Spanish premier Pedro Sanchez agreed with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel to deepen bilateral political ties on Thursday, at the start of the first official visit by a Spanish leader to the Caribbean island in three decades.
The two leaders signed an agreement instituting annual high-level political dialogue meetings between Spain and Cuba, touching on an array of topics including human rights.
Relations between Cuba and the European Union have steadily improved since being formally relaunched in 2016 after a two-decade chill, even as they have festered between the island and the United States (US).
This is the first official visit by a Spanish Prime Minister since that of Sanchez’s fellow social democrat Felipe Gonzalez in 1986. Spain is Cuba’s third largest trading partner and maintains strong cultural ties with its former colony.
Sanchez and Diaz-Canel, who succeeded Raul Castro as president in April, also agreed to increase cultural cooperation on Thursday, after holding talks in Havana’s Revolution Palace.
Sanchez, who is travelling with executives from two dozen companies, will on Friday morning inaugurate a Spanish-Cuban business forum in a hotel that the administration of US President Donald Trump recently added to a list of places banned to US travellers.
Spanish-Cuban annual bilateral commerce is already around $1.3 billion, according to Cuban data. The tourism sector is dominated by alliances between Spanish hotel chains and Cuban companies.