| HAVANA, June 24
HAVANA, June 24 Mexico has more investment
projects under negotiation with Cuba than any other Latin
American country as it seeks to strengthen relations within the
region and engage with the Communist-run nation, the country's
head trade official in Cuba says.
Luis Cabrera, who runs the Cuban office of ProMexico, a
Mexican government agency promoting foreign trade, said in an
interview on Tuesday that the initiative began long before the
United States and Cuba announced in December they would restore
diplomatic ties and work to normalize relations.
He said two of six projects at a Chinese-style development
zone at the port of Mariel, just west of Havana, are Mexican:
Devox General Paint got approval earlier this month to build a
factory there, while in February meat-packer Richmeat de Mexico
became the first international company to get the go-ahead to
operate at Mariel.
Venezuela, Brazil and other Latin American countries have
also expressed confidence in Cuba, but the Mexicans appear to be
ahead of the pack of foreign businesses and government agencies
that have flocked to the island nation following its
rapprochement with the United States.
Venezuela is the most vested in Cuba, providing its
socialist ally with oil on generous terms and engaging in
several large-scale joint ventures. Brazilian development bank
BNDES lent Cuba $800 million to build the Mariel port.
Mexico is opting for smaller-scale ventures with 19
companies working on projects in food, beverages, packaging,
chemicals, renewable energy and other sectors.
"We have seven more projects being considered at Mariel and
another 15 around the country, all of which were proposed well
before December and a few of which we expect will be approved
soon," Cabrera said.
The Mexican government believes Cuba has begun a "profound
process of reform," he said. "Every country has its
peculiarities but learns it must adapt. You can only expect so
much today or tomorrow, but we think it is important to be
Mexico forgave 70 percent of a Cuban debt worth nearly $500
million in 2013 and appointed one of its most senior diplomats,
Juan Jose Bremer, as ambassador.
Historically strong relations between Cuba and Mexico soured
when Mexico's conservative National Action Party held power
between 2000 and 2012.
The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which regained power
in 2012, sees an influential relationship with Cuba as central
to improving ties throughout Latin America, Cabrera said.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Daniel Trotta; and Peter