HAVANA – Spain’s former astronaut and acting Science, Innovation and Universities Minister Pedro Duque began his two-day visit to Cuba this Monday focused on education, which includes the signing of a bilateral cooperation accord and a meeting with the first Cuban cosmonaut, Gen. Arnaldo Tamayo.
Duque, who landed in Havana Sunday night, started his work agenda Monday by meeting with Higher Education VP Miriam Alpiza.
The Spanish minister will sign a memo of understanding with the head of Cuban higher education, Jose Ramon Saborido, for educational and scientific collaboration between the two countries.
The agreement will “create an umbrella under which we can carry out further collaboration between Spain and Cuba, such as joint doctorates and university degrees equally valid in both countries,” Duque said in a brief talk with the press.
“We also want to make use of the enthusiasm shown by Cuba’s science students about studying for a doctorate, moving away and learning somewhere else, and in that way contribute to Spanish science as well,” he added.
Before signing the accord, Duque scheduled a meeting with rectors of Cuba’s leading universities.
To be held at the iconic University of Havana is a meeting led by the Spanish minister and Gen. Tamayo, conceived as a chat-conference open to the public, at which the two former astronauts will reflect on their experiences and other matters.
Duque went down in history in 1998 as the second space-traveling Spaniard (some consider him the first, since Miguel Lopez-Alegria, who orbited three years before, had acquired US citizenship), while Tamayo was the first non-US American to achieve that feat, almost two decades before in 1980.
The trip to Havana by Spain’s head of Science, Innovation and Universities came in response to an invitation from Saborido when he visited Madrid last November.
Cuba and Spain have been getting closer over the last few years in their bilateral relations, which crystallized with the visit to Havana of Spanish acting Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, also last November.
Still pending is the state visit of Spanish royalty to Cuba, which could occur at the end of the year and would be the first trip of its kind by a Spanish monarch to the island, since Juan Carlos I went to Havana twice but not in an official capacity.