Saturday, April 14, 2007

Western terror acts in Cuba mirror those in Zim

IMF and EU sanctions affect the entire Zimbabwean economy, not just 'the political leadershiip'. From The Herald:

Western terror acts in Cuba mirror those in Zim

THE illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe by the United States and the EU have caused so much suffering, which is why they have received widespread condemnation, with the latest denunciation coming at the Extra-ordinary Summit of Sadc Heads of State and Government in Tanzania. Despite this consensus, the West has not responded to the calls, the same way it has ignored the consensus in the UN General Assembly against the illegal blockade on Cuba. The Herald caught up with Cuban Ambassador MR COSME TORRES ESPINOSA to talk about these and other issues.

QUESTION: Ambassador Espinosa, you have been in Zimbabwe for almost two years now, how has been your stay, and the state of Zim-Cuba relations?

ANSWER: As I said before, our embassy staff have been busy over the past two years, especially me because I am the ambassador, but we are very glad, I am very happy because the state of relations between Cuba and Zimbabwe is strengthening. We now have excellent relations, of course it’s not something unusual, first of all because we are comrades, secondly because we share the same position for our people but also because we share common positions in international issues.

The relations between Cuba and Zimbabwe date back to the days of Zimbabwe’s struggle for independence, and from the very beginning Cuba supported Zimbabwe in the struggle and even after the struggle for liberation Cuba offered to come to the assistance of Zimbabwe. As you know more than 3 000 Zimbabweans graduated from a programme that was sponsored by Cuba and every year we have offered scholarships to the Government of Zimbabwe.

In all these years we developed co-operation with Zimbabwe in the field of health, medical brigades of Cuban doctors have been working here in Zimbabwe for many, many years. Right now, for example, we have a group of doctors, 59 Cuban doctors, that have finished their tour of duty after two years working here and next week a new group of 140 Cuban doctors will be arriving.

Q: What is the level of co-operation in the area of trade for instance?

A: One area that we do not have a high level of co-operation is trade, I think one of the reasons, of course, is that Zimbabwe has traditional commercial partners and Cuba also has traditional partners, I think this is one issue we can work on for the future.

Q: Despite the 50-year embargo, Cuba has still managed to help other countries in various sectors, how do you manage to do that given the Western siege?

A: As you know for our government and our people, the main resource of course is our people, for many years since the triumph of the revolution, we prepared many professionals with the idea not only that they will work in Cuba but also with the idea of helping other countries, 1951 was the year the first group of Cuban doctors came to Algeria to help there, and since that time more than 130 000 Cuban doctors have been working in almost 100 different countries. Right now we have more than 20 000 Cuban doctors working in 69 countries, also all these years we received many young people from Africa, Latin America, from the Caribbean, in Cuba they received degrees and are ready to help their countries.

Q: Zimbabwe and Cuba share unique experiences, as they are both under siege from some Western nations opposed to their policies. Can you tell our readers how Cuba has managed to cope with the 50-year US blockade, and the lessons Zimbabwe can draw from your experiences?

A: First of all, we do not want to give any lessons to anybody, we believe our experiences are unique and everybody has their own experiences.

Of course, in the case of Cuba you know that since the triumph of the Cuban revolution, we implemented a socialist system in Cuba. It’s a system that is supported by the majority of the Cuban people, but on the other hand, we know that for our people it’s a matter of sovereignty to support our system.

Q: Tied to the sanctions is the question of economic hardships, primarily inflation, what is the situation like in Cuba?

A: I do not know the exact figure of our inflation in Cuba but let me tell you that in the 1990s after the fall of the former Soviet Union, the socialist countries in Europe, we faced a very harsh economic situation in Cuba, we even call that time, a special period, in fact it was a second blockade of Cuba because we lost our commercial partners, our friends and so on, so all those years the economy of Cuba regressed by 34 percent, but we managed to continue developing our economy mainly because at that moment we managed to develop some sectors such as tourism. For example last year our tourism sector received 2,2 million tourists, we also managed to develop our biotechnology sector and pharmaceutical sector, right now they are exporting to 150 countries. Also all these years government was committed to continue developing social programmes, and mainly to keep the cultural levels, the educational levels of the whole population.

