Trump’s blockade is to provoke regime change – Cuban Ambassador

Cuba’s National Assembly elected Miguel Diaz-Canel as the country’s President in April. Diaz-Canel followed Raul Castro who served two consecutive terms from 2008 when the health of his brother Fidel was in decline. Fidel Castro, who led the 1959 revolution that overthrew Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship and ruled the country since died in 2016. The Daily Mirror talked to Cuba’s Ambassador in Colombo, Elena Ramos Rodriguez, on what may be expected from the new leader from a post-revolution generation, US President Donald Trump’s hardened policy towards Cuba, its effects on the Cuban people and Cuba’s response to the intensified economic blockade imposed by the US government.   

 
Cuba’s new President Miguel Diaz-Canel was born a year after the 1959 revolution, representing a relatively younger generation of politicians. Does this generational shift point to a change in Cuba’s style of government in years ahead?

I want to highlight the significance of the last session of the Cuban parliament, on April 18-19 when Mario Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez was elected the new President of the Council of State and President of the Council of Ministers. I think the new leader will continue the revolutionary process, will continue the development of our country, the development of our Socialism. Cuban people expresstheir support for this electoral process. The people elect the members of Parliament, the Parliament elects the Council of State, and the Council of State elects the president. This process comes with the support of the people because a majority - 85.65% attended the polls to elect their representation in parliament, from each municipality. Voting is voluntary … if you vote it means you support (the process).   


Diaz-Canel’s predecessor Raul Castro had started introducing certain changes- reducing the size of the state sector, encouraging more private enterprise, loosening some controls etc. with benefit to the economy. Will the new President continue on this trajectory?

Yes. The Cuban government and people are all working on updating the Cuban economic model. It is a complex process. It’s changing not because of pressure from outside but for Cuban society, to establish the economic and social guidance. It is a broad process, with many meetings with people in their workplaces, residential places etc. In Cuba, the programme does not change with each president. The guidelines are adopted with the opinion of all the population – in different ways they participate in the process.   

"The Parliament elects the Council of State, and the Council of State elects the president. This process comes with the support of the people because a majority - 85.65% attended the polls to elect their representation in parliament, from each municipality  "

Former US President Barack Obama had started a process of normalization of Cuba-US relations, signalled by re-opening diplomatic missions in the two countries. Under Trump, this process is being reversed, and the economic blockade is being intensified. What will Cuba’s strategy be, to cope with this situation?

I think Obama’s years demonstrated that Cuba and the US can live and co-exist in a civilized way. Interactions between both sides show that Cuba and the US can exist, respecting our differences and cooperating, for the benefit of both countries and peoples, at the same time. Wherever there is an opportunity, we can cooperate.   

Opportunity such as …?

To stop drug trafficking, terrorism, illegal immigration. Intelligence is not the interest of one country – it’s for both countries. We share maritime borders. We have to cooperate for example in maritime rescue, to save people. Or to avoid contamination of our maritime waters. Cuba wants to continue negotiating with the US government, but on conditions of equality and respect for our sovereignty. Cuba will not resign any of its principles. Principles are non-negotiable.   


But the fact is that you have a US President whose attitude is belligerent. How will you face this situation?

We have to face the new measures. In November last year the US Departments of State, Treasury and Commerce issued new provisions and regulations to implement and strengthen the blockade against Cuba - a week after the Nov. 1stvote in the UN General Assembly on the necessity to lift the blockade. These measures were in a new executive order of the President called “National Security Presidential Memorandum on Strengthening the Policy of the US towards Cuba.” They restrict travel of American citizens to Cuba, restrict commerce between the two countries. During Obama’s time it was more flexible on some issues, but the blockade was still there, especially in the financial/ banking sector.   

In 2016 the US abstention (during the UN vote on lifting the blockade) was a hopeful moment. These measures confirm the regress of bilateral relations as a result of the decisions of the government of Donald Trump. It is also important to say, these measures ignore US public opinion of about 75% which is a great majority, and the international community, and of the Cuban immigrants in the US. The majority of Cuban immigrants want normal relations. Only a small group in Florida want to continue the blockade. This transformation ignores the majority of the international community. On Nov. 1st 2017 for the 26th consecutive occasion, the resolution on “The necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the USA on Cuba” was approved by the General Assembly of the UN, with 191 votes in favour and two against: the US and Israel, confirming once again the absolute international rejection of this policy. Cuba will continue to present the resolution as long as the embargo is in place. Unfortunately the resolution is not binding. But it’s a good step to demonstrate that the international community supports Cuba.   

