Friday, October 31, 2008

Not Worth a Dime

The price of Nickel is down...

Way down.

Cuba holds 16 percent of the world’s nickel reserves and is currently the world’s sixth largest nickel exporter. In 2005, nickel export revenues totaled $1 billion. In 2007, the profit from nickel exports surpassed tourism profits with a gross of $2.2 billion.

However, with the price of Nickel having fallen by nearly 65%, from $34,000 to $12,000 a ton, Cuba's hard currency shortage will be even more severe than previously expected.

Who Was Chosen to Play with the Brazilians?

Today's Granma published an article describing a cordial visit between Lula at Raul. They brought some other government officials to the table as well.
It’s interesting to see who else was there from the Cuban side…specifically Lage, who was recently thought to be on the outs; Perez Roque, thought to be increasingly obsolete; and Cabrisas Ruiz, who has been taking an active role since being promoted to a VP of the Council of Ministers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

More on the USSR...scratch that, Russia ties

"The Cuban army air defences see planes taking off from Florida, but have nothing with which to shoot them down - the Osa fires to 45 km, the Kvadrat (Kub in the Russian version), to 25 km."

Yes, well, how good of the Russians to come to Cuba's rescue and finally allow them the ability to shoot down the planes they see take off from Florida. Until now, Cuban pilots have had to give chase to aircraft to shoot it down the old fashioned way, and Cuba just can't have that in this day-and-age.

Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

Russian officers' Cuba visit seen portending more than just maintenance

[Liliya Biryukova, Denis Telmanov report: "Far-Off Air Defences, Nearby Missile Defences: Russian Military Officers Are Studying the Possibilities of Cuban Air Defences"]

A delegation led by Lieutenant-General Aleksandr Maslov, chief of staff of tactical air defence of the Armed Forces, flew to Cuba yesterday. As your Gazeta correspondent was told in the Ground Troops' press service, Russian officers will be on the island until 3 November and will meet with General Alvaro Lopez Miera, chief of the Revolutionary Armed Forces Main Staff, and General Pedro Mendiondo Gomez, commander of air and air defence. "It is planned to discuss a consolidation of ties between the Armed Forces of Russia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba. There will also be an exchange of experience in the organization of the air defence of the troops and the training of officer personnel," the spokesman for the defence department announced.

The military officers will study the possibility of the instruction of Cuban officers in Russia in work with modern equipment. Representatives of the country's sole Armed Forces Tactical Air Defence Military Acad-emy (Smolensk) were included in the delegation to this end.

This is the first visit to Cuba of high-ranking Russian military officers since 2001, when the Lourdes base was closed. The MoD announced that it is of a purely technical planning nature involving the operation of the Igla manpad, the Osa-K and Kvadrat mobile SAMs, and the P-18 Terek and P-19 mobile radars in service with Cuba.

The P-19 sees an area in a radius of up to six kilometres and is a resource for the detection of low-altitude small and low-speed targets - helicopters and drones. The P-18 is capable of fixing a target at an altitude of 35 km at a distance of up to 250 km. The Cuban army air defences see planes taking off from Florida, but have nothing with which to shoot them down - the Osa fires to 45 km, the Kvadrat (Kub in the Russian version), to 25 km.

Nonetheless, the Russian command's attention to Cuba's army air defences is not fortuitous. It is such SAMs and radars that usually defend airfields and also other air-defence assets of greater range and power. The S-300 or S-400, for example.

Russian military experts believe that things will hardly be confined to maintenance of the old anti-aircraft guns on Cuba. Anatoliy Tsyganok, director of the Military Forecasting Centre, tied General Maslov's trip to the United States' plans to deploy missile defences in Europe. He believes that a natural consequence of this visit will be the appearance on Cuba of Russian planes, ships, and submarines. "It is likely that joint exercises will be planned for starters, after which we could be talking about arms deliveries," Tsyganok said.

Colonel-General Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, believes that it is as yet too soon to be forecasting the consequences of the Russian air-defence generals' visit. "Down the road, possibly, Russia will attempt to restore the ports at which naval vessels can call," Ivashov told your Gazeta correspondent. "But direct arms deliveries would appear to me to be impossible if only because of Cuba's insolvency."

We would note that Deputy Premier Igor Sechin and Nikolay Patrushev, head of Russia's Security Council, were in Havana in August. They held talks with Raul Castro on the development of Cuban oilfields by Russian companies, and the press service of the Security Council subsequently announced that the leader-ship of the two countries intended to "work consistently on the restoration of traditional ties in all fields of cooperation and on their utmost expansion and intensification."

Lookin' Good

Raul was pictured on the front page of today's Granma. He is pictured here at the inaugural night of the 21st International Ballet Festival in Havana.
This should put an end to the rumors that have been swirling about his health. He looks pretty good for a man his age. He even looks like he has lost some weight.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Blast from the Past

Ever slipped through a worm hole and ended up travelling 30 years into the past? Well, apparently Cuba did, oh and Russia too. Yesterday a Russian air-defense delegation started its Cuba visit.

"The Russian and Cuban military will exchange experience in organising tactical air defense and in training officers," said Russian Land Forces spokesman Igor Konashenkov. He also stated that there would be discussions to further bolster the ties between both air forces.

In the forward-looking spirit of Cold-War diplomacy, they will "study the possibilities of training Cuban military personnel at Russian academies and battleground air-defense training centres using modernized hardware of Russian production," says Konashenkov...But hey, at least their hardware will be modern!

During this time of an ebbing global economy, one would think that Russia, a huge oil exporter, might want to be a little tighter with its money. Cuba stands to benefit by increasing the satisfaction of its military personnel. Aside from that, however, it seems that building up Cuba's air defense is a truly pointless move. Who are you building it up agains? The US? Please...that's truly delusional.

So what is behind Russia's move?

I can think of a couple things.

1) Increasing military ties to Cuba and Venezuela, you create the illusion of regional instability involving 2 major oil exporters. Instability = higher prices. This could be a long shot in actually raising the price of oil, but hey, why not try.

2) Military ties with Cuba give Russia an important friend near its largest potential rival (I wouldn't say the US is currently a rival, but they could be in the future, so Russia is being forward thinking).

and 3) Of course, it also serves to anger the US, which Russia loves to do lately.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Ricardo Cabrisas designated VP of the Council of Ministers

The title pretty much says it all...

Ricardo Cabrisas was born in 1937 and is Afro-Cuban. He had been a Minister of Government, having previously been Minister of Foreign Trade. He worked closely with Fidel and enjoyed his support.

I don't see the move as being too important on the face of things. He went from Minister of Government to one of the VPs...not that big of a shift. I think this could be Raul trying to placate some Fidelistas.

However, this could be a simple substitution. Osmany Cienfuegos has not been an active VP in years, but he had never been replaced. Although it has not been confirmed, that is likely to be the person Cabrisas is replacing.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Namibia Donation

"Granma" just printed that Namibia will be donating $1,000,000 to Cuba. Namibia. Donating 1 million dollars.

The UNDP's 2005 Human Development Report indicated that 34.9% of the Namibian population live on $1 per day and 55.8% live on $2 per day. They are donating 1 million dollars.

Cuba has repeatedly denied US offers of aid, jeopardizing the welfare of its own people. To make up for the millions in hard currency and supplies that Cuba will not be getting from the US, other countries must step in and fill the void of aid being created by the Cuban government; some of the poorest countries feel obligated to donate their scarce resources.

It is unethical for the Cuban government to deny US aid and then have to accept aid from countries with a starving population.

I wonder how Namibians feel--you know, the third of the population that live in severe poverty--about their government donating $1 million dollars that could otherwise be going to them.