Mexico welcomes Obama’s move to embrace Cuba

Political analysts have signaled that the agreement to restore diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba could have positive economic consequences for Mexico.

barack-obama-cuba

U.S. President Barack Obama made the Cuba announcement on December 17

President Enrique Peña Nieto spoke with Cuban President Raul Castro on the phone and congratulated him following the announcement. The University of Guadalajara – a long-time supporter of the Castro regime – issued a statement thanking both governments for making “the decision to overcome the tensions and difficulties of their shared past.”

Cuban and Mexican relations have improved in recent years after over a decade of distance during two successive National Action Party (PAN) administrations. This is in part driven by commerce, which increased in 2010 and 2011 and has remained stable since.

Peña Nieto further strengthened ties by visiting the island and condoning 70 percent of its debt to Mexico.

“The clear message that these measures send to the hemisphere is that we all want Cuba to become an integral part of the region, to play its full role therein and to begin the process of removing the last vestiges of the Cold War in Latin America,” said former Mexico diplomat Andres Rozental.

Many experts now predict a bright bilateral future.

“There are going to be certain changes, though they won’t all be major,” said Tec de Monterrey Business Professor Manuel Valencia. “There won’t be a substantial rise in new businesses, but those that already have experience in the area will definitely take advantage of the situation.”

Fidel Castro launched his Cuban revolution in 1956, after sailing from Mexico in a yacht. Following the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista’s regime in 1959, Mexico maintained close diplomatic ties with its socialist neighbor, despite the hostility of the United States.

Yet when conservative Vicente Fox became president in 2000, he adopted a more hostile stance, which culminated in a spat between the two leaders. In 2002, Fox ordered Castro to rush away from a diplomatic summit in Mexico before then-U.S. President George W. Bush arrived. “Eat up and leave,” he was alleged to have said.

Obama’s announcement was greeted with concern by some commentators, who were unhappy that Canada and the Vatican, rather than Mexico, organized the secret talks between the nations. Historically, Mexico has prided itself on playing a mediating role in the region.

Twitter: @Stephentwoodman

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