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28 Nov, 2008 16:18

Medvedev meets the Comandante in Havana

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has met Cuban former leader Fidel Castro in the capital Havana. Earlier, Medvedev, who is in Cuba on the final leg of his South American tour, met with Raul Castro, the communist country’s president and Comandante’s young

At the request of the Cuban side, however, no cameraman was allowed at the site of the meeting with Fidel, who is said to be in poor health.

Medvedev went to the meeting with the former Cuban leader immediately after the ceremony of laying flowers at the monument to Soviet Internationalist Soldiers in Havana.
Fidel Castro remains the First Secretary of the Communist Party, but since February 2008 his 77-year-old brother Raul has been the President of Cuba.

During his visit to Havana, Medvedev said Russia is not afraid of economic competition from other countries operating in Latin American.

“In the last six months, relations between our two countries have intensified. It’s been noted by our Cuban friends. But what really makes us happy is that we are seeing immediate results,” the Russian President said.  

Once tied by a common ideology, Russia and Cuba have been estranged for almost a decade. Vladimir Putin was the last Russian leader to visit Cuba in 2000 when Moscow closed its radar base there, causing a halt in bilateral ties.

But now Russians are back – this time bearing icons rather than weapons.

The building of an Orthodox church in Havana is symbolic of how times have changed. It used to be that Moscow exported Lenin's monument to Cuba – now it is religion.

It took more than a decade to build the first Orthodox church here. Opened a month ago, it's still in need of decorations. But visitors have begun arriving. And leaders Dmitry Medvedev and Raul Castro were among them on Thursday.

Lighting candles, of course, is not enough to rekindle bilateral relations, but the Russian President says it is just the first step.

Medvedev and Castro met twice during the visit and reportedly discussed potential energy and military projects.

Meanwhile, Medvedev had time on Thursday to sum up the results of his Latin American tour.

He told reporters that Russia would develop cooperation with Latin America, but not to the detriment of international security.
Medvedev said he was pleased with the energy component of the talks.

“There are a number of interesting projects. In the most advanced phase are projects in Venezuela,” Medvedev said.

There are also a number of ideas to develop cooperation with Brazil, and there are projects in Cuba and Peru too, Medvedev stressed.