"MediCuba, the company that imports and exports medical products, received a communication from the supplier Lindmed Trade of Spain, saying it could not supply the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin Lactate because the manufacturer Claris Otsuka refused to sell the goods because Cuba was subject to sanctions imposed by the US"


The UN Secretary General in July last year presented a report, at the request of the members of the General Assembly, on the implementation of this resolution. Cuba said “the accumulated losses caused by the embargo during nearly six decades it has been in place amount to US$ 822 billion.” Can you give an example of how this translates into deprivation in the day to day lives of the Cuban people?

The blockade affects all fields – business, health, education, agriculture. To give an example – in March 2017, MediCuba, the company that imports and exports medical products, received a communication from the supplier Lindmed Trade of Spain, saying it could not supply the antibiotic Ciprofloxacin Lactate because the manufacturer Claris Otsuka refused to sell the goods because Cuba was subject to sanctions imposed by the US.  

Ciprofloxacin Lactate is a broad spectrum antibiotic used for adults and children in the treatment of respiratory ailments. Also for skin, soft tissue, bones and joints affected by bacteria. This is an antibiotic used in all hospitals. This affects the health of our people not because the government doesn’t give the resources but because we cannot buy from the supplier.   



  • I think the new leader will continue the revolutionary process, will continue the development of our country, the development of our Socialism

  • The ending of the embargo was approved by the the UN, with 191 votes in favour and two against

  • Cuba produces nickel. The company was unable to export 3,500 tons of it, produced in 2016 because they could not find a bank...

  • The blockade is the main obstacle to the development of our country.

  • The US wants to provoke a change of regime, by provoking anger of the people through shortages, by depriving them of food, medication.  

  • Cuba appreciates support provided by Sri Lanka in its fight against the US embargo.

  • Our policy is to give what we have. Others give what they don’t use. Fifty-five per cent of state resources is allocated for budgeted activity


Could you briefly explain the extra-territorial aspect of the embargo, how third parties – other states - are punished for having transactions with Cuba? An example?

The case I just mentioned is also a good example of the extra-territorial impact. The supplier, the Spanish company cannot trade with Cuba. They too are affected. Legally they should be able to trade with Cuba. Also, many other companies have been sanctioned, fined, for doing business with Cuba.   

To give another example, Cuba produces nickel. The company was unable to export 3,500 tons of nickel sulphide produced in 2016 because they could not find a bank that would open a Letter of Credit. The loss to the Cuban economy was $23,600,000.   

In June 2016 the Netherlands mail and parcels company TNT returned to the Consulate General of Cuba in Madrid, two postal consignments addressed to the embassies of Cuba in China and Indonesia containing passports of Cubans living abroad. The company claimed that it had returned the consignments owing to corporate instructions related to the US embargo.   


The rest of the world supports Cuba on the need to end the embargo, which is in violation of the UN Charter and international law. Can you explain briefly, what is the problem the US has with Cuba?

The blockade is the main obstacle to the development of our country. The US wants to provoke a change of regime, by provoking anger of the people through shortages, by depriving them of food, medication etc. They want a regime change favourable to the US. It didn’t happen because the Cuban people stayed brave. This policy satisfies only the interests of a small minority of the American and Cuban-American extreme right-wing of South Florida, whose interest is to reverse the process of normalization of bilateral relations. It is a violation of human rights in general. We have a good economy but it would be better if we didn’t have the blockade. Tourism is greatly affected. People like to visit Cuba, last year we had four million visitors. Imagine if there was no blockade! American citizens are not allowed to travel to Cuba as tourists, it’s prohibited. They need a special licence from the Treasury.   

"I think Obama’s years demonstrated that Cuba and the US can live and co-exist in a civilized way. Interactions between both sides show that Cuba and the US can exist, respecting our differences and cooperating, for the benefit of both countries and peoples, at the same time. Wherever there is an opportunity, we can cooperate"


Cuba sends its professionals like goodwill ambassadors to all parts of the world – doctors, teachers, artists, agriculture experts - demonstrating the high level of culture and education it has achieved for its people, in spite of the problems caused by its big neighbour. What is the secret of this achievement?

Our policy is ‘internationalist.’ One of the main principles in our relations with other countries is that we share what we have. If we can provide doctors, we do that. Our policy is to give what we have. Others give what they don’t use. Fifty-five per cent of state resources is allocated for budgeted activity such as education, public health, social security, pensions. That’s why there is a high standard. We believe you must support everybody. You cannot have homeless people. A mother who cannot work because her child has a disability will be provided with a government pension. It is a policy that demonstrates that even a poor nation that has not too many resources - if it uses resources for the welfare of the people - can grow its human capital, and improve living standards of the people, despite major challenges it faces. This is, maybe, our ‘secret!’   


