Photo: Mexico Calderon in Cuba
Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on arriving here Wednesday that he wants to bolster his country’s ties with Cuba.
“We propose during this visit to remind the Cuban people of the respect and friendship of the Mexican people and to bring our bilateral relationship to its highest level,” he said at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
Mexico and Cuba, he said, are in “a renewed phase of bilateral relations,” thanks to both governments’ “firm willingness” despite their “natural and distinct points of view on various issues.”
Calderon, who took office in December 2006, is making his first official visit to the Communist-ruled island, from where he will travel on to Haiti and then to Colombia, which is hosting the Summit of the Americas.
The Mexican leader said his government wants to expand bilateral trade and investment with Cuba.
Calderon is to meet later Wednesday with Cuban President Raul Castro and is also scheduled to hold talks with parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and other officials.
Though it is not on Calderon’s official agenda, sources in the Havana Archdiocese told Efe that the Mexican president will be received on Thursday by Cardinal Jaime Ortega, Cuba’s Catholic primate.
Calderon’s visit to Cuba is the first by a Mexican president since 2002, when Vicente Fox traveled to the island.
Felipe Calderon was set to come to Cuba in 2009, but canceled those plans after Fidel Castro - Raul’s predecessor and older brother - said Mexican authorities delayed acknowledging that year’s swine-flu outbreak until after a visit to their country by U.S. President Barack Obama.
The Calderon administration began with hopes of repairing ties with Cuba that had become badly frayed during the 2000-2006 government of Fox.
In 2004, Fox withdrew Mexico’s ambassador to Cuba and expelled Cuba’s top diplomat after accusing the island of meddling in his country’s internal affairs.
That episode came two years after Fox asked Fidel Castro - then still Cuba’s leader - to cut short his visit to a U.N. gathering in Monterrey, Mexico to avoid crossing paths with U.S. President George W. Bush.