Granma International
October 29, 2001

The Infamous Paragraph

                   In yesterday’s editorial, we noted that following President Putin’s
                   meeting with the heads of parliamentary factions, the national
                   television network broadcast an interview with an impromptu
                   spokesman who, seeking to explain the inexplicable and justify the
                   unjustifiable, resorted to gratuitous slander against Cuba. In wrapping
                   up his report on the embarrassing decision adopted by Russia, he
                   said: "In any case, the presence of the center in Cuba would be
                   limited, because as soon as relations improve with the United States,
                   the Cubans themselves would call for the departure of the Russian
                   contingent." "This had already happened in the economic area," he
                   added, "where the Cubans had turned down offers from Russia in
                   favor of million-dollar deals with Western countries such as Canada,
                   France and Spain because this is what best suited Cuba. Now, this
                   decision was what best suited Russia." He mentioned that Cuba had
                   also not resolved the matter of its debt.

                   We have a saying in Spanish, which roughly translates as, "It takes a
                   thief to believe that everyone is like him."

                   Our way of thinking is worlds apart from the opportunism, selfishness
                   and lack of ethics that characterize the decadent camp of the
                   imperialist and capitalist system, or those who aspire to join it. As
                   long as they continue to exist, they will provoke ever-greater

                   Actually, it would have made our people very happy if after the 1962
                   Missile Crisis —created in a such a mediocre way and handled so
                   clumsily by one of the parties involved — the Guantánamo Naval
                   Base, the Motored-mechanized Brigade that remained, and the
                   Electronic Radar Monitoring Center established two years later, had
                   been removed from our country as quickly as possible. Only one
                   distinction should be made: first the Soviet soldiers, and later the
                   Russian soldiers, were always our friends. They were here alongside
                   us with our consent and willingness. They were perceived as a
                   symbol of internationalism, or of friendship and trust. The system
                   had changed, but they remained the heirs of the victors over
                   fascism. Heroism and generosity have never faltered in the human
                   person while the governments, the prevailing social systems and the
                   politicians in the society of exploitation that history has known so far
                   have had no possibility of being anything other than what they are.

                   Today, we Cubans have the privilege of having never changed our
                   stripes, of never betraying or selling out a person, a country, a
                   cause, a just word, not for all the gold, well-being or convenience in
                   the world. We Cuban revolutionaries do not belong to that moral
                   breed. The danger faced in Cuba by any Soviet or Russian unit was
                   not the danger of being betrayed by Cuba.

                   Today, however, the subject of this editorial is the second part of
                   that infamous paragraph, where we were accused of having refused
                   Russian offers "in favor of million-dollar deals with Western countries,
                   such as Canada, France and Spain." This merits particular attention.

                   When President Putin visited our country, just as he visited others
                   that had developed close economic and technological ties with the
                   USSR in the past, we saw it as an intelligent and wise decision. We
                   also noted his sober character, his obvious desire to rectify errors,
                   his sincere Russian sentiment and sensitivity to the plight of the
                   veterans of the Great Patriotic War, abandoned to their fates without
                   pensions or protection of any kind. As revolutionaries, we were
                   impressed by his respect for the color of the flag and the notes of
                   the national anthem under which tens of millions of Russians fought
                   and died, including, heroically, his own father. This is how he was
                   received in Cuba, in December of 2000, along with an entourage of
                   civilian and military representatives.

                   We never entertained any illusions that it was a Soviet delegation we
                   were receiving. There had been great changes. We were pleased,
                   nevertheless, that what was left of that superpower would not end
                   up crumbling down in pieces as well. It was highly advantageous for
                   the world that Russia survived. Despite the terrible grievances,
                   damages and suffering, we were willing to develop our economic,
                   cultural and social relations with Russia.

                   As far as politics is concerned, things went remarkably well. There
                   was respect, caution and a conscientious attention. There were visits
                   to numerous historical sites, as well as an especially significant visit
                   by the two heads of state to the Electronic Radar Monitoring Center.

                   It was with regard to economic matters that Putin’s visit turned out
                   to be a disaster, but through no fault of his own. Ten years had
                   passed. His country had been ravaged by a hurricane of plunder and
                   theft. Everything was left in chaos. A swarm of cunning plotters and
                   advisors had moved in from abroad or risen up from the fertile ranks
                   of opportunistic Russian politicians who divided up and stole
                   everything there was to steal.

                   Although we were fully aware of what had happened, our task was
                   not to pass judgment, but rather to seek out everything that
                   remained of what was good, worthy and honest in that country, for
                   whose sons and daughters our people felt and still feel such affection,
                   admiration and fondness.

                   Nevertheless, the crushing weight of ten years, the suffering and
                   deprivation that we had been obliged to endure here and the chaos
                   that reigned over there, had changed absolutely everything.

