Canadian premier visits as Cuba scores string of diplomatic triumphs

HAVANA (AP) — With U.S. efforts to isolate Cuba flouted by its friends and foes alike, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien headed to Havana on Sunday to build on his nation’s growing ties with the communist-ruled island.
Chretien is one of the most important Western leaders to visit Cuba in years. His trip comes amid a string of victories in Cuba’s efforts to break out of a U.S.-backed diplomatic isolation.
Canada, like many European and Latin American nations, favors a path of “constructive engagement,” arguing that persuasion will be more effective in bringing change in Cuba.
Chretien will arrive at a symbol of Canada’s growing role in Cuba: a Canadian-financed terminal at Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport.
Canada and Mexico — the two U.S. partners in the North American Free Trade Area — are the only countries in the Americas that never broke relations with Cuba.
Several Latin American and Caribbean countries have re-established ties with Havana since the end of the Cold War and the disappearance of Cuban-backed efforts to foment revolution abroad.
The Dominican Republic this month renewed full diplomatic relations. The foreign ministers of Mexico and Brazil plan to visit soon. Several countries are pressing for Cuba’s readmission to the Organization of American States.