Puerto Rico seeking to lure Spanish firms

San Juan, May 8 (EFE).- "Puerto Rico is the logical place for all Spanish firms that are looking in a very serious way at the opportunities that exist in the U.S. Hispanic community," the island's secretary of state said here Thursday.

David Bernier spoke at the opening of the Spain-Puerto Rico Business Forum, held at the Inter American University in San Juan, which has as its special invitee Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.

Also participating in the forum were the heads of Spanish firms with a presence on the island, including the president of Banco Santander in Mexico, Fredy Molfino, and the head of the highway and infrastructure management company Abertis, Gonzalo Alcalde.

In an interview with Efe after the event's inauguration, Bernier insisted that over the past few months in Puerto Rico "communications are opening up more" with Spain, Latin America and the Caribbean, thus strengthening the strategic nature of the island as a "fitting spot" to open markets for Spanish businessmen.

He emphasized the May 22 launching of an Air Europa direct route linking San Juan and Madrid.

"The connection is fundamental" for the tourism of both parties and "for seeking the way in which the island may connect itself with the world," he said.

The arrival of Air Europa in Puerto Rico comes after the departure of Iberia in March 2013 after decades of linking the Caribbean island and Spain.

After participating in the economic forum, Garcia-Margallo met with Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla.

Garcia-Margallo's visit is the most important such trip by a top Spanish official to the U.S. commonwealth since King Juan Carlos visited the island in 1987.

The Casa de EspaƱa in San Juan on Thursday evening will host another economic meeting, the Europe-Puerto Rico Forum, which is designed to provide a push to trade.