “It is a gesture that we are never going to forget,” he declared.
The Cuban President explained the difficult economic situation through which the country is passing, due to fundamentally external factors. First, the unprecedented intensification of the blockade; and secondly, the economic impact of the pandemic, especially on tourism, the principal source of income for the country. He noted that in this difficult situation Cuba depends on the support and understanding of its closest friends, among which is the Federation of Russia.
Díaz-Canel made reference to the difficult circumstances in which the world lives today, in the midst of which Russia and Cuba confront unjust sanctions imposed by imperialist powers. In the context of this complex international situation, he noted the convergence of principles between Russia and Cuba and the cooperation between the two nations in international organs. The two nations have, he declared, a common political will for international projection in pursuit of multilateralism.
Priority must now be given, Díaz-Canel observed, to the further development of economic, commercial, and financial cooperation. He pointed out important steps in this direction, such as the Russian company carrying out petroleum exploration in Boca de Jaruco, a diagnostic and equipment maintenance center in the Mariel Special Development Zone involving the Russian Kamaz technology; and the modernization of a steel plant in Havana and a mechanical plant in Santa Clara.
The Cuban president characterized the sanctions against Russia as unjust, and he strongly condemned them. He declared that “the aggressive policy of the United States and the expansion of NATO toward the Russian borders” are the causes of the conflict in the region.
The official conversations between Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and Russian President Vladimir Putin were marked by camaraderie and a common will to strengthen in all areas the relation between their two nations. The subsequent press conference lasted two hours, during which both leaders gave ample expression to their thoughts and sentiments.
Putin emphasized the importance of the recently concluded nineteenth session of the Intergovernmental Commission of the two governments, which plans many common projects until 2030. Díaz-Canel concurred, noting that the Commission is going to advance cooperation between the two nations, and that it is going to resolve various problems.
The Cuban President pointed out the role that that Federation of Russia is playing, seeking a changing world, a world moving to mutipolarity. Díaz-Canel also expressed his admiration for the profound analyses of history that Putin makes. (I also have observed insightful historical analyses in Putin’s speeches).
Díaz-Canel declared that Cuba is going to do everything possible to strengthen and amplify the bilateral relations between Cuba and Russia. He further declared that the continuity his generation has assumed with the generation of the revolution is not merely a slogan. It is a valid concept, and it applies to the will to strengthen relations with the Russian Federation.
On the flight from Moscow to Ankara following the visit to Russia, Díaz-Canel spoke informally with Cuban journalists. He observed that the relation of Cuba with Russia and the Soviet Union has passed through difficult moments, but with the passing of years they are reconstituting and reactivating it. He noted that a good historic explanation is necessary. If there is not a rigorous analysis of the history of the Cuban-Russian relation, it runs the risk of opportunism and revisionism, reducing the relation to a schema that does not reflect its true essence.
He observed that the visits to Algeria and Russia have gone very well. The entire Cuban delegation is pleased. The tour is showing, he declared, that Cuba is not alone and that Cuba will be able to advance and overcome the adversity of the current difficult moment.
On November 23, at the Presidential Complex of the Republic of Turkey in Ankara, the Cuban President and the Cuban delegation were received by the President of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Following the official conversations, Díaz-Canel expressed the disposition of Cuba to continue working in sectors of mutual interest, such as biotechnology, renewable energy, agriculture, stockbreeding, health, education, sport, and culture. He expressed absolute confidence that the relations between Turkey and Cuba will continue to strengthen and expand to the benefit of both peoples.
For his part, Erdogan characterized the visit as historic, predicting that it will constitute a turning point in the connection between the two countries. He declared that “we are pleased to see that we have a strong and mutual will to strengthen our bilateral cooperation. It is obvious that the unilateral sanctions imposed on Cuba for many years have had a bearing on the fact that our relations remain below their true potential.” He pointed out the technical support that Turkey has offered to the island in projects associated with agricultural development, and he expressed certainty that investments of Turkish companies in Cuba will increase even more in the next period. He also expressed the disposition of his nation to carry out joint investments to produce vaccines, recognizing that Cuba and Turkey are among the few countries that have been able to develop their own immunogens against COVID-19. He predicted that “we will take our cooperation in the field of health to a much higher level.”
Six agreements of cooperation were signed at the Presidential Complex, including an agreement of cooperation between the Central Bank of Cuba and the Central Bank of Turkey, and an agreement between the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Foreign Investment and the Turkish Agency of Cooperation and Coordination.
