Mexican companies eye business in Cuba as Castro visits
By Dave Graham
MERIDA, Mexico Nov 6 (Reuters) - After standing by Communist Cuba during its years of international isolation, Mexico hopes to take advantage of Havana's thawing relations with the United States to become a leading business player on the island.
For the first time since Washington and Havana announced a historic rapprochement last December, Cuban President Raul Castro will on Friday visit Mexico, a country eager to stake its claim as Cuba's principal bridge to Latin America.
Castro will meet his Mexican counterpart President Enrique Pena Nieto in the picturesque colonial-era city of Merida just a short flight from Cuba on the Yucatan peninsula.
Talks are expected to focus on business and migration after a recent jump in Cubans reaching Mexico - going in the opposite direction from Raul, Fidel Castro and Ernesto "Che" Guevara 59 years ago when they and their band of revolutionaries left the Mexican port of Tuxpan to oust Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.
Boasting that it is lining up more investment projects there than any other nation in Latin America, Mexico could reap major rewards from helping to reverse the effects of more than half a century of U.S. trade embargoes and animosity toward Cuba.
"Cuba needs lots of infrastructure: highway infrastructure, communications infrastructure, hydraulic infrastructure and there will be many opportunities for companies," said Federico Martinez, president of Mexican construction firm Tradeco.
Spanish hotels and Brazilian conglomerate Odebrecht are among foreign players already in Cuba, but entrepreneurs like Martinez note that Mexico's proximity and historic ties put them in a strong position to capitalize on new business.
International development loans to Cuba would likely set that in motion soon, Martinez added. Continuación...