Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cuba: Russia's Putin, Cuba's Raul Castro Reactivate Former Soviet-Era Surveillance Center

According to The Latin American Tribune, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Cuba’s Raul Castro have agreed to re-activate the former Soviet electronic surveillance station on the Caribbean island, Moscow daily Kommersant said on Wednesday (July 16).

Built in 1964 to spy on the US government, the facility southwest of Havana was closed 13 years ago, when the then-cash-strapped Russian government decided it could no longer afford the annual lease payment of $200 million.

“Our relations (with the United States) deteriorated a great deal before Russia's invasion of the Ukraine. In reality, they have never improved, except a few brief periods that have been the exception to the rule,” a senior Russian official told the daily.

The Lourdes complex was expanded and modernized following the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

The Cold War-era listening post can be even more useful to Russia now than during the Soviet period, Kommersant said, noting that Moscow no longer has any intelligence-gathering satellites.

COMMENT: No details have been released on the sensitive aspects of the Center, but considering that intelligence only improves with age and the help of technology, reactivation of any surveillance program is never a positive, given Cuba's distance from Miami.

Putin, whose 2000 journey to Havana opened a “second phase” in bilateral ties, chose Russia’s oldest ally in Latin America as the first stop on a regional tour that began last week.

The Russian president met last week with Raul Castro and his 87-year-old brother, Fidel, the leader of the 1959 Cuban Revolution who stepped down in 2006 after being stricken with a serious illness.

Putin arrived in Havana a week after Russia’s parliament voted to forgive 90% of the $31.7 billion in outstanding debt Cuba had with the former Soviet Union.

Castro and Putin also presided over the signing of 10 agreements, including accords on oil exploration signed by Russian state oil company Rosneft and Cuban counterpart Cupet.