China has agreed to restructure debt owed by Cuba and provide new trade and investment credits to the troubled Caribbean nation after a meeting in Beijing between heads of the two communist nations.
Cuba Economy Minister Alejandro Gil said China had donated $100 million to help the country cope with shortages of basic goods and an energy crisis worsened by Hurricane Ian, which decimated western Pinar del Rio province two months ago.
Gil spoke with official media travelling with President Miguel Diaz-Canel after returning home on the weekend from a tour of Algeria, Russia, Turkey and China.
Chinese trade and investment has slowed in recent years due to Cuba’s failure to meet restructured debt payments according to analysts and diplomats, a situation worsened by tighter US sanctions, the pandemic and domestic economic inefficiencies.
“We are going to find mutually acceptable formulas for the ordering and restructuring of debts,” Gil said.
Analysts estimate that Cuba’s debt is in the billions of dollars, although no official figures are available. Cuba last reported its foreign debt in 2019 at $19.6 billion.
China is Cuba’s most important commercial partner after Venezuela, though trade has declined from over $2 billion in 2017 to $1.3 billion last year, according to the Cuban government.
Various investment projects have also ground to a halt. Gil said China had agreed to quickly complete a floating dock, wind power and solar energy project, among others.
President Diaz-Canel told the official media after talks in Beijing that debt was at the top of his agenda with President Xi Jinping who sympathized with the difficulties Cuba was going through.
The Cuban president said his Chinese counterpart indicated “a solution must be found to all the problems with Cuba, regardless of the debt, and that this cannot be what limits development.”
- Reuters with additional editing by Jim Pollard