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28 Nov, 2008 04:11

We’re open for business in Latin America - Medvedev

President Dmitry Medvedev says Russia is not afraid of economic competition from other countries operating in Latin American. The statement comes as the Russian leader continues an official visit to Cuba on the final leg of his South American tour.

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.

But the most intriguing part of the trip is unlikely to be captured by cameras. The Russian President still has one more scheduled meeting, and the identity of the other party is the worst kept secret in Havana.

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.