The Cuban delegation also visited the mausoleum to pay tribute to Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey and designer of the opening of that nation to the modern era.
The Cuban delegation returned to Turkey on Saturday, November 26, following its visit to China. This follow-up meeting was with the Turkish business community, held in Istanbul, the principal commercial city of the nation. The meeting was convoked by DEIK, an organization of business diplomacy that directs the foreign economic relations of the Turkish private sector. Forty businesspersons were present, associated with the sectors of energy, tourism, aviation, and textile production.
Díaz-Canel characterized the meeting as “totally revealing,” given the interest of the Turkish business sector in amplifying and strengthening investments in Cuba. He declared that “we can do many things together.”
There are longstanding and extensive ties between the People’s Republic of China and the Cuban Revolution. On September 28, 1960, Cuba became the first Latin American country to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic. In November of that year, a Cuban delegation headed by Ernesto Che Guevara visited China, and in that historic moment economic, scientific, and technological cooperation and bilateral commerce were born. Today, China is Cuba’s second largest trading partner.
China and Cuba today are points of reference in the world for the construction of socialism, although each constructs socialism in accordance with their particular conditions and with their own characteristics.
Recently, Cuban President Díaz-Canel sent to Chinese President Xi Jinping congratulations for his reelection as Secretary General of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and for the success of the Twentieth Congress of the Party. A short time later the Chinese President sent a letter of invitation to visit China to the Cuban head of state.
In comments to the press following the official conversations of November 25 in the Great Palace of the People in Beijing, Xi characterized the relations between China and Cuba as an “exemplary case of solidarity and cooperation between socialist countries.” It is a relation, he observed, in which themes of mutual interest are addressed, with each nation seeking to advance on the road of socialist construction with its own national characteristics; and which endeavors to strengthen coordination in international affairs. Cuba has always been in the lead, Xi observed, in the development of relations between China and Latin America.
In his intervention, the Cuban President explained the difficult economic situation in Cuba, as a consequence of the recent intensification of the blockade and the impact of the pandemic at a global level. Cuba has developed the concept of creative resistance, which means advancing with Cuba’s own talent and potential, as was done in the pandemic. Cuba is convinced that it will be able to overcome its present adversities, even with the blockade reinforced, and in this Cuba is counting on the support of friendly countries like China.
The Chinese and Cuban delegations signed twelve legal documents that aim to tighten economic relations, including the opening of new structures of financing. Especially significant was a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Commerce and Foreign Investment (MINCEX) of Cuba and the National Commission of Development and Reform of China for the establishment of a plan of cooperation for the joint promotion of the Belt and Silk Road Initiative. Another memorandum of agreement for the Strengthening of Economic and Commercial Cooperation was signed between MINCEX and the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. And there was a ceremony of delivery of donations in currency (one hundred million dollars), medicines, medical supplies, food, and raw material.
Díaz-Canel also held meetings with the President of the National People’s Assembly, Li Zhanshu; and with Prime Minister Li Keqiang. The day was marked by strong restrictions as a result of a new outbreak of COVID-19, which appears to be regaining strength in East Asian region.
In a video conference with nearly 100 Cubans that form the Cuban governmental mission in China, Díaz-Canel declared that the visit has surpassed expectations. “It constitutes a tremendous sign of support during the current difficult moment, similar to what we found in Russia, Algeria, and Turkey.” He reported that Xi Jinping and the Chinese leadership have enormous sensitivity to the Cuban situation, and they express the will to cooperate in finding solutions to Cuba’s problems, including Cuban noncompliance with respect to the terms of the debt that it has with China, as a result of the problems that it has had since 2019; and including the repair and maintenance of Cuban thermoelectric plants. Díaz-Canel reported that there are three fundamental pillars in the Chinese-Cuban cooperation: first, biotechnology; secondly, energy, particularly renewable sources of energy; and third, communication technology and cybersecurity.
Alexander Gil, Cuban Minister of the Economy, declared to the press:
“In spite of the brevity of the visit [to China], we are very satisfied with the results. We consider that it is a new point of departure, a re-launching of relations, which of course will contribute to the gradual advance of our economy and the recuperation of the economic and social conditions of the country, deteriorated in the last two and one-half years, fundamentally because of the intensification of the blockade by the government of the United States and also because of the impact of the pandemic.”