Q: As in Zimbabwe, one of Commandant Castro’s enduring legacies is the investment made in the social services, that is health and education, how has your country managed to maintain the high standards in the face of American subversion?

A: It’s not an easy task, for example because of the blockade this year, the damage to our economy cost the Cuban people US$86 billion, as I said before the commitment of our government was to develop free educational systems, health care systems, not only for Cuba but also for helping other countries. On the other hand, from the very beginning of the revolution, we realised it was very important for the Cuban people to have a high cultural level, that is why in 1961 we eradicated illiteracy in Cuba, that’s why after that we committed ninth class finish for everybody in Cuba, that’s why we have more than one university in every province in Cuba. So I think that the real important aspect is the social one that needs to use every cent that we get from our economy for the development of the Cuban people.

Q: And the question of brain drain, are you not losing a lot of your trained professionals to other countries, if not how do you manage to retain them?

A: One of the first tasks of the US government after the triumph of the Cuban revolution was to drain our professionals, in 1959 we had 6 000 doctors for a population at that time of around seven million people. Three thousand of them left for the United States so we decided that we need to prepare our own professionals, and in the face of the American blockade now we have 70 000 Cuban doctors. However, as I said one of the important issues was to develop professionals in Cuba so we have in Latin America, one of the highest levels of professionals in every discipline, along with professionals skills they also get ideological understanding.

Q: Cubans are also bombarded by negative images in the Western media, but these appear to have failed to sway Cubans given the support the government enjoys. How have you managed to cope with Western propaganda?

A: Well, propaganda works very well in cases where people have low levels of culture, and have dreams of something that is not reachable for them in their country. In Cuba the majority of people know that they can realise their dreams inside Cuba. To the majority of the Cuban people, it’s also very clear that this propaganda is for the benefit of Western countries, our people are very well informed.

Q: Only the US, Israel and the Marshall Islands endorse the US embargo in the General Assembly, but we have seen the UN fail to act on that consensus. You recently announced that you would move a motion in the General Assembly for the lifting of the sanctions. Why do you maintain faith in the UN, when it has apparently failed to act in the past?

A: First of all let me tell you, you are using the term embargo but it’s not embargo, it’s a blockade, a total blockade economically and politically, and in some cases even using other measures like terrorists for example. For 15 years we have pressed for the lifting of the blockade, of course the blockade is still in place, and even the Bush administration is trying to tighten it with the so-called Plan Bush that is only a plan for the annexation of Cuba. In fact this policy is trying to defeat the Cuban revolution by starvation, by suffering. The blockade has measures that try to get other countries to work for the benefit of the United States

Q: What is your relationship with the EU bloc that votes against the sanctions in the UN but backs the US out of it?

A: Traditionally, we have normal relations with many European countries, unfortunately in the last five, six years they put in place a common position of European countries against Cuba, this is a standard position. However, as you said, in the UN they are against the blockade but on the other hand they are criticising the Cuban system.

In the case of human rights they are accusing us of having human rights violations, but of course they are not accusing the US which has caused mass human rights violations on the Cuban people with the blockade. We are ready to have normal relations with any country even the United States but we are only asking for respect for Cuba, we will not accept having any conditions to having normal relations.

Only last month the minister of foreign affairs of Spain visited Cuba, we restarted relations and co-operation with Spain because there were no conditions.

Q: The US sponsors opposition political activities in countries it targets for illegal regime change, what is the situation like in Cuba?

