Spain PM visits Cuba, uses hotel banned to US visitors
HAVANA (AP) — A Spanish prime minister began visiting Cuba for the first time in three decades on Thursday, a historic trip that suggests a warming of relations between Cuba and the former colonial power.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was scheduled to meet with Cuban officials and intellectuals during the two-day trip. He also was scheduled to host business meetings in a hotel that the Trump administration recently put on a list of places banned to U.S. visitors. He was not expected to meet with dissidents.
Spanish-Cuban relations have seen years of ups and downs, reaching their lowest points when Madrid conditioned its ties and cooperation on a more open political model.
Accompanying Sanchez was Josep Borrell, Spain’s external affairs minister, and Reyes Maroto, minister of industry, trade and tourism, along with nearly two dozen businesspeople.
It’s been 32 years since a Spanish leader last visited the island, even though Spain is one of Cuba’s most important commercial partners. The previous visit was made by socialist Felipe Gonzalez, who served as prime minister from 1982 to 1996. Another former prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, visited in the late 1990s, but for an international summit, and his administration was known for being a harsh critic of Cuba.
Sanchez was scheduled to meet Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel and sign several agreements. On Friday, he was to host a meeting between Cuban and Spanish businesspeople at the recently opened Grand Packard Hotel, which is managed by Spanish company Iberostar and considered Cuba’s most luxurious hotel.
Last week, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump included the hotel on a list of places that U.S. citizens are banned from visiting as part of ongoing sanctions that Washington has placed on Cuba.
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