Mexico needs a stable and prosperous neighbour in the Caribbean Sea

One day after he was sworn in as the new President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez received a call from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, congratulating him for his parliamentary election
Mexico needs a stable and prosperous neighbour in the Caribbean Sea
Cuban flag -Photo: Iván Alvarado/REUTERS
08/05/2018
17:51
Gabriel Moyssen
Mexico City
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One day after he was sworn in as the new President of the Council of State and the Council of Ministers of Cuba, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez received a call from Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, congratulating him for his parliamentary election.

Peña Nieto reiterated México’s willingness to continue deepening political dialogue, cooperation, and trade and investment exchanges with its neighbor from the Caribbean Sea.

Leaving aside the carefully crafted diplomatic language, the brief protocollary conversation between Peña Nieto and Díaz-Canel highlights the relevance of an old, rich and multifaceted relationship which dates from colonial times and has been fruitful on both sides of the Yucatán Channel to spread their influence and perhaps more importantly, to balance their always difficult dealings with the United States.

History gives us plenty of examples of this fruitful mutual relationship with a multilateral dimension, as it happened at the height of the Cold War in 1962—the year of the Cuban Missile Crisis—when Mexico was the only Latin American country opposed to the expulsion of Cuba from the Organization of American States (OAS) virtually ordered by Washington or when the Cuban government gave its support and political leverage to the peace process between the guerrillas and the right-wing regimes of Guatemala and El Salvador, launched in 1983 through the auspices of the Contadora Group promoted by Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama.

There were certainly dark moments of ideological tensions, personal animosity and even of involuntary humor, which we could summarize with the unfortunate phrase “Comes y te vas” (“Eat and then leave”), expressed by then-President Vicente Fox to Fidel Castro during the United Nations Conference on Financing to Development in Monterrey to avoid any encounters between the Cuban leader and U.S. President George W. Bush in 2002.

A couple of years later, the Cuban Ambassador to Mexico, Jorge Bolaños, was expelled from the country and the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs (SRE) withdrew the Mexican Ambassador in Havana, Roberta Lajous, marking an all-time low in the bilateral relationship.

Debt cancellation

In the last years, however, the situation has notably improved. Namely, both nations have a free trade agreement—Mexico is Cuba's fifth commercial partner—and the effort carried out by outgoing Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to normalize and strengthen the ties of friendship and cooperation with Cuba, symbolized by both his state visit to the island in 2014, as well as the agreement for the cancellation of USD $340 million (70% of the total) of its debt owed to Mexico, is worth mentioning.

Furthermore, during the Peña Nieto administration the worst regional fears about the risk of a humanitarian crisis and turmoil in Cuba after the end of the Castro brothers’ government have subsided, thanks to last month’s orderly transition in Havana.

If the future belongs to Díaz-Canel and the younger, post-revolutionary generations, it will be up to the new president to implement the economic, political and social changes that the Cuban people requires, without jeopardizing the safety net achieved through great sacrifice since 1959.

The future also holds opportunities for Mexico, a particularly well-placed country due to historic, cultural and geographic reasons to seize the full potential of its relations with Cuba.

A friendly, stable and prosperous Cuba can be the key to a more productive Mexican engagement with the Caribbean basin, our so-called “third border”, which demands a long-term broader, dynamic diplomatic and trade strategy that goes far beyond the formal participation in regional forums such as the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the Caribbean Community (Caricom).
 

Artículo

Cuba’s Díaz-Canel: From Nomenklatura to a gradual change?

The National Assembly of the People’s Power elected on April 18 Cuba’s First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel to replace Raúl Castro, setting the stage for a possible smooth transition to a more open economic and political system
Cuba’s Díaz-Canel: From Nomenklatura to a gradual change?Cuba’s Díaz-Canel: From Nomenklatura to a gradual change?

Edited by Sofía Danis
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Gabriel Moyssen

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