Cuba and Spain re-establish ties

 

Cuba and Spain yesterday took a big step toward mending relations by signing a broad agreement that re-establishes cooperation halted in 2003 after Havana jailed 75 dissidents.

Spanish International Cooperation Minister Leire Pajin said the deal includes support for small business, the environment, food security and joint efforts in other countries such as Haiti.

Mr Pajin said after the signing ceremony in Havana that it was not yet possible to set an amount of aid for the first year of the agreement in 2008 because some projects were still in the planning stages.

Spain is Cuba's third-biggest trading partner at around $1 billion per year and a major investor in the island nation.

"We are going to resume cooperation. The challenge is to demonstrate to other European countries that we can work together based on respect and equality," Cuban Minister of Foreign Investment and Economic Cooperation Marta Lomas told the media on Friday.

The European Union is split over Cuba. Spain's new Socialist government favors engagement as its former colony approaches a post-Castro era. But other EU members want to keep up pressure for political change in Cuba.

Cuba rejected EU aid in 2003 after European criticism of Havana for suppressing human rights

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In April Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos traveled to Cuba to sign an agreement to renew cooperation without conditions, discuss human rights issues and improve economic relations through renegotiation of Cuba's debt.