Alexis Bandrich Vega, Havana’s ambassador to Tehran, believes that U.S. President Donald Trump is ignorant of the realities in Cuba.
“This president of the United States is not interested in Cuba, nor knows anything, neither of Cuba nor of the Cubans,” Ambassador Bandrich Vega tells the Tehran Times in an exclusive interview.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How do you evaluate bilateral relations between Cuba and Iran, especially in the economic area?
A: In the political area they are very good. We were honored to receive the official visit of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in 2016. There is a good level of exchanges of messages and communications between our governments.
Each year the number of Iranians who travel to Cuba increases for different reasons, including tourism.
In the economic area, although there are many MOUs between both countries, neither of us is satisfied with the level of exchanges. Many reasons influence, such as the distance, the asymmetries of our economies and the difficulties imposed by the United States to realize our commercial operations not only with them, but with the rest of the world.
I can assure you that there is the political will of both governments to advance in this field and we will achieve it.
Q: What about cultural cooperation between Cuba and Iran?
A: The good political relations coupled with economic ones will facilitate the increase of cultural cooperation. Iran has always had a good participation in the International Book Fair in Cuba every year. Iranian films enjoy good acceptance among the Cubans, as well as some programs facilitated by the Spanish-speaking channel Hispan TV.
We have just celebrated a Cuban Culture Week in the Faculty of World Studies of the University of Tehran, which was very well accepted among the attendees.
The cultures of both nations have transcended our borders and there´s no doubt that more and more bridges will unite us.
Q: How about scientific cooperation between Cuba and Iran, especially in the area of medicine?
A: Undoubtedly, this is an area where both countries have experienced important advances and where more opportunities for cooperation have been found.
Cuba has made, and will make, important technological transfers to Iran in the area of vaccine production.
We have developed important medications, some unique as Heberprot P, against diabetic foot ulcers, which helps reduce the need for amputation in more than 70% of treated cases and is registered in more than 20 countries. In the same way Cuba has also developed important vaccines against different types of cancer, which have shown high effectiveness. We look forward to achieve a possible agreement on med´s registration.
We have a vast network of facilities for health tourism, with a growing number of people coming to our country every day to undergo surgical operations and enjoy the hospitality of the Cubans and the benefits of our island.
Recently, a nanotechnology laboratory donated by Iran was inaugurated in Cuba, which predicts a promising collaboration in that area, with mutual benefits.
There is so much to do.
Q: Would you explain about Iran-Cuba cooperation at international level?
A: In the international arena we have excellent cooperation. Cuba will always appreciate Iran's support for the Resolution against the blockade of the United States. We have always had the Iranian vote and we hope that we can also count on your denunciation in the 73rd General Assembly of the United Nations later this year.
We frequently exchange support for the candidatures of our representatives for positions in international organizations.
On several occasions, the Cuban government has expressed its full support for the nuclear agreement, as well as demanding its strict compliance.
Q: Donald Trump is trying to roll back what Obama did. It is true in the case of Cuba. What is the motivation behind such moves?
A: Totally true. On June 16, 2017, President Trump signed the Presidential National Security Memorandum on the strengthening of the U.S. policy towards Cuba, which increases the prohibitions on economic, commercial and financial transactions of U.S. companies and entities with Cuban companies and entities, restricts the trips of North
Americans to the Island, expands the list of government officials and Cuban citizens who cannot receive visas, remittances or engage in transactions with U.S. entities, and repeals the Presidential Policy Directive for the normalization of relations between the U.S. and Cuba (Obama 14.10.2016).
The motivations are purely political, of domestic politics, because this president of the United States is not interested in Cuba, nor knows anything, neither of Cuba nor of the Cubans. The U.S. government ignores the majority support of American public opinion, the international community and Cuban emigration in the U.S. to the lifting of the blockade and the normalization of relations between the two countries, meanwhile satisfies the interests of a small minority of the American and Cuban-American extreme right of South Florida, whose interest is to provoke a confrontation between the two countries.
Cuba is willing 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 sovereignty and national independence, without anyone expecting us to make concessions, or renounce one of our principles.