It is a great pleasure for me, on behalf of the Cuban Parliamentarians, to convey to the peoples of Africa our most sincere congratulations on the occasion of such a special celebration. Africa Day is as significant date for that continent as it is for Cuba, because of the deep ties that unite us.
As is well known, the children of Africa, torn from their lands by the abominable slave trade, were taken to Cuba; more than one million two hundred thousand Africans made an extraordinary contribution to the formation of the Cuban nationality. The African heritage is a fundamental part of our culture, our beliefs and our customs. In the struggles for Cuba's independence against Spanish colonialism, Cubans of African descent made up about 75% of the Liberating Army and from them emerged many of the great military leaders who showed so much courage on the battlefields.
Africa is an essential part of what we Cubans are today. Fidel was consistent with this postulate that guided the special relations with the African continent from the very beginning of the Cuban Revolution.
Cuba is both proud and honoured to have had the opportunity to contribute to the struggles against colonialism and racism in Africa. More than 300,000 Cuban internationalist combatants fought against injustice and domination on the continent, of which more than 2,000 lost their lives. On African soil, Cuban and African blood mixed; a bond that unites us forever.
In 1963, Cuba sent the first medical mission to the African continent. In the speech in which Fidel made public the decision to help the brotherly Algerian people by sending this first brigade of health professionals, he pointed out: "Today we can only send 50, but in 8 or 10 years, who knows how many, and we will be helping our brothers".
Fidel was foreshadowing the future. A little more than half a century later, thousands of Cuban professionals have passed through Africa, not only in the health sector but also in education, culture, sports, agriculture and many others. At present, there are about 6 thousand Cuban collaborators working in 32 countries of the continent, the great majority of them health professionals, a sector that is being strengthened today in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bilateral cooperation between Cuba and African countries has not been limited only to sending Cuban professionals to the continent. One of the most outstanding areas of cooperation has been the training of young Africans in our country. To date, more than 30,000 students have graduated in Cuba in various specialties, among which medicine stands out. To our satisfaction, in carrying out their professional activities in their respective nations, these graduates have demonstrated the values of solidarity and humanism in which they were trained.
In view of the continuous aggressions, we are deeply grateful for the constant demonstrations of support and solidarity we receive from Africa. The African continent votes united every year in favour of the resolution presented by Cuba before the United Nations General Assembly demanding the lifting of the criminal economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States against our country. We also appreciate the resolutions adopted each year by the African Union calling for the immediate lifting of the blockade, as well as all the pronouncements from governments, parliaments, political parties, solidarity associations and others, which from all corners of the continent are in solidarity with the Cuban people. We can only assure you that we will not give up on our principles and that we will continue to help with our modest efforts all those who need it, as we have been doing for these 60 years.
With what morality can imperialism defame Cuba's internationalism, solidarity and cooperation in Africa and the rest of the world? How dare the imperialists attack Cuban medical cooperation? Even in the midst of the current pandemic, the U.S. administration is engaged in issuing statements trying to intimidate those governments that sovereignly request help from Cuba.
The U.S. government has intensified its actions against our country, which it justifies through the deliberate and growing use of lies and blackmail, from the crude inventions of the sonic attacks or the presence of 20,000 Cuban military in Venezuela, to all the measures to tighten the blockade: the application of Title III of the Helms Burton Act; the obsessive and relentless persecution to prevent the arrival of oil to Cuba; the hindrance of trade and investments; the banning of cruise ships and airlines from travelling to Cuba, just to mention a few.
Recently our Embassy in Washington was the victim of a terrorist attack, about which we have denounced the complicit silence of the United States Government, which has not condemned, until now, such a serious and despicable act. We have also denounced the fact that this terrorist act is the result of a policy of incitement to hatred and violence against our country by the U.S. administration.
Paradoxically, just a few days ago, the United States State Department had the cynicism to include Cuba on a list of countries that do not cooperate in the fight against terrorism. This is another attempt in its eagerness to damage our country's image and justify the permanent siege.
In the current situation, in the face of this new threat that has all of humanity on edge, we convey our firm solidarity to Africa and, once again, stress the value of international cooperation in crisis situations such as the one we are facing. Consequently, in the face of the current health contingency, Cuba has sent medical brigades at the request of five African countries, which reinforces the presence of Cuban collaborators who were already on the continent and who have placed themselves at the service of the local authorities in confronting the pandemic.
Before concluding, I would like to reiterate our congratulations and wish growing prosperity and new victories to the African continent, for which we feel a deep affection. We are convinced that they will succeed in implementing their major socio-economic development projects, such as 2063 Agenda, to which Cuba has given its unequivocal support.
Long live the brotherhood between Cuba and Africa!
Esteban Lazo Hernandez
Havana, 25 May 2020