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Miguel Diaz-Canel, Cuba’s new president, makes Moscow first overseas visit

October 31, 2018 GMT

Cuba’s new President Miguel Diaz-Canel visits Russia this week to gather with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin to discuss “further deepening” their old Cold War strategic ties, including arms sales.

The trip, which will also include China, Vietnam, Laos and North Korea, is reportedly Mr. Diaz-Canel’s first outside the Caribbean since he replaced Raul Castro as Cuba’s leader during a historic changing of the guard in April 2018.

Cuban foreign ministry officials have said that in addition to meeting Mr. Putin, Mr. Diaz-Canel will also meet with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church.

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Cuba observers have noted the mission’s urgency. In addition to trying to boost his image abroad, Mr. Diaz-Canel is also scrambling to secure financing to keep Cuba’s government functioning in the wake of an economic meltdown triggered by Venezuela’s financial collapse.

Tourist revenues are also plummeting after the Trump administration reversed Obama-era policies that opened traffic to Cuba. Additionally, the State Department has issued severe travel warnings following mysterious “sonic attacks” on U.S. diplomats in Havana.

According to the Miami Herald, while visiting Moscow on Thursday Mr. Diaz-Canel is expected to finalize a $50 million loan the Kremlin is providing for the purchase of Russian military equipment including armored vehicles, helicopters and small arms.

Mr. Diaz-Canel and Mr. Putin already know each other. They met in Havana in 2014 and again in Moscow in 2016 when Mr. Diaz-Canel was Cuba’s vice president.

Russia has recently cut energy and transport deals with is old Cold War ally, including an agreement late last year to allow Russian oil giant Rosfnet to increase oil exports to the island.