Saturday, May 18, 2013

Lazo calls on Africa, Latin America to unite against neo-colonialism

By Larry Moonze and Kondwani Munyeka in Havana, Cuba
Wed 15 May 2013, 14:01 CAT

CUBAN National Assembly Speaker Estaban Lazo says Africa and Latin America must unite to fight the new form of colonialism. And the Zambian government has asked Cuba to help set up a sugar plantation and refinery in Luapula Province.

Lazo, who is also politburo member of the Communist Party of Cuba and former Vice-President of the Council of State, told Zambian foreign affairs minister Effron Lungu, who paid a courtesy call on him in Havana on Monday, that through unity, Africa and Latin America could defeat the bully in the neighbourhood.

"United we are bigger than the giant," Lazo said.

He said Zambia was a brotherly country, adding that it was very important that Lusaka had a diplomatic presence in Havana.

"We want to resume full bilateral relations with Zambia. We are waiting on that pending issue of opening the Zambian embassy in Cuba. I'm sure you will discuss this with our foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez. The embassy is very important. Diplomats stationed here will know every day what is there and what is not… We are fighting for the same cause, common causes that are far beyond ideology. We have to struggle against energy problems, global economic crisis, high food prices, climate change, the issue of fresh water that may become a serious problem… All these things will affect us but most seriously the poor. Today, 1.2 billion go to sleep without food, each time the number of illiterates is increasing and so is the issue of unemployment. Whatever solutions we come up with are for the survival of the human race. We need to be united. The other day, I read about Africa's development perspectives. They are encouraging but one thing that we need to achieve is unity. The forthcoming event, which is, the 50th anniversary of the African Union is a good starting point.

You see colonialists created conditions that perpetuated divisions, that divided us but today we have conditions and mechanisms for integration and mutual cooperation," Lazo said. "Africa should be part of CELAC [Community of Latin America and Caribbean states. We must join forces. Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa need strong links to better defend ourselves and our interests. To fight the new form of colonialism."

He said Zambia and Cuba were both poor countries.

Lazo said just like Cuba, Zambia sacrificed in the liberation of among others Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia and Mozambique.

"The concept of solidarity is such that you give not what you have in excess but sharing the little that you have. And for us Cuba, we never stop providing that kind of assistance. We do so to Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean," he said.

Lazo asked Zambia to help Cuba in the struggle to free the five Cuban anti-terror agents incarcerated in the US.

He said while one of them, Rene Gonzalez, had been freed upon renouncing his US citizenship the other four remained in America, serving harsh sentences.

Lazo said for over years, he had visited several African countries but somehow he could not land in Zambia.

"That visit to Zambia is pending," he said. "We Cuba love Africa very much for several reasons but primarily because part of our nationality comes from Africa."

Lazo explained that when the Spaniards arrived in Cuba in 1492, they gradually exterminated the 120,000 Tainos who inhabited the island.
He said after that the colonialists brought in 1.2 million African slaves who ended up forming part of the Cuban nationality.

Lazo said those Africans were in the forefront of the Cuban independence struggle.

He said he himself was of African and Chinese heritage.

"I am telling you this with confidence and sentimental feelings as to why we love Africa… we want the very best for Africa," Lazo said. "When we went to Africa to help in the liberation of Angola, to end Apartheid, the liberation of Namibia among others, we were helping ourselves in that we are part of Africa."

And Lungu said Zambia appreciated the developmental efforts Cuba made to Africa in the areas of education, health and agriculture.

He said bilateral relations between Cuba and Zambia dated back to 1972.
Lungu said in the last 41 years, Zambian leaders Dr Kenneth Kaunda, late Frederick Chiluba and Rupiah Banda visited Cuba.

He said President Michael Sata felt that Zambia's presence in Cuba should be by way of opening an embassy.

Lungu said that process would commence upon winding his tour to Cuba.
He said Zambia condemned the US embargo against Cuba.

Lungu said Cuba must be spared the US sanctions that date back to 1961.
"It is our prayer that this thing should come to an end sooner than later," he said.

And Lungu invited Cuba to participate at the UN World Tourism Organisation congress to be co-hosted by Zambia and Zimbabwe in August.
He also invited Cuba to attend the Cluster Munitions convention to be hosted in Zambia in September.

And when he met Cuban foreign trade and investment first deputy minister Orlando Hernandez Guillen, Lungu said Zambia was inviting Cuban engineers and other specialists to help set up a sugar project.
He said there was also need for help in agronomy in general.
Lungu said in the past, Zambia National Service officers were sent to Cuba to train in animal husbandry.

"The Cuban research centre in agriculture and Zambia are working together to develop livestock feed," he said.

Lungu said Zambia desired direct investment and trade with Cuba in manufacturing, agriculture and infrastructure.

He said under direct trade and investment, Zambians could fully benefit, bearing in mind the things that the two countries had in common.

Lungu said little had been done since Cuba and Zambia signed a trade protection agreement in 2000.

He said it was time to implement the already signed trade agreement and invited Cuban companies to participate at the Zambia International Trade Fair. On his part, Guillen invited Zambian entrepreneurs to attend the Havana International Trade Fair in November.

At Ministry of Higher Education, Lungu said Zambia had a lot to learn from the Cuban education system.

He said the Cuban education system was very accommodative to the majority of the population.

Lungu said it was for that reason that the Zambian government had asked the Cuban government to help in training teachers in different fields.
"We have also asked Cuba to upgrade our teachers from diploma to degree levels and also in special education and in the special programme 'Yes I Can'," said Lungu.

"I would like to express our gratitude over the scholarships that Zambia has been receiving from Cuba. All we are asking for is for the increase in the number of scholarship so that more Zambians could come and learn here."

But higher education deputy minister Jose Saborido Loidi said Cuba was facing economic hardships and therefore, it had decided to reduce scholarships.

He said the island was currently encouraging self-financed scholarships which were highly subsidised. Saborido Loidi said his ministry was very pleased with the performance of Zambian students in Cuba, adding that to date, 89 Zambian students had graduated from Cuba in different fields.

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