With 20 days to go before October 25, the day set aside by Sadc countries to amplify the region’s collective voice and express solidarity against illegal sanctions imposed on Zimbabwe, The Sunday Mail correspondent Wallace Ruzvidzo spoke to Cuban Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Carmelina Rodriguez, on the effects of sanctions on nations. Cuba is a victim of a 60-year-old United States embargo that prevents American businesses, and businesses with commercial activities in the United States, from conducting trade with Cuban interests.
Q: How would you characterise relations between Cuba and Zimbabwe?
A: Zimbabwe and Cuba enjoy a good relationship. I have always said this is a historical relationship based on friendship, mutual respect and collaboration. This relationship started before the independence (of Zimbabwe), during the liberation struggle.
The leaders of ZANU and ZAPU, late President Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, were in contact with the leadership of the Cuban Revolution.
After independence, the co-operation has been strengthened, particularly in education and health sectors.
Many Cuban technicians, professors and medical doctors came to Zimbabwe to give a hand in the process of building a new independent society.
More than 3 000 young Zimbabweans went to Cuba for training in our universities in the framework of the Cuban scholarship programme for students of Africa and Latin America. Cuba has contributed to the establishment of Bindura University of Science Education and Cuban professors have permanently been part of the staff at this institution.
Q: What areas of co-operation are in place in light of Covid-19?
A: Covid-19 has demonstrated the necessity of solidarity and co-operation among the countries and peoples because nobody can tackle this pandemic alone.
As you know, Cuba is a small island without solid economic resources, but has put in place a robust health system.
Cuba is world-famous for its ability to train outstanding doctors and nurses and for its generosity and spirit of solidarity in supporting other countries.
In Zimbabwe, we have permanent co-operation in the health sector through the Medical Brigade of 34 senior medical doctors. Some of them have participated in the fight against the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
They are ready to work together with Zimbabwean personnel on the control of this pandemic. The MOHCC (Ministry of Health and Child Care) announced that Zimbabwe has acquired Cuban Interferon Alfa2b, a product that reduces 50 percent of the virus in patients.
Cuba and Zimbabwe are working to further deepen and broaden co-operation in the development of the pharmaceutical industry, in establishing a plant to produce medicinal drugs in the country.
Q: What lessons can Zimbabwe learn from Cuba which has been under sanctions for a long time?
A: Resistance! Cuba understands very well the nature of economic sanctions. For 60 years, successive US governments have imposed an iron and inhuman economic, financial and commercial blockade on Cuba.
Sixty years of lack of food and medicine, the impossibility of obtaining spare parts for machinery or public transport, the lack of school supplies, or even the restrictions imposed on those who wish to trade or do solidarity donations to the Cuban people.
The policy of blockade continues to represent the biggest impediment to the development of the potential of the Cuban economy, for the implementation of the National Economic and Social Development Plan, and for attaining development. The current American administration has intensified the sanctions to provoke desperation among the people and push for a regime change in Cuba even in times of Covid-19.
Despite the obsession of the US government, Cuba has moved forward. We Cubans have been creative and have firmly resisted the onslaught of the worst economic siege, which has tried to suffocate the nation. Cuba is not alone.
Q: How best can the voice of countries under sanctions be heard?
A: We do not have the intention to give up, never. We have demonstrated that we are a resilient nation and we will continue resisting and fighting for our dreams and sovereignty. We have used all the scenarios to condemn this unprecedented siege in human history.
Since 1992, year after year, Cuba has presented to the (United Nations) General Assembly the Resolution of the necessity to end economic, commercial and financial blockade that has received categorical support from the international community, regardless of political positions and geographical areas. But the US government has demonstrated that it does not take into consideration the international opinion and continues applying its war policy against my country.