Cuba-Canada, A Seventy-Year Friendship
By: Jesús Adonis
Cuba and Canada are celebrating 70 years of diplomatic relations, or “70 years of friendship,“ as the slogan read for the 14th Canadian Studies Seminar recently organized by the University of Havana.
Over the course of different events, Cuban academics from the island‘s seven Canadian Studies departments and guests from the northern nation, along with students and other experts, exchanged views on topics of bilateral interest. Some of the themes on the agenda were scientific collaboration, the fight against Ebola, tourism, and foreign policy in the Western world.
Additionally, they debated the image of Cuba in Canadian media and aspects of the cultural and political links between the two countries.
The premise of the multidisciplinary encounter was “academic dialogue on solidarity and understanding as a bridge that brings people closer”.
Canadian Professor John Kirk of Dalhousie University, a longtime friend and collaborator of Cuban institutions and guest of honor, eulogized about the lengthy and uninterrupted relations between Ottawa and Havana, based, in his view, on mutual respect, mutual understanding, and non interference in domestic affairs.
Speaking at the opening conference Kirk said that such principles could serve as a template for conversations presently underway between Cuba and the United States.
The expert commented that, in spite of profound ideological differences, conflicting conceptions regarding international affairs, and unequal levels of development, Cuba and Canada have maintained good relations and a clear political willingness to collaborate on Latin American affairs. He stressed that he could safely say that the normal relations between Ottawa and Havana are based on nothing but solid principles.
The existence of more than 25 Cuban solidarity groups in Canada and the yearly organization of the “Terry Fox Marathon” in Cuba, are symbolic landmarks of the friendly relationship between both nations. Canada, accounting for 48 percent of all visitors and a 14 percent rise in 2014, is presently the principal market for tourism in Cuba and the Sherritt International Corporation has important investments in nickel and hydrocarbon extraction on the island.
Meanwhile, Canadian ambassador to Cuba, Yves Gagnon, told Cubaplus that the high educational level of the Cuban population is one of the main attractions for foreign investment.
According to the diplomat, this is the specific and unique characteristic that sets Cuba apart from its neighbors and “might favor strategic investments that can avail of such wealth”.
Gagnon said that the present situation between Cuba and the U.S. should not alter the economic ties between his country and the Caribbean nation in any significant manner, while indicating, however, that each investment decision would be made on an individual basis.
In the context of access to foreign capital, technology, and markets, sought through a new Foreign Investment Act, Gagnon explained that the Cuban government is seeking investors and “we are accustomed to competing with every country in the world, everywhere in the world”. The ambassador said that “regardless of the jurisdiction, Canadian companies face fierce competition” adding that, “from that perspective, things in Cuba will not be any different, no easier and no more difficult than they are in the world at large”.