Russia is in talks with Abu Dhabi investors to build a major airport in Cuba to serve as a hub for Latin America.
In an exclusive interview with the Abu Dhabi newspaper The National, Russian trade and industry minister Denis Manturov said that discussions had taken place with Abu Dhabi’s strategic investment company Mubadala to invest in the vast project.
Manturov said that Russia planned to invest at least US$200 million in the project, which could also include redeveloping a port and building a railway line.
“We are deeply involved in these negotiations,” the minister said. “Cuba is developing a transport hub from the seaport and a railway to the airport.
“They have only one international airport and they are planning to use one of the ex-military bases to build a big airport hub for Latin America.”
A Mubadala spokesman said: “The company is regularly reviewing a number of different investment opportunities with its Russian partners.”
After five decades of hostilities, relations between the United States and Cuba are thawing, attracting the interest of some international investors.
The port of Mariel is at the centre of a special development zone established to attract foreign investment into Cuba.
Brazilian construction group Odebrecht last year finished an $800m project at the port, west of Havana. A Cuban embassy official in Abu Dhabi said that he did not have information on the project.
Russia’s involvement in the project is part of a move by president Vladimir Putin to effectively write off about $32 billion of debt from the Soviet era, when Cuba relied heavily on USSR support.
Manturov has held several meetings this week with government officials and sovereign wealth funds in Abu Dhabi, where he is leading a huge delegation of Russian arms makers at the Tenth Russian Arms Exposition (IDEX).
[Photo on top of Denis Manturov, Russia’s trade and industry minister, greeting guests at the Russian arms exhibition in Abu Dhabi this week.]