Mexican Foreign Minister José Antonio Meade arrived in Cuba yesterday to discuss a new bilateral agenda—the first visit to Cuba by a Mexican minister under the Enrique Peña Nieto administration.
The two-day visit follows a formal agreement in January between Peña Nieto and Cuban President Raúl Castro in Santiago de Chile to work toward promoting bilateral relations. Meade’s trip will include meetings with high-level Cuban officials to discuss trade and investment, as well as matters such as “tourism, migration, cooperation, education, culture, health, [and] energy.” Officials also plan to discuss the two countries’ participation in the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
Mexico’s move to reinvigorate diplomatic ties with Cuba comes after bilateral relations suffered tensions under President Vicente Fox (2000-2006) and President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012).
Under Fox, diplomatic ties were nearly severed over disagreements on human rights and accusations that Cuban diplomats had interfered in Mexico’s domestic affairs. In 2004, Fox recalled the Mexican ambassador to Cuba and reduced relations to charge d’affaires status.
Seeking to ease relations, Calderón assigned a new ambassador to Cuba in 2007, but tensions arose again when Cuba stopped commercial flights to Mexico for a month during the peak of the swine flu outbreak in 2009. Calderón was the last Mexican president to visit the island, during a trip in April 2012.
Peña Nieto’s majority party, the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party—PRI)—which governed Mexico continuously from 1929 to 2000 and returned to power in December 2012—has had historically amicable relations with the Caribbean nation. Notably, Mexico was the only Latin American country to maintain diplomatic ties with Cuba throughout the Cold War.