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Cuba Signs On To China’s Belt Road Initiative, Bringing Xi’s Influence Closer To Home

Cuba officially signed on to a Chinese energy pact on Monday, strengthening President Xi Jinping’s relationship with Latin America at a time when the U.S. has warned that China’s influence is increasing in the region, Havana Live reported.

China’s Belt And Road Initiative (BRI), a massive global project launched in 2013, will invite Chinese companies to invest in Cuba’s energy sector, Havana Live reported. The U.S. has attempted to steer Latin America away from the pact, and critics argue that signing on to the BRI locks nations into huge sums of debt while handing China all of their raw materials and geopolitical leverage.

Liván Arronte Cruz, Cuba’s industry minister, said the pact would “promote solidarity and international co-operations in favour of developing countries,” and “deepen” Cuba’s ties to China, Havana Live reported.

China has surpassed the U.S. as the biggest trading partner in most Latin America over the past 15 years and recently purchased multiple energy companies in the region for billions of dollars, Havana Live reported.

Bolivia, Suriname and Venezuela, all with left-leaning governments, are the other nations in the region that have signed on to the BRI, Havana Live reported. President Joe Biden’s deputy national security advisor, Daleep Singh, traveled to Colombia, Ecuador and Panama, each with right-leaning governments, to pitch the advantages of the Biden administration’s own infrastructure funding initiative, “Build Back Better World.”

U.S. officials say the projects are currently undefined but will lead to higher environmental and labor standards than the BRI, Havana Live reported.

“We’re there to compete because we do think we have a better product,” Singh told the Financial Times, insisting the U.S. was not asking the countries to make a choice between the two superpowers. “We decided to make our first listening tour to Latin America … given the proximity to the United States and our core interest there.”

Xi last visited Cuba in 2014 to meet with now-deceased dictator Fidel Castro. “Let’s seize the opportunity, work hard, advance hand-in-hand and create a beautiful future for the China-Latin America relations,” Xi later said at a conference, Havan Live reported.

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