HAVANA, May 30th The announcement of the opening in Cuba of an assembly plant of the Uliánovsk Automobile Factory (UAZ) is one of the many symptoms of the good health of relations between Havana and Moscow.
The company’s directors said that they will send the first batch of machines to the Island between July and August.
According to an article published last Tuesday in Russia’s official newspaper, Izvestia, UAZ will install a plant that will operate with the “screwdriver” method, a system used by large manufacturers that consists of sending the body parts of a vehicle to the country where it will be sold since it is much cheaper than exporting a finished unit.
Founded in 1941, UAZ specializes in off-road vehicles, military transport, buses, and trucks. Cuba is interested in cargo transport from the UAZ Profi range, as well as ambulances created from the UAZ Loaf model (van type).
The directors of UAZ pointed out that the plant will operate in alliance with Cuban companies, although the name and location of the assembler are not known.
These would not be the first vehicles of this type to circulate on the streets of the Island. In December 2016, the UAZ carrying the ashes of Fidel Castro, in a caravan that crossed much of the Island, stopped due to a breakdown in the streets of Santiago de Cuba, and five young soldiers had to push the car.
Havana hosted a business forum last week, where a closer alliance between Moscow and the Cuban regime was consolidated. In this meeting, Cuba offered Russian businessmen the right to hold land in usufruct for 30 years, in addition to tax exemptions for the import of agricultural machinery.
Boris Titov, president of the Cuba-Russia Business Council, said that in order for these business plans to move forward, they expect “the reduction of bureaucratic barriers,” and the Díaz-Canel Government has shown unconditional support for changing Cuban legislation.
The arrival of Russian companies on the Island also means a change in the financial system, and the authorities of the Central Bank of Cuba are streamlining authorization for the start of operations of three banks with Russian capital.
Since the Ukrainian war began, the rapport and agreements between Russia and Cuba have been growing. Moscow needs allies after the majority rejection of the invasion, and Havana is trying to resurrect a devastated economy.
Last March, ATMs on the Island began to accept cards from the Russian payment system MIR, the version of Visa or Mastercard launched by the Kremlin in 2016 to avoid possible economic sanctions.
The Russian press says that Bolivia became the first country in Latin America to allow the purchase of UAZ vehicles in rubles. “The new form of payment will significantly simplify interaction with the Bolivian side and, in the foreseeable future, will help strengthen the brand’s presence in the region,” the statement adds.
However, the arrival of new Russian officials has raised the alerts of the Cuba Siglo 21 [21st Century] think tank, which describes the alliance as a “transition to a mafia state” and calls on Cubans abroad to be attentive to Russian interference and the possibility of Moscow sending weapons to the Island.