On 11 February 2015, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan paid a visit to Cuba as part of a three-leg Latin American tour. This was the second visit of a high-level Turkish delegation to Latin American countries, the first being in 1995. Erdoğan’s trip drew the attention of international media and scholars to the special features of Turkey’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
Turkey’s political, economic and cultural influence in regional and global affairs has been gradually increasing in the last few years, following a multi-directional or multi-regional vocation. In the last decade, Turkey’s growing relevance in different regions has gone beyond that of a trade partner. Under the AK Party, Turkey has launched a so called paradigm shift in its foreign policy, which former Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Prof. Ahmet Davutoğlu1 underlines as a ‘Multi-Dimensional Foreign Policy Approach.’ Following Davutoğlu’s guidelines, Turkey has formed new routes in international policy and enhanced those new routes with humanitarian and development aid, making use of both the cultural element and the religious dimension. As part of this larger initiative, policies aimed at strengthening Turkey’s strategic ties were directed toward Latin America and the Caribbean region, including Cuba. Thanks to this new approach and to Turkey’s economic growth, Ankara is now acknowledged as a development partner that provides humanitarian aid and developmental assistance, mainly through the gradual involvement of the Turkish International Cooperation and Development Agency (TIKA). In light of these trends, Turkey’s soft power in the region is growing.