Migration, business relationships on agenda for meeting with President Enrique Pena Nieto
By Nancy Caouette
MEXICO CITY – Cuban President Raul Castro is expected to arrive late Thursday in Mexico to begin a three-day official visit.
Castro will meet President Enrique Pena Nieto on Friday to discuss regional and bilateral issues and the recent surge of Cuban migrants who have entered the American continent through Mexico in an attempt to reach the United States.
More than 27,000 Cubans have made it to the U.S. during the first nine months of fiscal year 2015 – a 78 percent increase compared to the same period in 2014 – according to the Pew Research Center.
The Cuban leader’s visit comes about a year after the U.S. and Cuba agreed to restore diplomatic relations following more than 54 years of cold relations.
“We are very happy that this is the first visit of Raul Castro to our country amid these renewed, revitalized relations,” said Mexico’s Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz Massieu.
Cuba presented a new portfolio of business opportunities for foreign capital on Tuesday, including 326 projects in 12 business areas such as tourism, petroleum and agribusiness.
Mexico hopes to take advantage of the new investment opportunities in Cuba with Pena Nieto’s administration saying it expects tourism and educational agreements, among others, could be signed this week.
The last time a Cuban president was in Mexico was 2002 when Fidel Castro participated in a UN poverty conference in Monterrey.
The Mexican then-President Vicente Fox asked Castro to retire early from a formal dinner in order to avoid an embarrassing meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush.
Castro shared a telephone recording in which Fox urges him to “eat and leave”.
Tensions continued to grow between both nations after Fox met with Cuban dissidents in at the Mexican embassy in Cuba in 2002.
In an attempt to thaw relations with the largest Caribbean Island, Pena Nieto’s administration erased 70 percent of Cuba’s $487 million debt to Mexico.
Mexico and Canada were the only countries in the Western hemisphere that kept diplomatic relations with Cuba during the Cold War era, despite pressure of the U.S. government to economically isolate the communist island.