By ANDRES OPPENHEIMER
Herald Staff Writer
OPORTO, Portugal -- Cuban President Fidel Castro and Spanish leader Jose
Maria Aznar put a formal end to a 2-year-old rocky stretch in their relationship by
stating after a private meeting here that they expect to significantly improve their
countries' bilateral ties.
Castro and Aznar were among the 21 heads of state who arrived here over
weekend for the one-day Ibero-American summit, which officially starts today.
The meeting is to focus on the perils of globalization, and -- according to a draft
final statement obtained by The Herald -- will call on industrialized countries to
``adopt more efficient measures'' to alleviate the turmoil in world financial markets.
As in previous Ibero-American summits, one of the few major regional meetings
where the United States is not invited, Castro became the meeting's main attraction
as soon as he arrived here Saturday. Portugal and the nearby Spanish region of
Galicia house some of the most active pro-Castro groups in Europe.
All major Portuguese newspapers led their front pages with pictures of
Saturday. The influential daily Jornal de Noticias carried a big picture of the Cuban
president in the olive green uniform he wore on his arrival here, under the headline,
``Summit at Fidel's rhythm.''
The turnaround in Spanish-Cuban relations is important for Cuba, because
has always been one of the biggest sources of foreign investment and tourism to
the island. Relations between the two countries took a sharp turn for the worse
after Aznar took office in 1996 and publicly criticized the absence of fundamental
freedoms on the island.
At a joint appearance following their meeting Saturday, Aznar said the
expressed their wishes that relations between the two countries ``follow a positive
path, intensely positive.'' Castro, in turn, said the meeting had produced
``considerable progress,'' and described their relations as excellent.
Spanish Foreign Minister Abel Matutes, who is expected to make a four-day
to Cuba next month, announced later that Spanish King Juan Carlos I ``will
probably'' make his first official visit to Cuba next year. Matutes said the king may
actually go twice to Cuba next year, since he also will attend the 1999
Ibero-American Summit, scheduled to take place in Havana.
In another of several meetings, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and
Ecuadorean President Jamil Mahuad gathered with leaders of Brazil, Argentina
and Chile, which are acting as de facto arbitrators in a decades-old Peru-Ecuador
border conflict. At the end of the meeting, Brazilian President Fernando Henrique
Cardoso said a definitive solution to the conflict could be reached as early as next
Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald