Russian President Vladimir Putin started his Latin America tour, and the first stop is Cuba, an old ally from Cold War days. He will also visit Argentina and Brazil.
Russia’s State Duma forgave 90% of Cuba’s debt, which was mostly loans from the old Soviet Union. The total came to $32 billion; Cuba still owes $3.5 billion to be paid off in 10 years. This could be a problem for Cuba and is why Putin chose Cuba to visit first. From Reuters:
Putin’s visit will instead feature commercial agreements, including a deal for Russian state oil companies Rosneft and Zarubezhneft to explore for offshore oil. Zarubezhneft has been involved in offshore exploration in Cuba in the past, and currently helps the country extract oil from onshore wells.
Cuba believes there might be 20 billion barrels of oil in its waters, although the U.S. Geological Survey has a more modest estimate of 4.6 billion barrels. A number of foreign companies, including Spain’s Repsol SA, Malaysia’s Petronas Bhd and Venezuela’s PDVSA SA [PDVSA.UL] have drilled in Cuba without success.
Rosneft’s Igor Sechin traveled with Putin. Rosneft is Russia’s largest petroleum company, and Sechin is under US sanctions from the Ukraine crisis. Despite the sanctions, Rosneft holds lucrative contracts with ExxonMobil and British Petroleum. In August, it is expected ExxonMobil and Rosneft will break ground in a project in Russia’s Arctic Circle, where the companies believe over $900 billion worth of oil is below the ground.
Putin will attend the 2014 World Cup closing ceremony in Brazil on July 13, which will start his three-day visit to the country. He will “take up the baton” from FIFA, since Russia hosts the 2018 World Cup.
“Rio de Janeiro will host the closing ceremony of the World Cup on July 13, during which a meeting between Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, FIFA President Joseph Blatter, and Russian President Vladimir Putin will take place. Russia will take up the baton from Brazil at this meeting,” Kremlin aide Yury Ushakov said. “As a working plan, we expect to have several bilateral meetings with the country leaders attending the final. The particular individuals have not yet been determined, but I can presume that Germany’s advance to the final will entail some nuances, obviously.”