PARIS – Cuban President Raul Castro is paying a state visit to France, in the first European foray by a Cuban leader in two decades, as Cuba opens up its economy.
The trip comes after a breakthrough deal was reached in Paris in December lightening Cuba's foreign debt — and days after France hosted the leader of another long-time pariah state: Iran.
Castro is receiving a formal welcome at the Arc de Triomphe monument Monday and will attend a state dinner with French President Francois Hollande. The Cuban delegation is also meeting French business leaders and the UNESCO chief.
The French government was instrumental in securing the debt relief deal. Hollande was the first French leader to visit Cuba in half a century, with a trip in May aimed at boosting trade.