Mexico reaches out to Cuba ahead of Ibero-American Summit

Mexican foreign minister says the Peña Nieto administration will extend its line of credit to Cuba

Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade and Raúl Castro in Havana.
Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade and Raúl Castro in Havana.EFE

The Mexican government will extend its line of credit to Cuba, Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade said in Havana on Tuesday. He also emphasized Mexican business leaders’ interest in investing in the island to boost the Cuban economy.

According to the Mexican government, the two countries currently hold bilateral agreements on trade, investment, tourism, energy, fishing, airlines, mining and customs. These deals are worth more than $297 million. Still, their business is only a third of Mexico’s commercial deals with the Dominican Republic (around $1 billion in 2012). According to estimates from Mexico’s foreign trade bank, Bancomext, investments in Cuba reach $730 million.

Meade’s announcement comes nine months after the administration canceled 70 percent ($500 million) of Cuba’s debt to Mexico. Bancomext director Enrique De la Madrid Cordero has said that Mexico was not giving the island “even one peso” for free.

The foreign minister emphasized the “historic brotherhood” between Mexico and Cuba

During remarks made in Havana, the foreign minister emphasized the “historic brotherhood” between Mexico and Cuba – at least during the 20th century. The relationship between the two nations suffered through a 12-year diplomatic freeze during the conservative governments of the National Action Party (PAN) from 2000 to 2012. But Foreign Minister Meade has already made three trips to the island during the current administration. Since taking office in December 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto (Institutional Revolutionary Party, PRI) has met with Raúl Castro on two occasions: in Santiago de Chile and in Havana, where he participated in the second Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) summit.

During the 1970s, the PRI was in power and it maintained a close relationship with the Castro government. After the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the entire region had broken off diplomatic relations with Havana – except Mexico.

Diplomatic relations between Cuba and Mexico experienced a 12-year freeze under Fox and Calderón

Rumor has it that Fidel Castro and Che Guevara planned the revolution while sitting in a café in Mexico City. Granma, the yacht that carried the rebels to Las Coloradas beach, set sail in Tuxpan, 320 kilometers from the Mexican capital and 300 kilometers from the port of Veracruz, this year’s host of the XXIV Ibero-American Summit. The conference will take place on December 8 and 9.

Meade has said that his objective for this Latin American tour is to fill every seat at the next summit. Only 13 of the 22 members of the organization joined the last summit in Ciudad de Panamá. Meade has already visited Panamá and Cuba. On Wednesday, he will travel to Nicaragua.

Mexico and Spain organized the first Ibero-American summit on the eve of the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival to the Americas. The conference was held in Guadalajara, Mexico in July 1991. Spanish King Juan Carlos and Fidel Castro both attended. The new Spanish king, Felipe VI, may make his first appearance at the conference this year after assuming the throne.

Translation: Dyane Jean François

When Fox told Castro: “Eat and then leave”

The relationship between Mexico and Cuba soured in 2000 when PRI lost the presidency after 70 years in power. President Vicente Fox, a member of the conservative National Action Party (PAN), named Jorge Castañeda Gutman foreign minister. Castañeda Gutman was a strong critic of the human rights conditions on the island, and he held that post between 2000 and 2003.

In 2002, Fox tried to keep Fidel Castro and George W. Bush apart at a United Nations conference in Monterrey, Mexico. The president told the Cuban leader via a telephone conversation to “eat and then leave.” Castro later revealed the incident, and it ruined the relationship between the two countries. Fox’s successor, Felpe Calderón, is a fellow PAN member. He traveled to Havana in 2012 – the first time a Mexican president had visited the island in 10 years. Calderón, who was then in his last year of office, said Mexico was “renewing” its ties to Cuba.

Once the PRI returned to power, Mexico became interested in repairing the historical brotherhood between the two nations once more.

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