                   At the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Soviet-Cuban
                   cooperation was fundamentally focused on three industrial sectors:
                   nuclear power development, investment in the development and
                   production of nickel, and oil refining.


                   Cooperation for the development of nuclear power in Cuba was
                   agreed upon in January of 1975. In 1983, work began at the Juraguá
                   nuclear plant for the building of the first two VVR-440 reactors of the
                   four planned for the first stage. Colossal efforts were made to get
                   the project underway. Progress was made, despite our inexperience.
                   Then, there was the Chernobyl accident, and although the reactors
                   under construction here did not use graphite, but were instead
                   water-cooled, that event led to intensive investigations and extreme
                   quality control measures in all nuclear facilities, which slowed down
                   the pace of work. The construction of the first reactor was
                   considerably advanced when the demise of the USSR paralyzed it in
                   1992. Some 1.456 billion US dollars had already been invested in the
                   plant. The preservation of the equipment cost an additional 134
                   million U.S. dollars. In 1995, we began to seek out partners from
                   third countries to continue advancing the project alongside Russians
                   and Cubans. In 1996, the Helms-Burton Act crushed those efforts.
                   Funding for maintenance ran out in 1998.

                   When Putin and his delegation arrived in December of 2000, it had
                   been 25 years since the idea first emerged, 17 since work on the
                   plant began, over 10 since the construction of the first reactor had
                   begun and eight years since everything was paralyzed.

                   The terms of negotiation would be different now. Only one reactor
                   could be guaranteed, not a whole plant, much less a national nuclear
                   power program. Over 800 million U.S. dollars were still needed for
                   that first reactor, and they would have to be invested over the
                   course of six years without a single kilowatt of power being
                   produced. Cuba had already come up with new and better solutions,
                   with the construction of power generation modules that start
                   producing electricity within 10 months, using the natural gas that
                   accompanies our own oil, while protecting the environment on the
                   coasts and tourist areas. At the same time, it allows to double the
                   use of energy produced, save two-thirds of costs, and pay off the
                   foreign capital invested within four years. What is more, two-thirds of
                   the plant’s value remain in Cuban hands. Two of these facilities are
                   already in operation and will soon enter into the second cycle. Their
                   full production capacity will match that of the above-mentioned
                   Juraguá nuclear reactor.

                   Could that reactor continue to be built?

                   THE NICKEL INDUSTRY

                   An agreement was reached on June 1973 for the construction, with
                   the USSR and several COMECON countries, of a plant with a
                   30,000-ton capacity in Camarioca, located in the mining area of
                   Moa. Construction began in the early 80s, and the plant was 60%
                   completed when work was paralyzed, again due to the demise of the
                   USSR and the socialist camp. Previously, on a site near the
                   above-mentioned plant, another one with the same capacity, 30,000
                   tons, had been built through Soviet-Cuban cooperation between
                   1972 and 1986, overcoming inexperience and obstacles of all kinds.
                   Its design capacity was reached in 1996, in the midst of the special
                   period, when the USSR no longer existed. However, our country had
                   managed not only to bring it to full capacity, but also to expand it
                   and cut fuel spending in half, something essential for costs in any
                   industry with a high-energy consumption.

                   When the Russian president visited us, the plant was ready to
                   undertake a second increase in production capacity, which would
                   take it to 50,000 tons. It would use the nickel from Camarioca.
                   There was no longer any need to build the old, unfinished, decaying
                   plant left halfway completed 10 years earlier.


                   THE OIL REFINING INDUSTRY

                   A large refinery was built in Cienfuegos with Soviet cooperation in the
                   1980s, as a means of replacing the growing imports of oil

                   The refinery was in operation until 1992, when economic realities
                   dictated its closure, given its low technological efficiency and the fact
                   that the industrial refining process was not complete. Numerous
                   efforts and studies were carried out with foreign companies to try to
                   modernize this refinery and make it efficient, but the desired results
                   were not achieved. It would be necessary to wait until there were
                   sufficient quantities of domestically produced crude oil available to be
                   able to refine at least a significant percentage of domestic crude oil
                   mixed with crude oil imported from abroad. This would be the most
                   efficient and profitable strategy.

                   We informed the Russian businessmen that we would not object to
                   their involvement in the refinery, as long as the results of studies
                   were positive and an agreement was reached with the other foreign
                   investors involved. In all this time there has been no concrete
                   proposal received from any Russian companies or authorities for the
                   completion of the refinery.

