HAVANA, March 5 (Reuters) – Igor Sechin, CEO of Russian oil company Rosneft, met with Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel late Saturday, the island’s leader said, amid an acute fuel shortage that has temporarily closed gas stations and fuel queues that last for hours.
Sechin told Diaz-Canel that when it comes to Cuba-related issues, “Putin monitors them directly and personally,” Diaz-Canel’s office said in a statement released via Twitter.
Several tweets on the Cuban Presidency’s account emphasized the good relations between the two countries, but did not specify the reason for the visit of the head of the state oil company.
Sechin will travel to Venezuela to mark the tenth anniversary of the death of the South American country’s former President Hugo Chavez, a close ally of both Cuba and Russia.
Cuba’s former leader Raul Castro has also flown to Caracas for the occasion, Cuban state media said.
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Communist-led Cuba is struggling through its worst economic crisis in decades, its output decimated by the coronavirus pandemic, US sanctions and an inefficient centrally planned economy that has struggled to respond to the challenges.
Hour-long lines for food, fuel and medicine have devastated the island and contributed to a mass exodus of Cubans over the past year, many of whom migrated north to the United States.
Russia gave Cuba an “emergency” donation of 25,000 tons of wheat in February to help address shortages on the island, the second such gift in a year and a sign of deepening ties between the two longtime allies.
Russia, hit by Western sanctions over the Ukraine conflict, is trying to strengthen political and economic ties with other countries opposed to so-called US hegemony.
Cuba has been under a US economic embargo since 1962 following a communist revolution led by former leader Fidel Castro.
Reporting by Dave Sherwood in Havana; Editing by Alexander Smith
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