Bachelet Kicks Off Her Official Visit to Cuba With a Gathering of Artists / 14yMedio

The president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, attended a meeting with Cuban intellectuals at the headquarters of the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC) where she was hosted by its president, Miguel Barnet. (Alejandro Ernesto / EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE via 14ymedio, Yeny García, Havana, 8 January 2018 — Chilean president Michelle Bachelet began her official visit to Cuba on Sunday — her penultimate trip abroad as head of state — with a gathering of the island’s leading artists and the signing of a collaboration agreement in film restoration and promotion.

Bachelet arrived in Havana in the early hours of Sunday and later visited the headquarters of the official Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (UNEAC), where she met behind closed doors with its president, the writer Miguel Barnet, and the famous actor Jorge Perugorría.

Barnet, author of the acclaimed Biography of a Cimarron (1966), had a short private meeting with the union president, who showed her the gardens of the house occupied by the organization in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood.

Later, at the Villa Manuela Gallery, Bachelet attended the signing of a collaboration agreement between Chile’s National Council of Culture and the Arts and the state-run Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC).

Chile and ICAIC agreed to collaborate in the identification of patrimonial films to be restored, in addition to promoting the exhibition of Cuban films in Chile, ICAIC president Roberto Smith explained to the press.

Smith highlighted the «historic links» between the cinematographies of both nations, especially the Viña del Mar Film Festival of 1967, to which Havana’s New Latin American Film Festival «declares itself indebted.» Strengthening the alliance between both countries’ filmmaking is «an old aspiration» of Cuba, stressed the official.

This Monday Michelle Bachelet will start her second and last day of her official visit to Havana with the inauguration of a business forum at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.

Businessmen traveling in the presidential delegation in search of new opportunities for Chilean investments in the Island, which currently amount to 52 million dollars, will participate in the bilateral meeting.

Bachelet will also visit a school of education named after the former Chilean president Salvador Allende (1970-1973), where the signing of a bilateral collaboration agreement in the healthcare sector will take place.

The Chilean president will meet Monday afternoon with her Cuban counterpart, Raúl Castro, who will receive her at the Palace of the Revolution, the seat of Government.

Before that meeting, the Chilean president will offer the traditional tribute at the monument to José Martí, in the emblematic Plaza de la Revolución.

Cuba is the penultimate country to which Bachelet will travel as head of state; her final trip will be to Japan. In March she will hand over her office to former president Sebastián Piñera, the winner in the most recent Chilean presidential elections.

Bachelet’s trip to Cuba has generated criticism among both the opposition and government sectors in her country, who do not see the reason for it and demand that the outgoing president reject «the violation of human rights» on the island.

The Chilean government’s spokesperson, Paula Narváez, disagreed with the reproaches, saying that Bachelet «is exercising her faculties as president of the Republic visiting a country where there is a bilateral agenda to be addressed which has been clarified by the foreign minister.»

Cuba and Chile have relations dating back to the 1960s, when Cuba sent doctors to help the victims of the tsunami and earthquakes in the Chilean town of Valdivia.

Cuban emergency brigades also traveled to Chile after the earthquakes of February 27, 2010, in Rancagua, and April 24, 2017, in Valparaíso.

The visits in the 1970s of Cuban President Fidel Castro to Santiago, and from Chilean President Salvador Allende to Havana, are among the milestones of the bilateral relationship.

Michelle Bachelet visited the Cuban revolutionary leader, now deceased, in his retirement during her trip to Havana in 2009, the first by a leader of her country to Cuba since 1972.

The president of Chile also attended the signing of the historic bilateral ceasefire between the Government of Colombia and the FARC guerrillas in June 2016, which took place in the Cuban capital.

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