Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi met on Thursday with his Cuban counterpart Miguel Díaz-Canel in Havana, on the last stop of a tour of three Latin American countries whom Tehran considers allies and who also face strong sanctions from Washington.
Unlike Raisi’s visits to Venezuela and Nicaragua, the comments issued or the parts of the agenda to which the press was given access focused on the signing of cooperation agreements and exploring business with the island rather than on criticism of the United States.
Raisi’s scheduled activities in the Caribbean nation were postponed for almost a day due to events he attended on Wednesday in the Nicaraguan National Assembly with the country’s president and first lady, Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo. The Iranian ruler began his visit to Havana with a business forum.
“I hope this meeting serves for integration, exchange of ideas and opinions,” the leader of the Islamic Republic told the businessmen, who stressed that in terms of economic and commercial exchange opportunities could arise in hydroelectric or thermoelectric plants and mining.
An intergovernmental commission should come out of the forum to evaluate the areas of cooperation.
Raisi’s tour of Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba is his first in Latin America to strengthen ties with the region. The three Latin American countries and Iran face suffocating sanctions from Washington and its allies that affect their economies.
Before his arrival in Cuba, Raisi visited Venezuela and Nicaragua. According to his schedule, his tour would end on Thursday, during which he described the United States as a “common enemy.”
Unlike the two previous stopovers in Venezuela and Nicaragua, however, Raisi did not deliver public speeches or make direct anti-Washington remarks in Cuba.
In Washington on Monday, when White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby was asked about Raisi’s tour, he declined to comment on the Iranian leader or his agenda, but acknowledged that the government of President Joe Biden was concerned about Iran’s “destabilizing behavior” and said he would “continue to take steps to mitigate that behavior.”
The Caribbean nation and Iran already have a long history of binational work in biotechnology. In fact, the Islamic Republic collaborated with the island during the creation and implementation of the Sovereign 02 vaccine against COVID-19, the only Latin American antigen against this virus.
After the business forum, Raisi and Díaz-Canel toured biotechnological production plants in the west of the capital, before an official reception with honors as head of state at the Palace of the Revolution.
There, there was also a meeting behind closed doors between the rulers, who later testified to the signing of half a dozen agreements or memorandums of understanding on customs, justice, telecommunications and diplomatic action.
“You have visited three Latin American countries that have a significant relationship with the Iranian Revolution: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba,” Díaz-Canel highlighted, according to the official website Cubadebate, which echoed the welcome that the islander gave his guest.
The three countries together with Iran, he added, “have had to heroically face, with tenacious resistance, the sanctions, pressures, threats, blockades and interference of Yankee imperialism and its allies.”
Cubadebate also reported that Raisi met with former Cuban President Raúl Castro —brother of the late Fidel Castro— and that Díaz-Canel agreed to travel to Iran before the end of 2023.
The content of the signed understandings or the portfolio of business opportunities that were deployed from the business meeting between the binational delegations is not clear.
However, the energy sector —and Raisi spoke of thermoelectric plants during the morning forum— is particularly sensitive for Cuba, where the economic crisis is hitting hard with fuel shortages and blackouts.
In Venezuela and Nicaragua, Raisí also entered into agreements in petrochemicals, transportation, agriculture and communications, among other areas.