Wednesday, June 13, 2018

DIPLOMACY:What Tanzania can expect from the ‘new Cuba’


Congratulations for the new president. But what does this transfer of power mean to Cuba and Cubans in general?

Thank you very much. The transfer of power means taking the leadership to the new generations with the legacy of the revolution. It is continuity, and not ruptures, of the revolutionary process.

Do you regard the election of the new president democratic, considering that he had no opponents to challenge him?

Cuba has its electoral system: endorsed by the popular vote. It is democratic and representative. The people freely choose their candidates in the different districts, who make up the municipal assemblies. They directly choose the delegates to the Provincial Assemblies and the Deputies to the National Assembly of People’s Power (ANPP), the legislative body of the country.

These representatives in turn are the ones with the responsibility of electing the Council of State and the President of the country.

Our electoral system is based on our history and experiences. History taught us of the need for unity. Some of our noble causes failed because of the divisions in our liberation forces.

Cuba knew perfectly the multiparty system that left an illiterate society, with precarious health system, with corrupt governments with total submission to the interests of the North American companies.

What issues at regional and international levels can Cubans expect the new president to put his mind to for the interests of Cuba?

The international policy will remain unchanged. We will continue to advocate for peace, regional integration and international solidarity. We will continue sharing what we have, not what we have left over. We will continue to cling to the idea that a better world is possible.

The issue of concern among almost all Cubans is perhaps the blockade; they must have high expectations that their new president will work to ensure it’s lifted. Do you think the new president has the muscle to convince the US under President Donald Trump to change mind?

Definitely. Cuba and the immense majority of the International Community plead for the end of the United States blockade against Cuba.

For 25 years, Cuba has been presenting a resolution to the United Nations asking for the lifting of the blockade. In the last vote, 191 states approved the Cuban resolution, two against, the United States and Israel.

The blockade is an inhuman and genocidal policy imposed unilaterally 55 years ago. More than 70 percent of the Cuban population has been born and raised under the application of this policy, which impedes the economic development of Cuba and constitutes a flagrant violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.

On June 16, the president of the United States, Donald Trump, announced the resurgence of the economic, commercial and financial blockade against Cuba, as a fundamental component of his policy towards the Island, despite his predecessor Barack Obama showed the commitments of easing the relation between the two countries.

President Trump reverses the progress made in bilateral relations after December 17, 2014, presidents Raul Castro Ruz and Obama announced the restoration of diplomatic relations and the beginning of a process towards the normalization of bilateral ties.

The measures announced by the current US government impose additional obstacles to the already limited opportunities for trade between Cuba and the United States, further restrict the right of citizens of that country to travel to Cuba, and diminish the chances of the Cuban people achieve sustainable development in the medium term. Now it will become increasingly difficult for Cuba to acquire technologies and technical equipment that only the United States produces, or that have components manufactured by US companies or subsidiaries.

Many of these are required, for example, in the public health sector in Cuba, where, despite the difficulties, universal, free and quality access to health services for all Cuban citizens is guaranteed.

However, Cuba and the United States are not at war. Cuba reaffirms its willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation on issues of mutual interest, and negotiate pending bilateral issues with the United States on the basis of equality, reciprocity, respect for Cuba’s sovereignty and independence.

Cuba will not make concessions of any kind or renounce one of its principles. The United States must end unilaterally and unconditionally the unjust blockade that for almost 60 years has plagued the Cuban people with suffering.

Should Africans, and East Africans in particular, expect any shift in how Cuba deals with them with the coming in of the new president? I mean, should we expect any policy change in the way Cuba conducts its affairs in Africa?

The relations between Cuba and Africa will remain unchanged. The will of the government of Cuba is to continue strengthening our relations with Africa for many reasons, among others, for the African blood that runs through the bowels of Cuba, the values of internationalism, brotherhood and solidarity that have marked bilateral relations.

In Africa more than 300,000 Cubans fought, many of them descendants of one million 200 thousand slaves who came to Cuba from that continent. Africa always supports Cuba in its fight to end the blockade.

Some data illustrate the continuity to strengthening the bonds: 6 249 Cuban collaborators work in 29 African nations of them 2698 are cooperators in the health sector, more than 29,000 African students have graduated in Cuba in various specialties until the 2015- 2016, of which 27322 belong to the sub-Saharan Africa region, 9250 African students are currently studying in Cuba in different university courses under different modalities, scholarship holders, financed by the government and self-financed, this figure represents 64.4 per cent of foreign students in Cuba.

What are the key areas of partnerships between Cuba and Tanzania and how these partnerships are expected to improve with the new president in place?

Education and health are the main areas of cooperation between Cuba and Tanzania. The First School of Medicine of Zanzibar with curriculum and Cuban teachers is one of them. The center officially opened on September 20, 2007, seven years later, 2014, the first 38 doctors graduated.

Two years after 2016, the last graduation of the Cuban project took place with 12 more physicians. At this time 8 of 16 of these doctors are studying in specialties lacking in the country such as: Anesthesia, surgery, oncology, pediatrics, and hematology among others.

This year the remaining eight will be added, until the figure of 16 doctors studying specialties in Cuba is completed. Today we have a Medical Brigade composed of 47 doctors, of whom 11 are professors at the Zanzibar School of Medicine.

Do you see any other areas that you would like the two governments to partner that are currently untapped?

It is in the interest of our governments to increase existing relationships and extend cooperation to other areas, such as in sports, tourism, and biotechnology and cooperate with experts in the process of industrialisation of the country.

There are some areas in which we can contribute. The announcement by the government that Tanzania will open an Embassy in Cuba in the 2018-2019 course puts us in a better position to expand bilateral relations. What support would you like Tanzania, Africa and the international community in general can give Cuba to have the blockade lifted?

So far we have counted and hope to continue counting on Tanzania’s support for the Cuban resolution against the blockade. The clear refusal of Tanzania to the genocidal policy against Cuba either in the General Assembly of the United Nations, in the African Union or in any international forum is an important contribution in our battle.