Sri Lanka was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba after the revolution and (in the words of Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe in his condolence message on the death of Fidel Castro) “Cuba has been a great friend Sri Lanka could count on.” How can the Cuba-Sri Lanka relationship be taken forward?

A. Sri Lanka and Cuba have historic bonds of friendship and cooperation. Sri Lanka established diplomatic relations in 1959 after the triumph of the revolution, at the very beginning. The first step was the visit of Che Guevara to Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka and Cuba both entered the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) in the same year, 1961. Cuba received the presidency of NAM from Sri Lanka in 1979. We have a long history of cooperation in sports, education, health, agriculture. At this moment we are working on areas of pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. In June, a delegation from Sri Lanka visited Cuba to follow up on implementation of an MoU between the ministries of Science and Technology of the two countries. Last year a Cuban expert visited Sri Lanka to share expertise on the control of dengue. We are also working on registering in Sri Lanka a Cuban product for the treatment of diabetic foot ulcers. It has an efficiency of over 80%, many people have saved their legs, avoiding amputation. Cuba sincerely appreciates the support provided by Sri Lanka in its fight against the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against Cuba for almost 60 years. On Nov. 1, once again Sri Lanka voted in favour of the Cuban revolution against the blockade in the General Assembly of the United Nations.  

  • Published in Cuba

Raúl receives Díaz-Canel

The First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, this morning May 30, received Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Prersident of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, at José Martí International Airport, who was returning from a state visit to Venezuela.

During his stay in the sister nation, Diaz-Canel completed a busy work agenda that included an official visit with Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro Moros, who awarded him the “Liberatores y Libertadoras” Order in the first degree.

  • Published in Cuba

Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel preside over May Day Rally in Havana

Cuban leader Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz-Canel are heading today the massive popular rally for the International Workers’ Day at the Revolution Square in Havana.

Accompanying the leaders in the platform located before the monument to Cuban National Hero José Martí, are other top officials of the Government and the Communist Party of Cuba, as well as personalities, intellectuals, members of the diplomatic corps accredited in the island and union leaders and activists of several countries.

Hundreds of thousands of people rally here in front of the Revolution Square and millions are expected to do so in the 15 provinces of the largest Antillean island, under the slogan ‘Unity, Commitment and Victory’, the same launched by the Confederation of Cuban Workers (CTC) for its 21st Congress.

In recent statements, CTC Secretary General Ulises Guilarte, affirmed that popular mobilization constitutes a show of support for the Revolution, the new leadership of the country and the historical generation that for decades has led the social justice project that began on
January 1, 1959

Cubasi Translation Staff

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba to Have a New President today to succeed Raul Castro

Cuba's National Candidature Commission on Wednesday nominated First Vice President of the Council of State Miguel Diaz-Canel to succeed Raul Castro as president.

Diaz-Canel, 57, an electronics engineer, is member of the Politburo of the ruling Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and held the chair of first secretary of the PCC in the provinces of Villa Clara and Holguin.

Meanwhile, Cuba also announced candidates for six vice presidents on the Council of State.

Salvador Valdes Mesa, 72, vice-president on the Council of State and also member of the Politburo, was nominated for new first vice-president.

The other proposed vice-presidents are commander of the Cuban Revolution Ramiro Valdes, Minister of Public Health Roberto Morales, Comptroller General Gladys Bejerano, President of the National Institute of Hydraulic Resources Ines Maria Chapman and Beatriz Jhonson Urrutia.

Lawmakers attending the plenary session of the National Assembly on Wednesday, must vote, in a direct and secret way, to select the 31 members on the Council of State, including the successor to President Castro, who has held the post for a decade.

The results will be announced today in another parliamentarian session.

  • Published in Cuba

Cubans praise Raul Castro's 12 years in power

Changes in Cuba over the past decade are manifested not only in the thriving private restaurants and luxurious hotels, but also in its people, who are optimistic about their future thanks to the economic reforms launched by President Raul Castro in 2011.

Cubans had been grappling to overcome the hardships during what they referred to as the "special period" following the demise of the Soviet Union nearly three decades ago.

After Castro handed over power to his younger brother Raul Castro in 2006, the latter initiated sweeping political, economic and social reforms not seen since the triumph of the Cuban revolution in 1959, resulting in an improved living standard for the people.

As the younger Castro is set to step down from his second term as Cuban president, Cubans across the island and from all walks of life have been speaking highly of his 12 years in office.

