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Francois Hollande Meets Fidel Castro in Havana

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Francois Hollande has arrived in Havana to meet former Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a historic trip to the Communist island.

The French president is using the one-day trip to Cuba to build business and diplomatic relations five months after a detente between Havana and Washington.

Fidel Castro and Francois Hollande’s meeting was due at 15:00 local time on May 11, away from TV cameras, said the Elysee Palace.

Francois Hollande is the first French president to visit Cuba since 1898.

Speaking at the University of Havana, Francois Hollande said France would do its utmost to ensure that “the measures which have so badly harmed Cuba’s development can finally be repealed”.Francois Hollande in Cuba

Francois Hollande was referring to the US trade embargo with Cuba, which remains in place, although relations between the US and Cuba have improved in recent months.

He was due to meet his current Cuban counterpart, Fidel Castro’s brother and successor Raul, later on Monday evening.

The visit is the first trip by a Western head of state to the Communist island since the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the US was announced in December 2014.

Francois Hollande announced plans to double the number of scholarships to enable Cuban students to continue their studies in France, as part of attempts to increase academic and scientific co-operation between the two nations.

Earlier on Monday, Francois Hollande bestowed France’s highest award, the Legion of Honour, on the head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega.


The Cuban Catholic Church has acted as a mediator between dissidents and the Communist government.

Unlike some other European countries, France has long maintained reasonably good relations with Cuba and wants to benefit from the new economic openness.

After landing at Havana airport, Francois Hollande said the visit was a moment of “great emotion”.

Before arriving, Francois Hollande told reporters that France sought to “be the first among European nations, and the first among Western nations, to be able to say to the Cubans that we will be at their side if they decide themselves to take needed steps toward opening up”.

A number of high-ranking US and European politicians have visited Cuba since December 17, when the US and Cuba announced they would move towards re-establishing diplomatic ties.

They include New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, EU Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini and top diplomats from Japan and Russia.

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