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“America May Invade Cuba, but Cannot Conquer Cuba!”
Despite Standing tall as a Successful Socialist model with a Benchmark Healthcare System, A High Literacy rate and life Expectancy, Cuba never got The Due Praise it Deserved. Miguel Ramirez, Cuban ambassador to India, In various meetings with Akram Hoque, Sray Agarwal and S. Ghosh, shares his views on US and The World
Issue Date - 03/02/2011
B&E: How is the America-Cuba relationship? The US thinks Cuba still deserves an embargo...
Miguel Angel Ramírez (MAR): It is only a pretext. They [the Americans] have a resonance of consciousness when it’s a matter of Cuba. They should look at their prisons [like Guantanamo Bay] and remove them to have a better relationship. There are lots of issues that have to be discussed in order to have a normal relationship.

B&E: Obama has said that US-Cuban relations would improve. Has he fulfilled his promise?
MAR: Although he has fulfilled some promises made to the Miami electorate, he has not breached the level of even Clinton and Bush. I don’t think he has done much. Some people believe that Obama will bring changes – this is clearly not the case. The most clear indications came just some days ago when he signed the blockage against Cuba for another year. Cuba is the only country with whom the Americans have these Acts, not Iran, Korea, or any other country. The same happens with tourist restrictions. Americans can travel to Korea, Iran, Sudan, everywhere except Cuba. This is in violation of their constitution.

B&E: Cuba is known to have one of the most powerful military regimes in the region. How do you plan to fortify this in the future, and what military tie-ups does Cuba have?
MAR: If you go according to history, the Cuban military is not that strong. However, there is a determination and strategy on how to defeat the enemy in case we face aggression. Specifically, we believe that America is not in a position to conquer Cuba. They may be able to invade Cuba, but not conquer it. The best way to stop a war is to be ready to save yourself. The whole population of Cuba is trained; everybody in Cuba has a military background; they have done their research and attended military service. Still, we don’t have a strong military. To that extent, we have tied up with lots of friendly countries and these tie-ups keep on growing.

B&E: Which are the major countries that you have sided with?
MAR: All countries except America.

B&E: How has European Union played a role in this? For example, the relationship of Cuba with EU has improved now. What do you think of EU’s role in the Cuba-US and EU-Cuba relations?
MAR: We have always said that we don’t need a mediator, so we provide no role to the European Union. We want EU to stand on their own, to be able to face the consequences of US policies on Cuba. But we also want to establish good relations with EU for economic reasons. We have developed some alliances in the areas of finance, investment and tourism, but we cannot allow the European Union to interfere in our domestic affairs.

B&E: What is the progress you have made with EU in the Cuban situation?
MAR: Well, there is growing interaction with EU. There is a group of companies in Europe that need to respect the Cuban sovereignty and provide cooperation. Those on the European side have an agenda based more on American interests than their own. So, we have some difficulties that we are trying to resolve.

B&E: There has been lot of talk about human rights’ abuse by the Cuban government. How far is it true?
MAR: Your information is mainly based on American information. Human rights in Cuba feature among the highest in the world, surely higher than US. We have literacy, 70 to 80 years’ life expectancy, with less than 5 children deaths per 1000 at birth, which is less than US. The Americans never mention human rights’ violations in Honduras. Their’s is a biased opinion. US wants to destroy Cuba because Cuba can be an example for all. Venezuela, Bolivia, Equador, Paraguay – they are following their own way of doing things, but they also value social justice in their nations.

B&E: When talking about social rights, housing is a major problem in Cuba. How does your government plan to solve this issue?
MAR: Three years ago, we had disasters one after the other, and one million houses were destroyed leading to the destruction of one-fifth of our GDP. We have not been able to cope up with the reconstruction since then to be able to satisfy the housing needs.

B&E: How is the Cuban relationship with Asian countries like India? How do you see India as a strategic partner for bilateral trade?
MAR: Cuba and India have celebrated 50 years of ties. It’s a historical relationship based on the principles of friendship. Fidel Castro, Nehru, Indira, Rajiv – they were milestones in the bilateral relationship. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh also visited Cuba in 2006 and met Fidel Castro. So, there is a close political interaction that has been complimented with close economic ties. Although these ties diminished due to economic difficulties, there are new possibilities in fields like pharmaceuticals, biotechnology and agriculture among others.

B&E: Do you see Indian tourists visiting Cuba? What are the educational exchange programmes you have and what are the cultural similarities you have with India?
MAR: There is a huge potential and Indian tourism is growing fast in Cuba with over 1000 tourists visiting every year. Also, many Indian origin tourists are visiting Cuba from Canada and UK. However, Cuba being a small country, I don’t see many Cuban tourists visiting India. In the area of educational exchanges, we are proud of having one of the better high-technology operations provided by the Ministry of External Affairs. We are also offering scholarships for Indian students studying in Cuba. I strongly believe that there is great possibility of further interaction & cooperation in the area of education.

B&E: On a tangent, does Cuba support gay rights?
Miguel Angel Ramírez (MAR): We totally encourage and support gay rights. We provide gays free medical support, even getting a sexual transplant done on request. Yes, there are established policies, which wrongly subjugate rights of people having different sexual directions. At the moment though, this is not an issue. There are other local biases prevalent in the society for which we need to educate people and raise awareness with the support of government officials.


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