"In recent years the standard of living of Cubans has risen in one way or another and this has been influenced by his determination to start updating the economic model," a young worker called Jorge Alvarez told Xinhua, praising the president as being very positive.

Alvarez said Castro, on the verge of turning 87 in June, was intrepid in taking that step and cautious when putting decisions into practice due to their complexity.

"He did just as he said, step by step without haste but without pause. He made important and far-reaching changes for the development of the country, such as promoting private property and allowing more foreign investment," Alvarez said.

Juan Triana, a professor in economics at the University of Havana, said one of Castro's greatest achievements was that he eliminated the suspicions of Cubans toward foreign direct investment (FDI).

Triana said FDI was perceived as "an enemy of our development process" in Cuba in the 1970s. As time went by, it was considered "something necessary but done in very timid manner."

"In the 1990s it was accepted as a necessary evil, later as a complement to the economy, and currently as a strategic need for the development of the country," he said.

Triana said extensive transformations are being carried out at all levels, politically, economically and socially.

However, a lot remains to be done as only 25 percent of the over 300 reform guidelines approved by the ruling Communist Party in 2011 have been implemented as of now.

The most important thing, Triana said, is the will to continue on this path, which has created an ideological foundation and a political platform that will allow the country to advance much further in the short term.

Although the target level of income of ordinary citizens hasn't been reached -- and neither have the planned growth rates -- there is a vision charting out specific steps to materialize the reforms.

In 2017 the Cuban economy grew 2 percent, only half of what was projected at the beginning of the year. There were multiple reasons for the slow growth, including domestic financial limitations, the continued crisis in its regional ally and main economic partner Venezuela, as well as damages by Hurricane Irma worth 13 billion U.S. dollars.

"Much progress was made in the idea that all sectors of the economy can and should contribute to growth, and that it is the government's task to pursue an appropriate legal framework so that everyone can contribute in one way or another," said Triana.

In that context, the academic also referred to non-state forms of management, specifically private or self-employed workers as they are known on the island and non-agricultural cooperatives.

As regards reforms in the private sector, the scholar said the process is pending since privatization is "something new for Cuba," adding, however, that the government will approve small and medium-sized private companies "in the near future."

Silvio Reyes, one of the nearly 600,000 private workers in the country, also highlighted the importance of deepening the reforms in an interview with Xinhua.

Reyes said the changes made by Castro have been significant because they've opened the possibility for citizens to embrace a new dynamism in their lives.

"I started working on my own several years ago and I believe that not only did my family income grow, but also my contribution to society through the service I offer and the taxes I pay," he said.

He also praised other measures, such as the new migration policy approved in 2013 which eliminated obtaining government permits to travel abroad, as well as the authorization of home and car purchases for ordinary citizens.

Lourdes Gomez, who works in the state-owned sector, thinks Castro says little but is more concerned about practical actions.

"He knew how to combine what had been achieved by Fidel Castro, whose legacy will last forever, and at the same time undertake the changes that were necessary," said Gomez.

She said sometimes the pace of implementation of the reforms was slower than what people desired, but it was understandable given the lack of resources and other short-term problems.

"There is also the negative impact of the economic blockade imposed by the United States, which is the main obstacle to the development of the country," she added.

U.S. President Donald Trump has decided to roll back the detente achieved during Barack Obama's presidency that saw the two bitter foes resume a diplomatic relationship with each other. Despite the setback, the reality is that Cubans have never expected benefits from Washington.

"The results of Raul's government are evident and without relying on the United States," said Juan Valera, an elderly man.

He said Castro was consistent with the policies outlined by his late brother Fidel and never gave up "the revolutionary ideals or the socialist process."

The younger Castro, Valera said, faced the challenges in the best possible way "with intelligence and solid principles," instead of sticking to the old development path.

A two-day parliamentary session starting on Wednesday will decide the composition of Cuba's ninth legislature, where 605 lawmakers will elect a new president and other senior government officials.

  • Published in Cuba

Cuba to Begin Session to Elect New President a Day Early

Cuba is bringing forward the start of the national assembly session where a new president will be selected to succeed Raul Castro.

Cuba is bringing forward the start of its national assembly session where a new president will be elected to succeed Raul Castro, Cuban state-run Radio Rebelde said Monday. The new assembly, selected in a March vote, had originally been set to meet Thursday but will now start its "constitutive session" at 9 a.m. local time Wednesday, April 18.

