· How is the legacy of Ernesto Che Guevara relevant today?
To understand the legacy of Che Guevara, one needs to understand the times he lived in and his ideological thought process. Three major contemporary events shaped up the thought process of Che Guevara.
Firstly, socialism was a powerful force to be reckoned at the time as we had a socialist government in Soviet Union as well as several countries of Europe. Secondly, neo-colonialism was giving way to independence movements in Africa and Asia starting 1940s. Lastly, there was the Cuban Revolution.
All these events contributed to the thought process of Che, which ultimately formed part of his legacy. Social justice and creating a new world order in which the poor, who formed majority of world’s population, were paramount for Che.
The focus on individual is central to Che’s legacy. He believed that an individual had to be imbibed with a political conscience and morality.
Finally, human solidarity is another important component of Che’s legacy. Che believed that unity among the masses was essential to put up a struggle to achieve the new world order.
· Was there friction between Guevara and Castro? Why did Guevara leave Cuba for Bolivia in the 1962?
History has been manipulated to give a distorted view of relationship between Che and Fidel. To attack main figures of the Cuban Revolution seems to be the main aim of manipulating history.
According to Che’s own account, he committed himself fully to the cause of the Cuban Revolution after meeting Fidel in Mexico in 1955. However, there was just one condition put forth by Che, which was that he would travel to other Latin American countries after the Cuban Revolution. So, Che’s decision to leave for Bolivia was a compromise made before the Cuban Revolution.
There was no division, no contradiction. Both admired each other.
· How do you measure the influence of Guevara in India?
Che and Fidel are very well known in India. When people recognise me as Ambassador of Cuba, they unfailingly mention Fidel and Che.
Che travelled to India in 1959, as part of his travels to third world countries in wake of the Cuban Revolution and he met Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on the trip. So, Che was well-known in India.
I will be attending several commemorative events organised by friends from the Left in India in coming days.
· How is Cuba planning on commemorating the event?
To mark 50 years of Che’s assassination (October 8, 1967), Cuba is planning many commemorative activities. There is an important political event organised exactly at the spot where Che rests today. We are also organising many theoretical seminars on Che’s thoughts.
The most important thing is that Cuba is remembering its history.
· What would the message of Cuba to the people of the world be, at a time when majoritarian forces seem to be gaining ground in major democracies?
A global consensus needs be forged and masses should be brought together. Human solidarity was a major takeaway of the Cuban Revolution. You can have solidarity even though you are not rich. For instance, Cuba sends doctors and teachers to the countries of Africa and Latin America. It creates goodwill and contributes in forming solidarity.
Economically, native conditions need to be considered and indigenous models should be deviced to overcome challenges of poverty and underdevelopment.
· You spoke about how strong the socialist ideology was in the 1960s and 1970s. So, what has gone wrong with socialism?
The only problem with European countries in the 1960s and 1970s was that they were copying the Soviet model of socialism, which shouldn’t have been the case.
Socialism has to be built top down. Individuals need to be convinced as to why socialism is better than capitalism. Socialist leaders and parties must be in permanent contact with their people. Socialism can’t be imposed. That, unfortunately, hasn’t been happening of late.
We shouldn’t also forget that socialism is a relatively recent ideology as compared to capitalism. Socialism started to gain ground only after the October Revolution of 1917.
· What’s the current state of Cuba-India relations?
We have strong sentimental and historical relations with India. Cuba became part of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), of which India was a founding member at the Bandung Conference of 1955.
Both the countries are working towards a multilateral world order. Cuba supports India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. Cuba has permanent support from India against the economic blockade imposed by the US.