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Cablegate: Russia Review for Suspension of Title Iii of the Libertad

VZCZCXRO5002
RR RUEHBW RUEHLN RUEHPOD RUEHVK RUEHYG
DE RUEHMO #1500/01 1491340
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 281340Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8270
INFO RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 001500

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: MCAP PGOV PINS PREL PROP
SUBJECT: RUSSIA REVIEW FOR SUSPENSION OF TITLE III OF THE LIBERTAD
ACT

REF: STATE 52541

1. (U) Summary. In response to Department request for information
contributing to a country review for Title III suspension of the
Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (LIBERTAD) Act, GOR support
for the development of democracy in Cuba has been marginal, and
Russia's economic relations with Cuba are limited. However,
Russia's business sector recently has expressed interest in possible
investment and cooperation with Cuba in the technological, energy
and medical fields. End Summary.

-------------------------
Limited Democracy Efforts
-------------------------

2. (U) Post is aware of no major efforts on the part of the GOR to
advance democracy and human rights in Cuba. Despite recent efforts
to expand ties with Cuba, which rest on historic ties dating back to
the Cold War, the GOR has not extended support for and solidarity
with the Cuban people by drawing attention to the plight of Cuban
prisoners; calling for a democratic transition in Cuba; and
supporting Cuba's democratic opposition or civil society.

----------------------------
Limited Human Rights Efforts
----------------------------

3. (U) The GOR has not made public statements in support of
democracy following the undemocratic succession of power from Fidel
to Raul Castro. In line with Russia's policy of "non-interference
in internal matters," the GOR has not called for parliamentary
resolutions condemning human rights abuses in Cuba and has not
supported Cuba's thriving civil society.

----------------------------
High Level Diplomatic Visits
----------------------------

4. (U) According to press reports, in April 2008, Russian Minister
of Transport, Igor Levitin met with his Cuban counterpart, Ricardo
Cabrisas, to develop Russian-Cuban cooperation in the banking,
energy, transportation, science and technology, and information and
communications sectors. Also discussed was the possibility of
economic and military collaboration. Levitin was accompanied to
Havana by a delegation of over 100 officials and businessmen, who
also attended the eighth meeting of the bilateral intergovernmental
commission. Levitin called for the modernization of Cuba's Soviet
era facilities and equipment. According to press reports, in the
future Russia hoped to provide Cuba with new KamAZ trucks, lifting
equipment, planes and buses.

---------------------
Nature of Investments
---------------------

5. (U) In February 2008, according to press reports, a Russian oil
Company, Lukoil, expressed interest in Cuba's energy sector and was
examining the possibility of building refineries in Cuba. Lukoil
also was investigating the possibility of surveying the Gulf of
Mexico for crude oil deposits. Nafta-Sintez, another Russian energy
company, also expressed interest in investing in Cuba's energy
sector. According to press reports, Cuban officials expressed
interest in acquiring Russian buses to modernize its transportation
system. In December 2007, the Russian aviation leasing company
Ilyushin Finance provided Cuba with two TU 204-100E airplanes as a
part of Cuba's broader effort to modernize its aviation fleet.

-----------------------
Bilateral Trade Efforts
-----------------------

6. (U) According to press reports about Levitin's trip to Cuba in
2007, bilateral trade reached $363 million dollars and Cuba was
Russia's sixth largest trading partner in Latin America.
Approximately 29,000 Russian tourists, who do not require entry
visas, visited Cuba in 2007. In May 2008, the St. Petersburg
Chamber of Commerce and Industry received a delegation of Cuban
businessmen who gave a presentation on business investment
opportunities in Cuba. This was the largest visit of its kind, led
by Raul Becerra, the head of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce, and
Alejandro Mustelier, the president of the Cuba-Russia Business
Council, together with 29 executives. According to press reports,
the Russian business sector has expressed interest in importing
Cuban rum, vaccines and medical equipment.

-------------------------
Limited Exchange Programs
-------------------------

MOSCOW 00001500 002 OF 002

7. (U) Post is aware of no major exchange programs that would
include scholarships for Russians to study in Cuba; Cuban-paid
medical travel for Russian nationals; and Cuban doctors working in
Russia. During a business roundtable event on the margins of
Levitin's visit, representatives from Russian regions proposed
establishing university medical exchanges that would allow Russian
doctors to complete their medical internship or residency at Cuban
institutions. The roundtable also discussed the possibility of
Russian children traveling to Cuban summer camps. According to
press reports, the camp proposal was not only intended to promote
cultural exchanges between the two countries, but also to provide
the possibility of Cuban medical treatment for sick Russian
children. We are not aware of any further concrete steps to
establish medical exchanges that have been taken since Levitin's
visit. From April 1 to 11, 2008, Russian and Cuban medical
specialists held a conference in Cuba on men's reproductive health.
Over 200 Russian and Cuban urologists and endocrinologists
participated in the conference, according to media reports.

RUSSELL

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