Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Thursday November 17, 2016
Trudeau brings message of open doors to Cuba, South America
Justin Trudeau’s arrival Tuesday in Cuba – the first official visit by a Canadian prime minister in almost two decades – is the first step in the Liberal government’s week-long bid to boost Canadian trade, investment and engagement in the region.
The visit is a necessary and symbolic stop en route to Argentina and Peru because Cuba is a political and diplomatic gateway to the Americas, said Allan Culham, Canada’s former ambassador to the Organization of American States.
“A visit to Cuba is a rite of passage in the Americas,” Culham said. “You can’t have any credibility in the Americas without having gone to Cuba.”
The Prime Minister’s Office has publicly said the visit would focus on trade and investment, but the context of those talks has changed in the last week with U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s tough stances on free trade.
Thanks to places like Argentina, where liberal democracy is being embraced, Canadians may be able to play a more influential role in South America, said Culham – particularly at a time when the U.S. is turning dramatically inwards.
“This is a real opportunity for us on the hemispheric stage to make a difference both politically and practically.”
Canada’s reputation in South America has taken a hit in the last decade from concerns about the environmental and social effects of Canadian mining operations, said John Kirk, a professor in the department of Spanish and Latin American studies at Dalhousie University in Halifax.
“We have done a dismal job,” Kirk said.
“I’ve got students in several places in Latin America that have taken the maple leaf off the backpack precisely because of the role of (former prime minister) Stephen Harper.”
In Cuba, Trudeau is scheduled to meet Tuesday with president Raul Castro shortly after his arrival in Havana before attending a state dinner.
There is no scheduled meeting with Fidel Castro, the former Cuban leader who was an honorary pallbearer at Pierre Trudeau’s funeral in 2000. (Source: MacLean’s)