Foreign Policy Blogs

Gentle pressure from the gentlest neighbor

Photo: AFPIn spite of the decades of pressure coming from the United States, Canada has maintained consistently cordial relations with Cuba—in fact, Canada and Mexico were the only two countries in the hemisphere to maintain uninterrupted diplomatic relations with Cuba following the revolution in 1959. [Interesting Wikipedia fact of the week: Former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau and Fidel Castro were personal friends, and Castro was among Pierre Trudeau’s pallbearers at his funeral in 2000].

The island remains one of the most popular travel destinations for Canadian citizens, and Canadian travelers are the chief source of tourism for Cuba. Considering tourism is Cuba’s top hard-currency earning industry, the relationship with Canada can naturally be considered an important one.

So when Peter Kent, Canada’s top diplomat for the Americas, spoke this week, Havana no doubt listened, at least more than it is inclined to do for other international actors. Kent said that Canadian officials spoke to representatives from Havana in Ottawa about Canadian citizens currently detained in Cuba, including a 19-year-old that has been held since April after a car accident. And Canada was still as inoffensive and accommodating as could possibly be expected in expressing concerns, as Kent reported:

“While aware that Cuban law allows for a lengthy period of investigation, Canadian officials expressed their concern that the investigation into this matter is taking so long.”

This very diplomatic approach from a longtime strategic partner might well elicit a positive response from Havana.



Melissa Lockhart Fortner

Melissa Lockhart Fortner is Senior External Affairs Officer at the Pacific Council on International Policy in Los Angeles, having served previously as Senior Programs Officer for the Council. From 2007-2009, she held a research position at the University of Southern California (USC) School of International Relations, where she closely followed economic and political developments in Mexico and in Cuba, and analyzed broader Latin American trends. Her research considered the rise and relative successes of Latin American multinationals (multilatinas); economic, social and political changes in Central America since the civil wars in the region; and Wal-Mart’s role in Latin America, among other topics. Melissa is a graduate of Pomona College, and currently resides in Pasadena, California, with her husband, Jeff Fortner.

Follow her on Twitter @LockhartFortner.