PARIS – French President François Hollande asked the United States on Monday to end that “vestige of the Cold War,” his description of Washington’s 53-year-old economic embargo against Cuba.
Hollande welcomed at the Elysees Palace the first Cuban president to make a state visit to France, Raul Castro, with whom he spoke of strengthening economic ties as the way for Cuba to “take its place” among the nations of the world.
In a joint statement to a press conference during which no questions were accepted, Hollande made a forceful call to U.S. President Barack Obama to end the embargo.
“Obama, who has already made numerous moves, should, as he himself said, wind it up once and for all and let this vestige of the Cold War come to an end,” he said.
While Obama has advocated an end to the embargo, only the U.S. Congress has the authority to eliminate the sanctions.
“France has always been convinced that, despite all the international tensions that have existed, there was a need to raise the embargo,” Hollande said, recalling his historic visit to the island last May, when he became one of the first Western heads of state in decades to travel to Cuba.
In their talk, the two leaders gave particular importance to the accord reached last December 12 by Cuba and the Paris Club of creditor nations to restructure a debt of $11.1 billion, payment of which has been suspended since 1986, including more than $4 billion owed to France.
The creditors pardoned that day $8.5 billion in interest owed, while the island committed to paying the remaining $2.6 billion over a period of 18 years.
Thanks to that accord, Castro told the press, “more favorable conditions are being created to develop financial relations and execute new joint plans and projects.”
Also signed on Monday were six bilateral accords in different fields, including the economy, tourism, fair trade, railroads and development aid.
“France has been, is and will be an important partner of Cuba. We are two countries with different historical, cultural, geographical and political realities. Nonetheless, the friendly, productive and respectful relations we maintain show it is possible to set ourselves goals and projects in common,” Castro said.