HAVANA – Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday during his official two-day visit to Cuba that his country does not view Latin America as the backyard of the United States.
In remarks in Havana, Medvedev reiterated Moscow’s backing for the region and particularly expressed support for leftist-led Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua in the face of Washington’s harsh sanctions.
“For our country, the Latin American and Caribbean region is one of the key areas of our international cooperation (efforts). It’s not a backyard of the United States for us. It’s in our own interest for the region to be stable and economically efficient,” he said.
The Russian prime minister is on an official visit to Cuba that began on Thursday when he met with the island nation’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, and the first secretary of the ruling Communist Party, Raul Castro, and also presided over the signing of several bilateral cooperation accords.
At the start of the second day, he received an honoris causa doctorate in political science from the University of Havana, where the Russian head of government gave a speech Friday criticizing the methods employed by the US and other nations to apply “political and economic pressure on countries they don’t agree with.”
Medvedev denounced the “illegal unilateral sanctions” imposed on Latin American countries, particularly Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, which US President Donald Trump’s administration has labeled the “troika of tyranny.”
“These punitive measures not only punish governments that adopt independent policies, but also serve as means of intervening in the internal affairs of states and restrict the rights and freedoms of these countries’ citizens,” he said.
Medvedev said Venezuela, whose lifeblood oil industry has been hit with severe US sanctions aimed at installing opposition leader and interim head of state Juan Guaido in power, has “only one president and that is Nicolas Maduro.”
“Only the Venezuelans themselves can resolve their internal differences,” he added in reference to the country’s profound political crisis.
Russia is one of Maduro’s closest allies along with China, Cuba and Turkey, while a group of nations led by the US, several major European countries and Brazil support Guaido.
Medvedev said Latin America is serving as a testing ground for “a new model of interference in the affairs of sovereign states.”
“The United States not only is making use of so-called ‘soft coup’ (tactics), but is directly demanding regime change (in Venezuela). They try to meddle in the affairs of any country and invest in destabilization. They don’t want to hear a single criticism,” he added.
Medvedev’s third visit to the island (his first came in 2008 when he was president and the second took place in 2013 after he had assumed his current position) reinforces the growing Russian presence in Cuba and showcases the countries’ close bilateral ties in the face of renewed US hostility since Trump took office.
“Cuba is one of our most reliable partners in the region,” the head of government said in his speech, mentioning agreements signed in areas such as trade, the economy, investment, transportation and culture.
The issue of Cuba’s severe fuel shortages, an urgent problem that Havana says are due to US sanctions preventing the country from importing Venezuelan crude, also is expected to arise before Medvedev’s visit ends.
In fact, the final item on Medvedev’s official agenda is a Friday afternoon tour of the Boca de Jaruco oil field outside Havana, a production project that is a joint venture between Russian state-controlled oil company Zarubezhneft and Cuban state-owned CUPET.