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Cablegate: Belarus: Libertad Act

VZCZCXYZ0023
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHSK #1458 3361432
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 021432Z DEC 05
FM AMEMBASSY MINSK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3415
INFO RUEHUB/USINT HAVANA
RHMFISS/HQ USEUCOM VAIHINGEN GE
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK

UNCLAS MINSK 001458

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CCA

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ETRD ETTC PREL BO CU
SUBJECT: Belarus: Libertad Act

Ref: State 207359

1. Summary: The GOB strongly supports the Castro government,
publicly opposes the U.S. embargo on Cuba, has no interest in
promoting democracy, the protection of human rights or free market
reform, and is building economic ties with Cuba. Minsk and Havana
in fact became sister cities in November. End summary.


No Democracy Promotion among Close Friends
------------------------------------------

2. Belarus considers Cuba to be one of its few close friends and
allies on the world stage, and has no interest in promoting
democracy or human rights in Havana. Speaking before the United
Nations General Assembly on September 16, Belarusian President
Aleksandr Lukashenko lashed out at the UN for being manipulated by
the U.S. when it raises human rights questions in Belarus and Cuba.
He also called for the UN and other countries to oppose American
efforts to pressure Cuba and Venezuela, and allow them to
"independently determine their own lives."

3. On September 12, Lukashenko invited Fidel Castro to visit Minsk,
where "we will accord him a welcome fit for the closest and best
friend." On November 24, chairman of the Belarusian parliament's
Committee on International Affairs Vadim Popov announced Minsk and
Havana have excellent political ties and parliamentary relations,
and that the two countries always support each other on the
international arena. Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergey Martynov
visited Cuba in November 2004 and promised continued Belarusian
support. These manifestations of friendship pay off for Minsk; on
November 28, Cuba became the first country to complete its
bilateral talks on Belarus' entry to the WTO.

4. Minsk mayor Mikhail Pavlov led a delegation to Cuba October 29
through November 2. While there he established a sister-city
relationship between Minsk and Havana. Press reports claim Pavlov
met with senior officials from the ministries of construction,
transportation, metallurgical industry and machine-building, basic
industry, external trade, foreign affairs/foreign investment and
economic cooperation, as well as with "other Cuban governmental
agencies." A main topic of conversation was the possibility to
build a factory in Cuba to assemble Belarusian tractors.


Growing Economic Relations
--------------------------

5. As of mid-November, since the beginning of the year Belarus had
exported to Cuba: 134 trucks from the Minsk Automobile Factory
(MAZ), 42 mining vehicles from the Mogilev Automobile Factory, 24
dump trucks from the Belarusian Automobile Factory (BelAZ), and 37
tractors. Before the end of the year Belarus also intends to ship
roughly 200 trucks from the Minsk Tractor Factory (MTZ), 250
engines from the Minsk Motor Plant, and 74 MAZ truck cabs.

6. The GOB announced Belarus exported USD 10.2 million worth of
goods to Cuba from January to September, up 88.4% from a year
earlier (note: this number does not reflect all the deliveries
noted above). Belarus imported USD 7 million worth of goods,
mostly raw sugar, from January to September. Even though
Lukashenko signed a decree in November 2004 reducing import tariffs
for Cuban goods by 25%, Belarusian imports of Cuban goods dropped
76.2% for the first nine months of the year.

PHLIPOT

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