RELATED:

Who Will be Elected Cuba's Next President? Speculation Mounts

“The State Council of the Republic of Cuba, making use of its conferred faculties, agreed to begin the Constituent Session of the 9th Legislature of the People's Power National Assembly Wednesday April 18, 2018, at 9 a.m. in the Convention's Palace in Havana.

The decision was made to facilitate the development of the steps that a session of such importance requires," Radio Rebelde said on its website. The report doesn't specify if the session will last only one day or if it will extend until Thursday.

The 605 representatives recently elected on the March 11 elections will meet to choose the next president, first vice president, five vice presidents and 23 members of the State Council.

The 86-year-old Raul Castro said he will step down as president at the next assembly session, after completing two successive five-year mandates.

Cuba's ruling Communist Party has yet to name any formal candidate, but several party offcials are seen as potential runners for the presidency. current First Vice-President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, 57, is seen as a likely candidate. 

Diaz-Canel would be the first president born after the 1959 revolution that ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Other possibilities include Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, the party's second secretary, who fought with guerrillas in the Sierra Maestro during the Cuban Revolution; and Ramiro Valdes, another former guerrilla who currently serves as vice-president of the State Council and Council of Ministers.

Cuba's 168 Municipal Assemblies of People's Power have held extraordinary sessions across the island to approve candidate selection for provincial delegates, according to Granma.

Castro, who was formally elected to the presidency 10 years ago after the end of Fidel Castro's term in 2008, will remain head of the Cuban Communist Party until the next congress in 2021.

  • Published in Cuba

A Revolution Made Love

Twenty-two adolescents from the school for special needs Solidarity with Panama celebrated last Wednesday evening its fifteen years with a very special guest: the Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.

Very few dates in the life of a youth are remembered with more nostalgia than the night of your fifteenth birthday. The white dress, the waltz, the flowers, the pictures, the jitters, the company of the parents and the first juvenile love come together all at once in the magic moment of the toast.

And if that night is spent in an extraordinary place, then emotions reach unimaginable limits. Thus was the experience this Wednesday of April when twenty-two adolescents from the school for special needs Solidarity with Panama celebrated their fifteenth birthday next a very special guest: the Cuban President Raúl Castro Ruz.

Some in wheelchairs, others walking, they reached the dance floor with their couples. All dressed in impeccable white and joy reflected in their faces. While through the speakers were heard the names of each one of them as well as the names of their parents, their favorite songs, the perfume they were wearing, the food they adore, the music they like, their zodiac sign and the name of their fiancées a secret until then.

The physical or intellectual disability didn’t matter. As any Cuban youth at their age, they also enjoyed their fifteenth waltz. They were two girls and twenty boys, each making true their dream night.

On the side of the room Raúl made the happiness of the children and their parents his. You could see happiness and he told them how happy he was after the dance was over.

«I am very thrilled», he admitted to them. When I see things like this I admire Fidel more. In year 1989, a very difficult year for our country, he founded this school, when we didn't know how we will subsist. «For schools such as these we are willing to give everything».

«I believe it’s one of the most beautiful tasks, more beautiful and just of the Revolution», he assured to parents, family members, teachers, workers and guests who came together that night to make happy the 171 children with physical-motor limitations of the entire country who attend school there and are taken care of with extreme love.

He got photographed with the boys; he talked to them, even one of them spoke about his great-grandmother who was friend of Vilma; he carried in his arms the smallest, and asked them for their studies and he promised to come back soon.

He spoke with the head of the institution, Esther La O Ochoa, she had thanked Raúl to be there, for the happiness of her children, to carry on Fidel’s work who on December 31st, 1989 when the Cuban families were celebrating yearend he was here inaugurating our school.

«We have loved it ever since, we have taken care of it », she said. She has devoted for some years now to make true Fidel's dream at the school Solidarity with Panama, a place where the Revolution has been made love.

Cubasi Translation Staff / Amilkal Labañino Valdés

Cuban leader congratulates Putin on winning presidential election

Cuban leader Raul Castro has congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning the presidential election, Cuba’s Ambassador to Russia Gerardo Penalver Portal said.

"Raul Castro has conveyed his warm congratulations to Russia’s President-elect Vladimir Putin on his convincing election win on Sunday," the ambassador wrote on Twitter.

According to Russia’s Central Election Commission, incumbent head of state Vladimir Putin has garnered 76.56% of the vote with 95% of the ballots counted.

Director of the Lenin State Farm Pavel Grudinin, nominated by the Communist Party of Russia, is second with 11.92%, while leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) Vladimir Zhirinovsky is third with 5.77%.

  • Published in Cuba
Subscribe to this RSS feed