June 1, 2023
Here is a guard of honor lined up at the Havana airport to meet the Russian delegation

Here is a guard of honor lined up at the Havana airport to meet the Russian delegation

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV


Time here seems to have frozen in the middle of the 20th century. There are no air conditioner boxes on the facades of old houses, and instead of plastic factory-made double-glazed windows, there are graceful handmade wooden window frames. The roadway is empty; residents of Havana, as in old photographs, can cross the street anywhere. And those cars that are there are also from the forties and fifties of the last century, similar to ocean liners, on which he liked to sail here Ernest Hemingway.

His American compatriots also tried to take over Cuba, after a revolutionary government came to power there in 1959, led by the now legendary Fidel Castro. A violent socialist, oh horror, began to make friends with the Soviet Union. He also nationalized sugar plantations and factories (almost all owned by the United States – the country’s largest export industry was essentially under external control).

Cubans and Cubans are distinguished by amazing charm and hospitality

Cubans and Cubans are distinguished by amazing charm and hospitality

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV

The most famous operation to overthrow Fidel was developed by the ace of psychological warfare, the head of the CIA Allen Dulles. As in the current Ukrainian crisis, Washington tried to extinguish opponents … with their own hands. Or rather, setting one part of the formerly united people against another. In neighboring Florida, the “Government of the Republic in Exile” was assembled from political emigrants, Cuban nationalists, and two invasion battalions were trained from them – and in April 1961 they threw them into the Bay of Cochinos, 170 km from Havana (in our historiography, this name is also translated as “the bay of pigs”). The operation was planned mediocre, Castro’s army partly destroyed, partly captured all the unfortunate paratroopers.

Many buildings in Havana look half abandoned - but I assure you, people live there

Many buildings in Havana look half abandoned – but I assure you, people live there

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV

I say: change those Cuban nationalists for “Ukraine”, and “the massacre in the Bay of Pigs” for an equally suicidal “counterattack of the Armed Forces of Ukraine”, and not 1961, but the current year 2023 will come out. Then – the United States, as a punishment for “willfulness”, established a naval blockade of Cuba; now they are trying to “economically isolate Russia.” Nothing has changed in 60 years, not only on the streets of Havana, but also in global politics.

And here I am, together with our official delegation, in Cuba. The Ambos Mundos Hotel has the same interiors as under Hemingway; here the classic lived from year to year in No. 511, until just before the War he moved to a villa outside the city. Everything is still the same in the El Floridita bar, where the fighter of the pen “recreated culturally”.

Because of the gasoline shortage in Havana, every truck becomes public transport

Because of the gasoline shortage in Havana, every truck becomes public transport

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV

– There are memories that after 10-12 cocktails in this bar, old Ham calmly got behind the wheel and drove home. Why? Yes, because he only pretended to drink! “Drunkenness” was a front for meetings with informants and liaisons, the local guide will tell you. – During the war years, Ham worked for the intelligence of the Allies, frustrated the intrigues of the Abwehr (German agents), and even went out to sea on a yacht not to fish, but to identify Kriegsmarine submarines…

But in fact, all this living antiquity is not at all because of the love of Cubans for retro style. Simply the most powerful preservative is long-term American sanctions, multiplied by the features of the socialist economy.

Treasures of Cuba - beaches.  Even now, 10,000 Russian tourists fly to the island on charter flights every month.

Treasures of Cuba – beaches. Even now, 10,000 Russian tourists fly to the island on charter flights every month.

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV


And then the publicist will have two options. You can write about “the heroic Cuban people who have been opposing American dictatorship for 60 years” (however, the horrors of sanctions should not be exaggerated, foreign investors calmly come here through lining companies; new luxury hotels with hot water and air conditioning, where it is now so pleasant to stay in Havana , is their merit).

And it is possible, in the spirit of our perestroika “demshiza”, to go to the “stagnation of the planned economy”, “the severity of the authoritarian regime” and other liberal clichés. Some of which, despite being worn, will not be far from the truth. For example, other episodes of Cuban life are reminiscent of our satirical newsreel “Wick” from the time of comrade Brezhnev.

Let’s say you are a Cuban peasant, you don’t live well, you want to slaughter a cow for meat. You can’t do it just like that, because all the cattle are state-owned. But, on the other hand, a cow can get into an accident. I mean, on a quiet rural road, she will be hit by a 40-year-old car “Muscovite” or “penny” (due to the American embargo, a noticeable part of the Cuban car fleet – these are the rarities of the times of friendship with the USSR, extinct in our country even in a remote province). Then it’s already possible to legally skin a cow…

Or, say, the usual thing for us – SIM cards. Here they are sold in quantities of no more than two per person, and even then – you need to stand in line.

