Russia’s Lavrov lashes out at US on Latin America visit

Russia’s Lavrov lashes out at US on Latin America visit

Havana (AFP): Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov railed Monday at Western “blackmail, ultimatums, threats” against countries like his own and ally Cuba, where he kicked off a Latin American tour.

Lavrov, who will also visit Venezuela and Brazil — hosting a G20 foreign ministers meeting — told Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez in Havana that both nations were victims of “illegal pressure” from the US and its allies.

“The realities of a multi-polar world… are provoking an aggressive reaction from the United States and other countries of the world minority which by all means want to preserve their domination, hegemony and diktat,” he said.

“The means used by representatives of the United States and other Western countries for this purpose do not include diplomacy, but blackmail, ultimatums, threats, the use of brute military force and sanctions.”

The US has maintained a trade embargo against Cuba since after the revolution led by Fidel Castro six decades ago, and instituted strict sanctions against Russia after its invasion of Ukraine.

“Cuba knows first-hand what illegal pressure is: a total embargo which the United States alone defends as a legitimate course of action,” said Lavrov, on his ninth visit to Cuba — the second in a year.

“It is unacceptable to all other members of the world community. But that does not stop Washington,” he added.

Russia and Cuba have strengthened ties since 2022, with an increasingly isolated Moscow seeking new diplomatic and trading partners.

In November 2022, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to Moscow to meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

And in April 2023, Diaz-Canel assured Moscow of “Cuba’s unconditional support” in its “clash with the West.” Cuba has never criticized Russia’s assault on its neighbor.

Cuba, under US embargo since 1962, is facing its worst economic crisis in three decades, and has received Russian oil to help ease a crushing shortage of fuel.

Cuba and the USSR were close allies during the Cold War, but that cooperation ended abruptly in 1991 with the dissolution of the Soviet bloc.

As they work on repairing ties, the allies have signed cooperation agreements in the areas of construction, information technology, banking, sugar, transport and tourism.

According to Russian figures, commercial exchanges with Cuba reached $450 million in 2022, with 90 percent of that in sales of oil and soybean oil to Havana.

Last September, Cuba announced it had made arrests over the alleged trafficking of its citizens to fight for Russia in Ukraine.

No information on the investigation has been forthcoming ever since.

Lavrov will meet Diaz-Canel before traveling to Venezuela on Tuesday and then Brazil for the G20 summit.