French President Praises the “Opening of Cuba,” Visits Fidel & Raul Castro

By Isaac Risco (dpa)

Presidents Francois Hollande and Raúl Castro met Monday in Havana. Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu
Presidents Francois Hollande and Raúl Castro met Monday in Havana. Photo: Ismael Francisco/cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — The president of France, Francois Hollande, met on Monday with Cuban leaders Fidel and Raul Castro as part of a historic visit to the island in which he advocated dialogue and the “opening of Cuba to the world. ”

Hollande, the first visit by a French head of state to the Caribbean island, was also the first leader of a Western power to travel to Cuba after the historic rapprochement between Washington and Havana announced in December.

Before meeting with President Raul Castro, Hollande visited the president’s brother, former President Fidel Castro, at his house on the west side of Havana, confirmed the Elysee Palace in Paris.

“Comrade Fidel expressed gratitude to President Hollande for being the first head of state of France to visit Cuba,” noted Cuban state television when informing of the meeting.

Although removed from power since 2006, and rarely seen in public, Fidel Castro often receives visits by important foreign visitors passing through Havana.

Hollande then met with Raul Castro at the Palace of the Revolution after laying a wreath at the monument to Cuban national hero Jose Marti in the nearby Plaza de la Revolution, according to the Cuban news agency Prensa Latina.

In his first address to a Cuban audience this morning, the French leader called for an end to the US embargo on Cuba and said his country wants to accompany the current opening up of the island.

“You know very well what has always been the position of France with regard to the embargo that hampers the development of Cuba,” Hollande said during a speech at the University of Havana, attended by Cuban first Vice President Miguel Diaz Canel.

“This visit takes place in a context in which it is possible today that Cuba has at last exchanges with the rest of the world,” added the French president who arrived in Havana on Sunday.

Francois Hollande and Fidel Castro met on Monday at the ex-president's home in Havana.
Francois Hollande and Fidel Castro met on Monday at the ex-president’s home in Havana. Photo: Alex Castro/granma.cu

“I believe it is very important for Europe to be present” in today’s Cuba, Hollande said regarding the process of economic liberalization in recent years on the island and the thaw with the United States. The governments of Washington and Havana are negotiating the planned reopening of embassies to resume diplomatic relations broken off unilaterally by the US in 1961.

After delivering his lecture at the University of Havana, the French president inaugurated in the city center the new headquarters of the Alliance Francaise cultural institution which has taught French to more than 10,000 students on the island. In the afternoon also also participated in a French-Cuban business forum.

With his visit to Havana, Hollande also seeks to promote the political negotiations between Cuba and the European Union (EU) opened in April last year.

The EU and Havana are currently negotiating a treaty of “political dialogue and cooperation” leading to a rapprochement between the two sides after years of low level bilateral relations. To date the relations between both parties are conditioned by the so-called European “common position” which calls for improvements in the situation of human rights on the island.

The French president traveled to Havana accompanied by senior representatives of French companies. Among them are the spirits producer Pernod Ricard, a partner for years of the Cuban rum Havana Club, Air France, the Accor hotel group and the construction giant Bouygues.

Companies from both countries signed agreements in the fields oil and tourism, according to Prensa Latina. The University of Havana, meanwhile, signed several agreements for academic cooperation and student exchange with French institutions.

Hollande’s delegation also includes the French ministers of Ecology, Justice and Culture and Communication, among other portfolios, besides the President of the National Assembly, Claude Bartolone.

After being in the French West Indies between Friday and Sunday, Hollande closes his five-day Caribbean tour with a visit to Haiti Tuesday.

Coinciding with the visit of Hollande, the Cuban Catholic Church announced today the dates of the visit of Pope Francisco to the island.

The Argentine pontiff will be in Cuba four days from September 19-22. He will visit the cities of Havana, Santiago de Cuba and Holguín before leaving for the United States. The pope will visit the sanctuary of the Virgin of Charity of El Cobre in the same province of Santiago.

Francisco played a key role in the historic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. He became an intermediary between the two parties during the 18 months of secret negotiations that preceded the announcement of December 17 2014 that Washington and The Havana would resume diplomatic relations.