                   The group accompanying Putin showed particular interest in the three
                   investment projects outlined above. This was only logical, since the
                   Russians of the former USSR had been involved in those projects.
                   However, in the last 10 years there had been no cooperation
                   between Russia and Cuba whatsoever and nobody gave a thought to
                   whether we still existed or how we still existed. For many years we
                   had to endure our ordeal alone, bearing the heavy weight of the
                   cross on our backs.

                   Under these circumstances, how could anyone be so cynical as to
                   claim that we turned down offers from Russia in favor of
                   million-dollar deals with Western countries?

                   Can they possibly be unaware of the fact that we have spent over
                   40 years subjected to a rigorous blockade and economic war that
                   obstructs investment and impedes our development?


                   On the occasion of the visit to Cuba by the President of Russia,
                   Vladimir Putin, at his request, he was informed of a series of new
                   ideas and objectives that could be explored for the development of
                   cooperation and trade on a mutually advantageous basis. These


                             Expansion of the East Havana Thermal Power

                             Oil exploration in the Cuban economic zone in
                             the Gulf of Mexico.

                             Resumption of the interrupted project of a lead
                             and zinc mine in Castellanos, using new

                             Studying the possibility of expanding the
                             Hermanos Díaz Refinery in Santiago de Cuba
                             for the export of oil by-products to foreign

                             Reconstruction and modernization of railway
                             transportation for the sugar industry.

                             Supplying fertilizer and herbicides for the sugar

                             A comprehensive program for the repair and
                             recovery of Russian diesel engines and hydraulic
                             transmissions used in the sugar industry.

                             Hotel construction and the promotion of
                             Russian tourism to Cuba.

                             Development of airlines to link the CIS nations
                             with Cuba, to increase the flow of tourists and
                             complete the single air traffic coordination

                             Reconstruction and modernization of railway
                             transportation and the development of new
                             forms of urban transport for the city of Havana.

                   THE FAMOUS MUTUAL DEBTS

                   The Russian Federation declared itself the de facto heir of the former
                   USSR, unilaterally breaking the ties of economic cooperation between
                   the Russian Federation and our country.

                   Almost immediately, the Russian authorities brought up the need to
                   negotiate the payment of Cuba’s debt to the USSR accumulated over
                   30 long years, which they estimated at 20,848 billion transferable
                   rubles. It should be noted that the transferable ruble in fact ceased to
                   exist with the collapse of the COMECON, and the regular Soviet
                   currency had been devalued from one ruble to 5,998 rubles to the
                   dollar. It is also noteworthy that they were trying to make us pay
                   this sum when our country was left without markets, food, fuel, raw
                   materials and other crucial resources. While oil prices remained
                   sky-high, sugar began to fetch the miserly prices of the garbage
                   dump on the residual world market, very different from the prices
                   used for trading in Europe, the United States and elsewhere in the

                   Cuba’s position was that it was not simply a matter of figures several
                   times higher than the country’s total export revenues, due to the
                   abrupt drop in prices following the demise of the USSR and the
                   socialist camp. It was the same as if the numerous Third World
                   countries that receive so-called preferential prices for their agricultural
                   products and all the farmers in the wealthy countries were to be
                   deprived of all subsidies overnight. What also needed to be discussed
                   was the terrible damage caused to our people by the abrupt and
                   total cancellation of all the agreements signed between the former
                   USSR and our country. It is not possible to inherit rights without also
                   inheriting duties.

                   In November of 1992 various agreements were signed, including one
                   for the creation of the Intergovernmental Commission and, within
                   this, a Working Group to analyze the mutual obligations between
                   Cuba and the Russian Federation.

                   This Group held work sessions in 1994 and 1995. On May 1998, at
                   its third meeting, the Cuban side officially submitted to the Russians a
                   summarized preliminary report on the extent of the damages
                   suffered by the Cuban economy as a result of the collapse of the

                   The year 1990 was used as the basis to calculate the damages
                   suffered between 1991 and 1995. It was made clear that this was
                   only a first approach, which was subject to revision, clarification, and
                   even the addition of other elements. The preliminary claim filed for
                   damages — that did not include moral damage — totaled 36,363
                   billion transferable rubles, based on the loss of purchasing capacity,
                   the forcible closure of facilities, the cancellation of investments, and
                   the interruption of cooperation programs.

                   Our heroic people were able to endure when everyone believed the
                   Cuban Revolution could not hold out for even four weeks. Today, 10
                   years later, they have earned the respect and admiration of many.
                   Never before has a human community been capable of such a feat,
                   living in such close proximity to the mightiest superpower in history,
                   which harasses and blockades it relentlessly.

                   For the fraternal and heroic people of Russia, our undying respect.

                   For those who hate truth and justice, our contempt.

                   For those anywhere in the world who dream of destroying us, our
                   profound conviction that nothing and no one will ever be able to
                   defeat us now.

                   Published in Granma daily, October 27, 2001