French President Francois Hollande welcomes Cuban President Raul Castro to Paris for his first official visit. Rough Cut (no reporter narration)
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) French President Francois Hollande welcomed Cuban President Raul Castro for an official visit on Monday (February 1). It marked the first visit to France by a Cuban head of state since Raul's brother, Fidel, visited in 1995, and comes as the Cuban leader tries to carve out a larger role for the Communist-run nation since improving ties with the United States. In May, Hollande became the first Western president to visit Cuba in more than 50 years and has been positioning his country to capitalize on the thaw in relations. France was Cuba's main creditor and last month, as part of a deal between Cuba and the 15 rich creditor nations of the Paris Club, it agreed to annul $4 billion in debt. When it announced the visit, Hollande's office said "it marked a new stage in the strengthening of relations between the two countries." During the visit, France is to sign a deal to ease the Caribbean island nation's bilateral debt to Paris, a diplomatic source said last week.