Foreign Ministers Philip Hammond and Bruno Rodriguez
Foreign Ministers Philip Hammond and Bruno Rodriguez.  Photo:

HAVANA TIMES — The UK foreign minister, Philip Hammond, is in Cuba for the first visit by a head of British diplomacy to the island since the 1959 revolution, reported dpa news.

Hammond met Thursday afternoon with his Cuban counterpart, Bruno Rodriguez. They signed four memorandums of understanding in the areas of education, energy, culture and the financial and professional services, noted the Cuban media on Friday.

There is “great potential to further improve relations in the coming months and even years,” said Hammond.

“As Cuba enters a period of significant social and economic change, I am looking forward to demonstrating to the Cuban government and people that the UK is keen to forge new links across the Atlantic,” Hammond was quoted as saying by The Guardian.

“As the first British foreign secretary to visit Cuba since before the Cuban Revolution in 1959, this is an opportunity to hear for myself what Cuba thinks about its present challenges and where it sees its future,” he added.

Several European countries have approached the island recently after relations were at a minimum level for years.

France has led the approach to Cuba. François Hollande became in May 2015 the first French head of state to travel to the island. Cuba’s Raul Castro returned the visit in February this year to Paris.

During the last nine months Germany also sent its foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, and Deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel to make unprecedented visits to Havana. The Netherlands and Spain are other European countries that have sent senior representatives to Cuba.

Such visits are framed in a new policy of dialogue with Havana of the European Union (EU) as a whole. The EU seeks to improve relations with Cuba after years of cooling.

Brussels and Havana agreed in March to sign a treaty of political dialogue and cooperation, after two years of negotiations. Cuba was the only Latin American country with which the EU did not have a bilateral treaty of this nature. The treaty must be ratified by both parties.

The new policy of the European countries aims to encourage more changes in Cuba through dialogue and cooperation, as a way to support the slow economic opening initiated by the government of Raul Castro in recent years.

The EU approach to the Caribbean island has been driven by the historic thaw Cuba and the United States announced in December 2014.

The two old ideological enemies resumed diplomatic relations in July last year. US President Barack Obama, visited Havana in March.

7 thoughts on “UK Foreign Minister Visiting Cuba

  • British involvement in Cuba has been considerably less than Canadian involvement, but in each case Company Directors have been jailed for “corruption”. That usually comprises making additional ‘under the table’ payments to employees who are paid by the State at Cuban rates (equivalent to $30 per month or less) whereas the foreign ‘joint venture’ partner pays the State some $9,000 per employee per year. Also, Helms-Burton has meant that Directors of some of the foreign companies have been banned from entry to the US. including British and Canadian ones.
    Robert Burns wished that the Lord had enabled us to be able to see ourselves as others see us so it pays to be careful when criticizing other countries. Britain did not follow the US in seeking reciprocity for change. Like the Italian Foreign Minister for the EC, the British Foreign Minister rolled over and gave Bruno Rodriguez and Raul Castro what they want without any form of reciprocity – and shame on them, for the people of Cuba have experienced no change. In late January, Raul Castro was welcomed to the Elysee Palace where President Hollande treated him like a cat getting cream. So Europe including the UK should be examining its own actions and give consideration to the future of the people of Cuba living under a repressive regime and I say again with knowledge experiencing no change whatever.

  • But what Cubans actually try to do is to find a way to escape the repressive imposed system of the Castro family communist regime and to find some way to get to live within the shores of your country which you describe as an imperial aggressor. Currently there are some 40,000 en route in Equador, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Communism cannot quell that thirst for freedom that lies within humanity. It was Jose Marti who a century and a quarter ago wrote of his admiration for the freedom and opportunity which the US offered to its citizens – and he Mr. Goodrich was known as the Apostle of Cuba. If you were a Cuban, your views would change rapidly. Unfortunately you choose not to fully inform yourself by going and spending time in the country, resulting in evident ignorance of the reality.

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