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ARGENTINA | 30-05-2018 16:00

Cabinet Chief Peña to honour fallen British soldiers in London

Marcos Peña to attend ceremony paying tribute to slain soldiers at St. Paul's Cathedral as part of whistlestop tour to three nations taking in Cuba, the US and the UK.

Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña will lay a wreath and pay homage to fallen British soldiers from the South Atlantic War next week, during a stop in London on his three-nation foreign tour.

The ceremony will take place for Monday, June 4, at the iconic St. Paul’s Cathedral in the heart of the British capital.

The event comes just 15 days after British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson paid his own tribute to fallen Argentine soldiers in the South Atlantic War during a trip to Buenos Aires.

On May 20, Johnson was joined by Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie and Defence Minister Oscar Aguad as he laid a wreath dedicated to the dead on both sides and paid his respects to the fallen at a brief ceremony at the Monumento a los Caidos en Malvinas (“Monument to the Fallen on the Malvinas”).

Peña’s coming homage in London will serve as a reciprocal gesture to Johnson’s actions in Buenos Aires. It is anticipated that the Cambiemos (Let’s Change) politician will also lay a wreath along similar lines. However, it will not be the first time that an Argentine government representative has made such a gesture – former president Carlos Menem did the same back in 1998.

Turned the page

After strained relations during the Kirchnerite era, the Macri administration has turned the page on relations with Downing Street. The visit is further proof of the two nations’ desire to reset relations, take advantage of business and investment opportunities and improve bilateral ties beyond the dispute over the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands. 

While in London, Peña will also hold a series of investors who have expressed interest over opportunities in Argentina. According to reports, they will includes representatives from firms involved in communications, mining and renewable energies.

This week further reports emerged that Transport for London (TfL), the operator of the London Underground system, is keen on securing a multi-million dollar contract with Buenos Aires City to operate the city’s underground network known as the Subte. As the Times reported in February, TfL is one of a number of international underground transport operators to have expressed interest in the contract.

Peña is not expected to meet with British Prime Minister Theresa May during his visit, according to reports.

Visit to Havana

Peña, President Mauricio Macri’s influential Cabinet chief, set off on Monday for a tour that will last less than 10 days and see stops in Cuba, the United States and the United Kingdom. 

Later that day, the Cabinet chief arrived in Havana to meet officials from the Cuban government and “work on bilateral issues.” He was accompanied by a delegation that also included Strategic Affairs Secretary Fulvio Pompeo.

After being received by Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, the Argentine delegation then held a meeting with Cuba’s vice-president of the Council of Ministers, Planning and Economy Minister Ricardo Cabrisas.

A brief Cuban official statement released after the meeting said that Cabrisas and Argentine officials "discussed the state of economic ties and cooperation between the two countries."

Peña also reportedly met with Argentina’s newly appointed Ambassador to Cuba Javier Figueroa.

Cuba recently entered a new era after president Raúl Castro stepped down, ending decades in which he and his brother, the late Fidel Casto, ruled the Communist island as a one-party state. However, the new president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, is also a member of the governing Communist Party (PCC) and is not expected to dramatically alter the island’s path, with Raúl Castro still involved in the day-to-day running of things.

Historically, Argentina has been an important creditor for the island state and, despite the two today being ideologically opposed, it is Cuba’s fifth-biggest trading partner. In 2016, trade between the two totalled US$428 million. Some local reports suggested that Peña would seek to explore the possibility of Argentina getting money back from the historical debt it holds, some of which dates back to 1973.

New York stop

The Foreign Ministry said Peña would be joined by Finance Minister Luis Caputo for the US leg of his trip, which will include New York and include meetings with representatives from US firms. 

Officials refused to confirm if Peña would relocate to Washington for meetings with officials from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) as it negotiations a credit agreement.

The trip will offer further international exposure to Peña, one of President Macri’s most-trusted allies. Officials in the government, however, told local outlets that the Cabinet chief’s foreign trip was not part of a strategy to sideline Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie.

"It is a journey with an exploratory purpose, to relaunch bilateral relations and bring our positions closer," an unnamed Foreign Ministry official told Infobae.

- TIMES

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