A: The same way, in our case we have the so-called opposition, dissidents and there are some groups being fully supported by the government of the United States, and when I say fully supported I do not mean only politically, I mean also financially. They are receiving funds every year; by the way with this Plan Bush the US says it will give, every year, US$20 million towards defeating the Cuban revolution.

All these years, many, many millions were wasted in trying to defeat the Cuban revolution. So these groups receive training, they are trained by the US, the US interferes in the internal affairs of Cuba openly, they train these groups even in Cuba within their diplomatic residences and offer them full support in trying to organise them against the Cuban government?

Q: What about terrorist activities, for instance the recent spate of opposition violence in Zimbabwe, do you that in Cuba?

A: Yes, because of terrorist actions more than 3 000 Cubans have died over the years, terrorist actions are organised by Cuban-American groups based mainly in Florida, the United States. Many of them receive support and were trained by the CIA that’s the case for example of Posada Carrilles he is the mastermind of the bombing of one Cuban airline, more than 70 people died because of that bombing.

Posada Carrilles entered the United States in 2005, illegally, they apprehended him, but now they have given freedom to Carilles.

He is a man that the FBI, even the CIA recognised as a dangerous man, because of Carilles actions five young Cubans have been in jail in the United States for more than five years, because they were trying to prevent these terrorist activities against Cuba.

What happened in Zimbabwe of course is similar to what the groups based in Florida have done in Cuba, they put many bombs in some hotels in Cuba. They were trying to prevent tourists from coming to Cuba, and also to generate political instability in Cuba, so I see the same pattern in Zimbabwe.

l Feedback:

Salomao’s visit timely, vital for Sadc

WITH the arrival this week of its Executive Secretary Dr Tomaz Salomao, Sadc has started a process of seeing what the regional bloc can do to help Zimbabwe put its economy back on its feet. Zimbabweans sometimes tend to forget, in hard economic times, that the country’s blocked access to international financial institutions and the global banking system has repercussions on the rest of the region.

For when Sadc’s second most sophisticated economy faces troubles, then the waves break across most of its neighbours.

If Zimbabwe’s economy was fully functioning and if there was adequate access to organisations like the International Monetary Fund and the global banking system, then obviously Zimbabwe would benefit and so would its people.

But the other really big group of beneficiaries would be the people and businesses of the other Sadc countries. Zimbabweans would be able to buy more and import more, providing a very convenient market for many.

The illegal sanctions, largely pressed by the US and Britain but applied by the European Union and the IMF as well, go far beyond the "travel" sanctions trumpeted by the West and its allies in Zimbabwe.

Those are not really worth worrying about.

The real sanctions are those that are not announced. These involve the US Government and the British Government, largely through its European connections, assembling adequate blocs of votes to stop Zimbabwe receiving any support from the IMF and the World Bank.

That lack of support, in turn, makes it very difficult for Zimbabwe to access the sort of normal banking services from major western banks that most countries need to ensure trade flows freely.

It also makes it a lot harder to attract direct foreign investment, if only because potential investors are worried about how to get their fair dividend income out.

So the claims that the "sanctions" affect "only the leaders" is baloney. That may be true over the trivial travel sanctions, but the financial sanctions hit the whole population, and the poor more than the rich. And they hit the people of the neighbouring countries, who all need a prosperous Zimbabwe able to trade normally.

At the recent summit the Sadc leaders made it clear that they, and no other foreigner, will decide whether the elections in a member country have produced a legitimate Government. We assume that Sadc would, if there ever was a case of stolen elections, be just as harsh as its West African equivalent has been over some inadequate polls in that region.

It looks as though Sadc are now going to be pressing that point ever more strongly and telling the world to stop meddling in the region, which is quite capable of policing its own members.

The West needs to accept that the Zimbabwe Government is legitimate, even if it really does not like it, and that Zimbabwe’s neighbours are satisfied that the majority voted freely for that Government.

And those impediments to trade and growth need to be removed so that the people of Zimbabwe and the people in the neighbouring states can all benefit.

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