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The Presidents of Mexico and Cuba Are Relaunching Their Relationship

Presidents Enrique Peña Nieto and Raul Castro showered praise on each other at the meeting designed to send the message that a period of chilly relations is now forgotten.

by Martha Pskowski and Gabriela Gorbea
Nov 6 2015, 11:13pm

Photo via Presidencia de México

The presidents of Mexico and Cuba sought to bury the memory of a period of chilly bilateral relations this Friday with a meeting in the Mexican city of Merida.

"We have underlined the affection, respect and admiration that both nations have historically had for each other," Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said after the meeting. "And most importantly we have relaunched the bilateral relationship between two kindred countries."

Peña Neito also said the meeting included discussion of how to increase Mexican investment in Cuba as well as deals on migration and tourism.

"The ties between both countries are being renewed and strengthened," President Castro said.

The Cuban leader had participated in a summit of Latin American leaders held in Mexico in 2010, but this was his first state visit to the country since taking over the presidency from his brother Fidel in 2006.

Mexico holds a special place in Cuban revolutionary history, ever since the Castros and Che Guevara plotted the 1956 invasion to the island from Mexico City. The Mexican government also never cut diplomatic ties with Cuba, despite US pressure.

The relationship, however, became strained during the 2000 to 2006 government of Vicente Fox that joined the US in pressuring the island over its human rights record. They reached a low point when Fox asked Fidel Castro to leave a summit being held in Mexico early in order to avoid him bumping into George Bush.

Though relations had improved since then — and Peña Nieto visited Cuba in January 2014 — a certain distance remained. The fact that Mexico had lost its once special role as a diplomatic bridge was also underlined by the fact that it played no visible part in the sudden improvement of the island's relations with the the US.

"Now that Cuba and the United States are dialoging directly, Mexico, has to learn how to re-position itself," said Aranxta Tirado, of the National Autonomous University in Mexico City.  

Related: US and Cuba Announce Plans to Open Embassies in Each Other's Capitals

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