It was almost 50 years ago in 1961 that El Salvador broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba after Fidel Castro's successful communist revolution in the country. Through most of those 50 years, a fierce anti-communism among the conservative ruling powers in El Salvador made the two countries cold war enemies. During El Salvador's civil conflict, Cuba provided moral and other support to the FMLN guerrillas fighting the US-supported government.
So this week's visit by Mauricio Funes, the country's first elected president from the left wing FMLN, was filled with symbolism. The trip follows Funes' re-establishing El Salvador's diplomatic ties with Cuba in June 2009, a step which Funes took as one of his first official acts after assuming the presidency.
The Latin American Herald Tribune describes the content of Funes visit to Cuba:
Funes’ agenda on Monday included a two-hour meeting with Raul Castro and continued on Tuesday with a tour of the Latin American Medical School in Havana and attending the accord-signing ceremony for treaties on education, culture and health.
Upon his arrival in Cuba, and on several occasions during his stay, Funes emphasized the intention of his government to redress an “historic sin” that had resulted in the two nations not having diplomatic relations for half a century. Diplomatic ties were restored only after Funes took office in 2009.
The Salvadoran leader expressed his support for building a relationship of “mutual benefit” with the communist island and informed President Castro of his interest in strengthening relations across the board.
Funes especially emphasized the cooperation and advice of Cuban specialists in promoting El Salvador’s new Comprehensive National Health System.
The Salvadoran traveled to the Caribbean island accompanied by three of his Cabinet ministers and about 50 businessmen from the hotel, pharmaceutical, food production, tourist and aeronautical sectors, among others.