Spain’s King Felipe and PM Rajoy to visit Cuba “as soon as possible”
Cuban foreign minister describes ongoing talks between Havana and Madrid
Madrid 18 ABR 2017 – 12:11 CEST
Spain’s King Felipe VI and Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy have accepted an
official invitation to make an official visit to Cuba, which the Foreign
Ministry says will take place “as soon as possible,” probably at the end
of this year, ahead of the retirement of the Caribbean island’s leader,
Raúl Castro, in February 2018.
Felipe’s father and predecessor, Juan Carlos, led a Spanish delegation
that attended the funeral of Fidel Castro in November 2016. During Juan
Carlos’s 39 years in power, between 1975 and 2014, he only visited
Havana once: in 1999, when Cuba hosted the IX Ibero-American Summit.
José María Aznar, who was prime minister with Spain’s conservative
Popular Party between 1996 and 2004, has said publicly that he refused
to sanction further visits by Juan Carlos to Cuba given the politician’s
ideological differences with the regime in Havana.
King Felipe and Rajoy intend to visit Cuba “as soon as possible,”
according to official sources. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez
gave King Felipe the invitation at a meeting in the Zarzuela official
royal residence in Madrid on Monday during a private visit to the
Spanish capital. He later met with Rajoy.
The invitation comes after a May 2016 visit by the then-Spanish foreign
minister, José Manuel García-Margallo.
King Felipe and Queen Leticia are making a state visit to the United
Kingdom between June 6 and June 8, which means the visit to Cuba could
take place after summer, toward the end of the year.
During their conversation, Rodríguez and King Felipe discussed the
worsening situation in Venezuela where protesters have taken to the
streets after the opposition-controlled national congress was briefly
stripped off its powers. Speaking at a press conference afterward,
Rodríguez said Cuba would continue supporting the government of
President Nicolás Maduro to find the best “solutions and decisions.” He
also referred to the 2002 coup that briefly toppled Maduro’s
predecessor, Hugo Chávez.
Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis said after meeting with
Rodríguez that the invitation “symbolizes the will of Cuba to increase
links with Spain.” He added that following the end of the year-long
political stalemate in Spain in October produced by two inconclusive
elections, Prime Minister Rajoy intended to “strengthen and intensify”
political, social, economic, trade, cultural, family and other ties
between the two countries.
In December, Spain raised the issue of renewing the EU’s agreement with
Cuba, leaving behind the approach of the Aznar government and its focus
on human-rights issues. Rodríguez described talks between Madrid and
Havana as “multi-faceted”, “promising,” “cordial,” “productive,”
“useful,” and “beneficial.”
Spain is Cuba’s third-major trading partner and the
eighth-most-important source of tourists. Rodríguez praised Spain and
the EU’s position regarding the ongoing US embargo.
Dastis pointed out that Spanish governments over the years have not
supported the trade embargo and hoped that the Trump administration
would continue the thaw begun by Barack Obama. On the subject of
political prisoners and human rights in Cuba, Dastis, who has offered to
travel to Cuba ahead of the visit, said both governments would address
all issues “with respect andtrust, and pragmatically.”
English version by Nick Lyne.
Source: Spanish head of state visit to Cuba: Spain’s King Felipe and PM
Rajoy to visit Cuba “as soon as possible” | In English | EL PAÍS –