Latin American Herald Tribune
Wu Bangguo, speaker of China’s National Assembly and second secretary of the country’s ruling Communist Party, concluded on Thursday a two-day visit to Cuba that included talks with President Raul Castro as well as with his predecessor and older brother, Fidel.
Wu also joined the leader of Cuba’s parliament, Ricardo Alarcon, to witness the signing of accords for a Chinese no-interest loan to Havana and a line of credit from Beijing to finance modernization of ports and broadcasting facilities on the Caribbean island.
Beijing is also loaning Cuba money to buy 10 cargo ships, while the Chinese Foreign Trade Bank is extending a loan to the communist government in Havana for “a program of production of satellite receivers.”
Raul Castro and Wu expressed “satisfaction about the important cooperation accords,” the Cuban government said.
Wu arrived in Havana on Tuesday as part of a tour that began in Canada and will also take him to the Bahamas and the United States.
He said here that Cuban-Chinese relations are at “their best moment in history” and praised Cuba’s efforts to develop its economy despite the 47-year-old U.S. embargo.
Cuban officials offered no details from Wu’s discussion with Fidel Castro, who stepped down in favor of Raul after being stricken by a serious illness in July 2006, but remains the leader of the Cuban Communist Party.
China is Cuba’s No. 2 trade partner after Venezuela, and exchanges between the Asian powerhouse and the island have grown from $800 million in 2004 to $2.2 billion last year.
As Wu was leaving Havana, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez concluded his official three-day visit to China, praising the state of bilateral relations and calling the Asian giant “a natural ally of the Third World.”
“Chinese-Cuban relations are a model of what bilateral ties should be in the difficult world we live in,” Rodriguez said in one of the few press conferences ever held by a Cuban official while visiting Beijing.
The Cuban foreign minister met in Beijing with China’s vice president, Xi Jinping, and top diplomat, Yang Jiechi, among other government and Chinese Communist Party officials.
The visit took place during an important year for both communist regimes, with Havana celebrating the 50th anniversary of the triumph of Fidel Castro’s revolution and Beijing marking six decades since Mao Zedong’s founding of the People’s Republic of China.
Rodriguez noted that in 1993, when many predicted the disappearance of the Cuban regime in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the economic difficulties it caused, “the only foreign leader who visited the island was comrade Jiang Zemin (China’s then-president).”