Díaz-Canel observed China is applying on a small scale, with respect to the small country of Cuba, what it has formulated on a global scale in its Global Development Initiative, which he characterized as a great emancipatory conception in which the entire world can arrive to development. (For information on the Chinese proposal, see “Xi Jinping proposes Global Development Initiative: The President of China seeks win-win cooperation,” October 19, 2021).
On Sunday, November 27, Díaz-Canel exercised his right to vote in the Cuban municipal elections, which afforded the Cuban press with an opportunity for informal interchange concerning the results of the tour of Algeria, Russia, Turkey, and China.
Díaz-Canel noted that all four countries, in different ways, have found ways of restructuring the Cuban debt or facilitating payment in a form that does not slow down ongoing projects and enterprises. “Cuba has the will, disposition, and duty to honor its debts that it has with other countries,” and from that basis, Cuba is continuing a group of projects, and amplifying, renewing, and creating others that are necessary for the development of the country.
In addition, a common theme of high priority in the conversations with the four nations was the creation of a strong financial banking infrastructure that permits direct interchange with these countries, thereby evading the sanctions and restrictive measures of the government of the United States, due to its recent intensification of the blockade. Such a banking-financial architecture, Díaz-Canel observed, will support the realization of the projects with these four nations.
Díaz-Canel further observed that Cuba is much admired as a small nation with limited resources that has given a response to COVID-19 that is more effective than the majority of countries in this world. This has led to proposals to strengthen cooperation with the biopharmaceutical industry.
With respect to energy, the Cuban president noted that the issue of energy is being addressed in two directions: first, a group of projects that will permit a better situation with the electricity-generating plants; and secondly, projects dedicated to the development of renewable sources of energy. In addition, there are projects being developed in cooperation with the four nations in tourism, biotechnology, public health, industrial manufacturing, transportation, culture, and sport.
The intensification of the blockade, which has included the blocking of commercial and financial transactions contracted by Cuba with companies and banks in third countries; combined with the impact of the global pandemic on tourism, Cuba’s largest industry; has created a difficult situation. It is not like the “Special Period” of the early 1990s, when houses were without electricity for twelve hours a day; the bicycle became the principal mode of transportation; and calorie intake was significantly reduced. In those days, the people did not have purchasing power. Today, however, the people have money, but supplies are limited, giving rise to inflation, exacerbated by the practice of hoarding among some unscrupulous informal “retailers.” So the people struggle every day to find what they need and want, with less than complete success, leading to some degree of doing without. Things are difficult, but the people are getting by. The people find that public transportation is unreliable, but no one has dusted off their Chinese bicycles from the 1990s. Electricity is shaky, and it might be cut for a few hours on a particular day, but it is nothing liked the sweeping planned outages of the early 1990s.
When the Cuban government is informed by a company or a bank that it can no longer do business with Cuba, because of new restrictions being imposed by the government of the United States, it has to look for other banks and companies that are able and willing to have transactions with Cuba. This can take time, but it is slowly being accomplished. And it is occurring primarily with nations that are friendly with Cuba, and to a greater or lesser extent are in a position to ignore or defy U.S. restrictions. They can be old friends, like China, Russia, and Algeria; or new friends, like Turkey. As emerging and expanding economies, such nations have the capacity to provide humanitarian aid and debt forgiveness, and to offer mutually beneficial trade.
The China-Russia-Turkey-Algeria-Cuba nexus is not an isolated phenomenon, put together as an isolated gesture of support for the people of a small, heroic nation. Quite the contrary, it is a manifestation of an important tendency in the world today, emerging in reaction to the increasingly evident decadence of the capitalist world-economy, the neocolonial world-system, and the Western powers. It is a manifestation of the emergence of a pluripolar world, a more just and sustainable alternative to the established world-system, which has been constructed on a colonial foundation, a limitation that the world powers could never acknowledge, much less overcome through structural transformation directed from above.
In the trip of Díaz-Canel and the Cuban delegation to Algeria, Russia, Turkey, and China, we see the construction in practice of a pluripolar world, more just and sustainable. It is a construction from below, forged by the leaders of the oppressed peoples. It is rooted in ideological consciousness, struggle, sacrifice, commitment, vision, and hope; and faith in a dignified common future of humanity. A future time of peace and prosperity, when the neocolonial age will be recalled as a stage that humanity had the intelligence and essential goodness to overcome.
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