Mexican President Felipe Calderon stopped in Cuba this week, en route to the Colombian port city of Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas.
Calderon’s visit to the island nation is interesting for several reasons. Mexico-Cuba relations were strained in 2002 after then-President Vicente Fox criticized Cuba’s human rights record. That same year, the Mexican leader invited Cuba to attend a summit but, in a private conversation, Fox asked Cuba's Fidel Castro to leave Mexico before then-President George W. Bush arrived. Castro taped the two men talking and later made it public. This trip marks Calderon's first visit to Cuba since he took office nearly six years ago.
The Mexican leader’s visit is also interesting because Cuban leaders will not attend the Summit of the Americas because of U.S. pressure. The Obama administration has said Cuba should undertake democratic and economic reforms before it is allowed to participate. But it’s likely that the real issue was that if Cuban leader Raul Castro was invited, President Obama would not show up. It's an election year and Obama doesn't need any foreign policy headaches in Latin America. Moreover, Cuba participates in other regional organizations and meetings. However, the U.S. increasingly takes part in fewer regional gatherings and is not a member of a growing list of trade and political unions in the hemisphere.