Old Etonian Tory minister in 1st govt. visit to Cuba in 10 years, to plead for doctors vs. Ebola

An Eton-educated Tory has become the first minister to visit Communist Cuba in 10 years, the Foreign Office said today.

Hugo Swire is holding meetings with the country’s revolutionary government to secure more support to tackle the Ebola crisis in West Africa.

Cuba is sending hundreds of doctors to work in British aid centres in Sierra Leone.

Hugo Swire (left), the Conservative Foreign Office minister, is in Cuba to hold talks with the Government of Raul Castro (right)

Mr Hugo Swire (right) spoke to Cuban boxer Felix Savon (left) after signing an agreement of cooperation with Cuban first vice president of National Institute of Sports, Education and Recreation Roberto Leon Richards

Mr Swire, a former director of Sotheby’s auction house and army officer, said it had been ‘too long’ since a British minister had visited Cuba.

The Foreign Office said Mr Swire arrived in Cuba on Wednesday and is set to leave the Caribbean island tomorrow.

He is due to meet Mariela Castro, the daughter of Cuban president Raúl Castro and the niece of former president Fidel Castro.

Mr Swire said: ‘It has been too long since a UK Minister was in Cuba, but I’m very happy to rectify that. Although we naturally have our differences, we work together where we can, including on the response to the Ebola epidemic, where Cuba is playing a vital international role.

‘Cuba is sending hundreds of medical professionals to UK-run facilities in Sierra Leone on top of staff already in that country and in Guinea.

‘I am proud that we can work together on such an important cause, and one which the UK has committed £205m to tackling. It has the potential to become a global problem and as such needs a global solution.’

ebola3Mr Swire’s politics and background could not be further removed from the Communist regime ruling Cuba since the 1960s.

Before going into politics, the foreign office minister served in the Grenadier Guards and as a financial consultant.

He is the third Great Grandson of John Swire – the founder of the giant Liverpool textile trading business.

Mr Swire married Alexandra Nott, the daughter of John Nott – the former Conservative Secretary of State for Defence during the Falklands War.

Cuba is still officially a ‘contry of concern’ for the British government over human rights abuses and lack of democracy.

Former Cuban leader Fidel Castro (right), 88,  was pictured at a polling station in Havana last year. His younger brother Raul, 83, is the current leader

A Foreign Office spokesman said: ‘We have particular concerns about restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly and the use of short-term detentions for opposition activists.

‘However, we also recognise that Cuba is changing and welcome advances of the past two years, including new economic freedoms, the release of political prisoners, and the easing of travel restrictions.

‘We believe that the time is right to engage with Cuba across a broad spectrum of issues, including prosperity interests. Cuba is in the process of gradual reform and the EU is also seeking to upgrade its relations via negotiation of a new PDCA.’

(From the: Mail)