And most importantly. All countries where such a model of “left anti-globalism” has been built – Cuba, Venezuela, North Korea, Iran … – live noticeably worse than pro-Western neighbors who have not quarreled with the White House. So what is more important: the preservation of sovereignty and “honest poverty” – or jeans-chewing gum-Hollywood with a condescending pat on the shoulder: “well done, you are moving towards democracy, now let’s introduce gay propaganda in schools – and it will be completely fine”?

Everyone decides for himself…

However, leftist anti-globalism has its upsides. A planned economy makes it possible to concentrate resources for strategic projects.

“We have developed a unique tool – a nasal spray for covid,” says a familiar resident of the island. How does a virus enter the body? Through the nose! But our scientists know how to stop it!

And it’s not a joke. The main article of Cuban export, even more profitable than rum, sugar or cigars – by $ 200-300 million per year – pharmaceutical products. Moreover: during the pandemic, Havana has developed as many as two national vaccines against coronavirus. That is, exactly two more than all the other small-developing ones.

“We are ready to release 100 million doses (10 times the population of the island – ed.) and provide our Cuban vaccine to everyone from among the poor countries! reported in Havana. And by the end of 2021, almost 80% of the population had been vaccinated here – according to this indicator, the Island entered the top ten in the world.

Result: in terms of life expectancy, Cuba is in 49th place. 77.5 years old. Two lines higher than the US.

The habitual state on Liberty Island is relaxation

The habitual state on Liberty Island is relaxation

Photo: Edward CHESNOKOV


But if you have money, then here is a true paradise. It’s hot, but a pleasant breeze is blowing through the gigantic halls of the Cuban Capitol (a huge building similar to the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg). You can saunter along the most picturesque streets, answering smiles with local smiles. There is no crime – at least in tourist areas; It’s unbelievable that in neighboring Mexico, street gangs kill hundreds of people a year and you can be killed for twenty bucks. Because here the internationalist warrior Fidel seems to have banished the slightest hint of xenophobia, and the descendants of Africans, Indians, Spaniards merge into a multi-colored “holiday that is always with you.”

And it seems that in this stopped time, where there is no change of seasons, snowfalls and worries, you can linger for years, writing your Great Novel, just like old Ham, while wars and mortgage crises rage in the rest of the world.

Once on this wave, you stop paying attention to the poor and dilapidated buildings – even in the center there are a lot of them; however, the Cubans do not strain. What for? The average annual temperature is 25 degrees, you can live even without glass in the windows, feeling how at night these old walls radiate either the heat accumulated during the day, or the passion. No wonder the main novel of Cuban literature, the same part of the national-cultural code as we have “War and Peace”, is called: “The Island of Eternal Love.”

True, the author thereof, Mrs. Daina Chavianohas lived in the US for many years. And in total, since Fidel’s victory in 1959, almost 2 million Cubans have left for the “damned States” (again, out of about 10 million of the total population of the island).

This is how a socialist republic lives – one of the few countries in North America that, after February 2022, despite all the hysterics of Washington, supported Moscow. Alas, with all our new-old friendship, the real volume of interaction with the Island is negligible. The trade turnover between Russia and Cuba is about $150 million a year (for comparison, with Iran – $4.6 billion; with China – $190 billion).

But – not from a good life, of course – we are returning to Soviet positions in the Western Hemisphere. The Americans have again tightened sanctions, now tankers with oil do not reach Cuba – hence the empty streets and the gasoline crisis in Havana.

And as an answer – we again land troops on Liberty Island. In a political sense, of course. On April 20, 2023, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry flew to Havana Sergei Lavrov; and nine days later – the speaker of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin. Both had a warm welcome and high-level meetings. So, are we really going to deploy again here – in the backyard of the United States! – military bases, like in the days of the USSR?

Sergey Lavrov answered this question diplomatically, as usual: they say that military-technical cooperation between Moscow and Havana is going on as usual and suits both sides. So for now, it’s more of a fantasy. But the current friendship with other “leftist anti-globalists”, Beijing and Tehran, would have seemed impossible even 10 years ago…

So there is no alternative to our rapprochement. Alone, the “American world” will definitely not be overcome, but together – very much so.

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