HAVANA -- Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa and Cuban counterpart Raul Castro met here Thursday to discuss ways of expanding bilateral cooperation across a range of fields.
"We had a long conversation with Comandante Raul Castro, but when you're before a legend like him it's often a pleasure just to do a lot of listening and learning," Correa told reporters after taking part in a ceremony in front of the monument to Ecuadorian national hero Eloy Alfaro in Havana.
Correa was welcomed by the Cuban president in a solemn ceremony and the two then held a private meeting.
The Ecuadorian president said "important accords" were signed in science, technology, sports, education and other areas and expressed hope that those agreements are translated into concrete actions.
He noted his government's interest in cooperating with communist Cuba in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology sectors, where "there already were agreements ... to install a generic drug factory with in Ecuador with Cuban technical assistance," he said.
Regarding a possible meeting with Fidel Castro, who has been convalescing from a serious illness since July 2006 and was formally succeeded last year by younger brother Raul, Correa said: "you would have to ask the comandante."
"I'd love to see him. I don't know how he feels health-wise, but of course I'd love to see him," Correa said.
Correa, a left-leaning, U.S.-educated economist, said it was "enormously significant" for him to be in Havana at time when the island is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.
The Ecuadorian leader also expressed hope that U.S. President-elect Barack Obama changes his country's "absurd" foreign policy and ends the embargo it has imposed on Cuba since 1962.