25 thoughts on “French President Praises the “Opening of Cuba,” Visits Fidel & Raul Castro

  • If you think that Cuba may accept what we in the Western World describe as democracy, forget it! Understand that Raul Castro Ruz is a communist and that Cuba is a one party state. Whereas other countries and wishful thinkers within them may wish for change within Cuba the reality is that the Castro family regime is firmly in control and power and has no intention of being anything else.

  • ….maybe I was talking about Fidel as well….it took Gorbachev to start the process – but you are right I admit…
    Freedom has one taste – Freedom

  • Lots of empty rhetoric from progressivefan1 although I agree that dialogue is better than isolation. Isolation results in more misunderstandings and a lack of progress. However, back to the original comment. Hardly a world changer, but the detente is good for Cuba and to a limited extent for the USA which gets an opportunity to open a new market and maybe open a way for democracy.

  • I will not let you rewrite history. Carter, Reagan, and Clinton took concrete steps towards repairing the relationship with Cuba and we’re rebuffed. Fidel Castro, as long as he had his hand in the Soviets pants had no interest in relations with the US. The only reason that Raul has come begging is because his Venezuelan wetnurse is drying up. There is blame on both sides for the lack of diplomatic relations.

  • ….domino theory – Latin America was a huge concern for the U.S – I am saying if we – the americans – had just been friendly – we could have avoided 40 years of broken relations – dialogue – not isolation – is the only real diplomacy….

  • China does not permit religious freedom.

  • Not true. It had begun to crumble from the beginning. The Soviets only agreed to perestroika as a half-measure to delay the inevitable. Check your time line of events.

  • Put the crack pipe down. Cuba was only a threat when acting as a proxy for their Soviet wetnurse.

  • There is a huge difference between the former Soviet bloc and an island of 11 million poor Cubans.

  • OK, nice try but no cigar. Changes in Cuba will do nothing to reverse Putin’s aggression in Ukraine. A democratic Cuba will not quell ISIS or Islamic terrorism. It won’t end the conflict in Syria. It won’t change North Korea’s prison camps and it won’t stop racist and cowardly police in the US from killing unarmed Black men. So, once again, what will it change?

  • …the idea is that if one system changes – all the systems change – I speak also of freedom of religion for example – something Russia and china have already achieved….

  • …perestroika

  • ….Gorbachev and Reagan showed it could be done and that was the 80’s…..Cuba was seen as confronting the West (the U.S) due to its close proximity to the U.S and (of course) central and latin America – thus was a direct challenge as a competing system – being in a favourable agricultural position – Thus – to America – it was seen as a more direct threat than Russia / China ( a long way away – and less warning time for missiles) – They probably always wondered why we would keep them an enemy (especially after Gorbachev)

  • ..isolating anyone doesn’t work – we have to live together anyway – dialogue not isolation is the key – we all have transgressed in the past. Marxism started to crumble as the isolation was reduced….

  • If only Anylyser, emagicttman, Mr. Goodrich, Dan et al shared the self deprecation illustrated here by Moses and yourself. Anyway, you gave me a giggle fellows!

  • …I can’t help it either. And my wife is constantly calling me a fool for responding….oh well.

  • None of the above. His comment is overblown. I am simply calling him on it. Maybe he really believes what he wrote. I would like to know why.

  • As cynical as my question may sound, I asked it hoping progressivefan1 had a legitimate answer.

  • Give him a break Moses. Cuba is finally getting some recognition by the Western powers.That’s a big deal after years of isolation brought about of course by Fidel Castro’s adherence to Marxism which was a failed experiment long before the Castros realized it. Even Fidel eventually admitted that it didn’t work.

  • You’re right. Silly me, I took the bait.

  • Pedantic as well as paranoid! GROW UP!!!

  • Like emagicman’s observations on Mao and Lenin, these obviously obsurd comments are meant only to elicit a response or tweak a nose.

  • Improved French/Cuban relations may change the world? How?

  • Cuba reported a deal was signed with Total, the French oil firm for more exploration.
    Source: La francesa Total firma un acuerdo para la exploración petrolera en aguas cubanas | Diario de Cuba – http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1431424582_14518.html

    Strangely Total denies this:
    Source: France’s Total denies offshore oil exploration deal with Cuba –
    Yahoo Finance –
    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/total-denies-offshore-oil-exploration-084632428.html;_ylt=AwrC0Ca51lFVp0YAkg3QtDMD;_ylu=X3oDMTByNXQ0NThjBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM1BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg–

  • Very good developments – may change the world….

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