Several months after Mexico pulled its National Bank of Foreign Commerce from the Cuban capital amid a diplomatic spat, Mexican businessmen traveled to the island to negotiate a future presence here.
The entrepreneurs want “to return and install an office representing businesses interested in working with Cuba,” said Cuauhtemoc Martinez, president of Canacintra, Mexico’s association of industries.
Martinez and other Canacintra representatives met with officials of Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce to discuss opening a Canacintra office here “as soon as possible,” he said Monday.
“All the spaces that we aren’t occupying in an open, globalized economy are occupied by others,” said Martinez. The Canacintra office in Havana would also represent Cuban firms wanting to establish a presence in Mexico, he added.
Martinez said Canacintra, which has a seat on the board of Mexico’s National Bank of Foreign Commerce, had recommended the bank remain in Cuba.
But the bank, known as Bancomext, pulled out of Cuba in early April.
On May 21, Bancomext officials confirmed the bank had won an Italian court order to freeze US$40 million in assets that Cuba owes Mexico.
The action was part of Mexico’s effort to recover nearly US$400 million it says it is owed by Cuba, and came amid a major diplomatic crisis between the countries.
During an earlier debt renegotiation with Mexico, Cuban officials agreed to guarantee repayments with revenues from the telephone company Etecsa, which is owned jointly by Cuban government and an Italian firm.
But Cuba canceled those guarantees in April 2002 during another diplomatic spat and Bancomext challenged that action before an Italian court and the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce, which handles international business disputes.
Approximately 200 Mexican companies do business with Cuba, and about 50 have offices here.
Mexico and Cuba withdrew their ambassadors from each other’s country in May amid diplomatic disputes.
Mexico was angered by Cuban allegations that a Mexican official arrested in Havana on fraud charges was part of a larger political conspiracy within Mexico.
Officials also said members of Cuba’s Communist Party were holding unauthorized political meetings in Mexico, and took offense at comments by Cuban leader Fidel Castro that Mexican President Vicente Fox was a lackey of the United States.
Cuba was angered by Mexico’s criticism of its human rights record.