Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is set to visit Cuba on Tuesday, 40 years after his father became the first leader of a NATO country to visit the Caribbean nation following its communist revolution.
Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, are heading to Cuba where, according to Canadian government officials talking to Toronto Star, the prime minister will reinforce trade links between the two countries and lay emphasis on his country’s “respectful engagement” with Cuba in the face of uncertainty thrown up by the United States electing Donald Trump as president.
Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. reestablished relations with Cuba after decades of animosity. The administration announced the loosening of economic sanctions and restoration of diplomatic relations. However, with Trump’s election, there may be an about-turn on the country’s position.
Trump has sent mixed signals on Cuba through his presidential campaign. While he accepted Obama’s move earlier in his campaign, the construction mogul later said he would keep the embargo in place and close the recently reopened U.S. embassy in Havana.
His election has led to a degree of panic within Cuba and the country is relaunching its military exercises hours after Trudeau’s arrival in Havana. The Cuban army issued warnings to locals over the expected movement of troops, planes and explosions around the country, the Canadian Press reported.
“The best way to stay on the ground is to keep on having a strong relationship with Cuba no matter who the U.S. president was,” said a Canadian official, denying that Trump’s election sparked any change in Ottawa’s approach towards Havana. “It has nothing to do with the presidential election. We will continue to be present in Cuba and we will continue to deepen our cultural and our economic ties.”
After Pierre Elliott Trudeau’s visit and a brief one by Jean Chrétien in 1998, the 44-year-old is the third Canadian prime minister to visit the island nation. In his address, Trudeau is expected to show solidarity with Cuba’s civil society groups and deliver a message on human rights, ranging from pluralism, women’s rights and those of other marginalized sections of society like the LGBT community.
“Whether it’s specific to election and multi-party elections, I think he’ll talk about the importance of strong governance and structures,” the officials reportedly said, refraining from using the word democracy.
The Canadian leader will meet Cuban President Raúl Castro along with social workers, students and Canadian business people during his visit to the country. The officials added that if Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s health permits, Trudeau will also make an effort to meet his father’s old friend, who was an honorary pallbearer at his funeral in 2000.
After Cuba, Trudeau will also travel to Argentina and Peru for the meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders.