Spain’s foreign minister will make a two-day visit to Cuba this weekend for talks with authorities, officials said, although it was not immediately known if he would try to meet ailing leader Fidel Castro. It’s the first official visit by a senior Spanish minister to the island in about 10 years. In other words, it’s a big deal for both Spain and Cuba.
Miguel Angel Moratinos will travel to the Caribbean island April 2-3, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. Top officials of the Spanish ministries of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation will accompany the foreign minister in his trip to the island. Miguel Angel Moratinos will hold talks with his Cuban counterpart Felipe Perez Roque and carry out a wide program of activities to include meetings with Cuban leaders. He will also tour places of cultural and historical interest.
Here are some pertinent economic figures, courtesy of the Spanish daily El Mundo:
1. Spain is now Cuba’s third largest foreign investor, behind Venezuela and China.
2. Trade between Spanish firms and the Castro brothers is worth currently about USD1.2 billion a year.
3. Trade between the two countries increased by a staggering 23 per cent in 2005-2006.
4. About a third of all joint ventures in Cuba involve Spanish firms, predominantly in the supposedly highly-profitable tourism and tobacco sectors.
5. The Castros owe Spanish firms about USD1.4 billion in outstanding debts, which the Cuban government has no intention of repaying in a hurry. If at all.