Castro said the locomotives are a symbol of friendship between Cuba and China, adding that China has become the “principal locomotive” of economic development in the world, according to Cuba’s Communist Party daily Granma in its Sunday edition.
Cuban Transport Minister Carlos Pazos and Minister of Government Ricardo Cabrisas attended the Saturday event, which was not open to the international news media, as did several Chinese officials including Zhao Rongxian, the ambassador to Cuba.
The ambassador said that Cuba-China relations are focused on promoting the construction of socialism in both countries, according to Granma.
The arrival of the 12 new locomotives and 80 buses purchased from China was reported by Cuban media last Monday.
The value of the locomotives, which were bought last year with credit, plus the cost to transport them was more than $15 million, according to Granma. The 80 buses are part of a 1,000-bus deal worth more than $100 million.
Of those buses, about 300 will be used for tourism and transport of construction workers, students and social workers from one province to another, Castro said Saturday. The remaining 700 will be for inter-province travel for the general population.
Cuba’s internal transport system steadily deteriorated after the island’s crushing economic crisis of the early to mid-1990s caused by the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s longtime backer. The government began recovery efforts early last year, repairing 60 locomotives and 1,800 railway cars.
Castro said Saturday that it had been impossible to devote money to the island’s railway system during the 1990s, but that dramatic improvement in the Cuban economy allowed for the recent purchase of the Chinese equipment.
The Cuban leader said the Chinese locomotives were superior to those manufactured in the United States and much more affordable. Each Chinese locomotive cost 37 percent of what a similar one from the United States would have cost, Castro said.