Cuban Ambassador Tells RP How Africa Can Develop Magnificent Health System

The mighty Red Pepper staff on Thursday joined Cubans in the celebrating the 56th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution in addition to welcoming the New Year.

Led by Alex Masereka, who claims to be former Cuban Leader, Fidel Castro’s number one fan on the continent, the staff were joined by Managing Editor Ben Byarabaha and Sub Editor, Richard Kintu in marking 56 years since a Fidel Castro-led revolution took power in Havana.

“We are taking this wine to celebrate the 56 years of the Cuban Revolution and the warm relations the island nation shares with Uganda,” Ben said. The wine served on the day was, ‘Tinto el Wajay’ delivered from Havana by the Cuban amabassador.

L-R; Red Pepper's Managing Editor, Ben, Alex Maseraka and Richard Kintu toasting to the Cuban revolution and the tiews Uganda enjoys with it
L-R; Red Pepper’s Managing Editor, Ben Byarabaha, Alex Maseraka and Richard Kintu toasting to the Cuban revolution and the tiews Uganda enjoys with it

On January 1, 1959, Fidel Castro led the now famous Cuban Revolution to power deposing US-backed Fulgensio Baptista.

Uganda enjoys warm relations with the Caribbean island nation.

AMBASSADOR SPEAKS OUT NO RENEWED CUBA – US RELATIONS

Meanwhile, the Cuban ambassador to Uganda, His Excellency, Francisco Javier Viamontes Correa expressed happiness at the news of renewed relations between the two nations as good but the but said the island nation will remain cautious over this new development.

In an interview with the Red Pepper, H.E Javier said, “We are happy with this new development because we are in favor of normalizing relations.

On December 17 2014 was a momentous day in the revolution’s 56-year history, one that many Cubans thought they would never live to see: following the announcement of renewed diplomatic relations with Washington.

US President Barack Obama and his Cuban counterpart in televised statements delivered simultaneously announced that the mutual goodwill had already begun with a swap of high-profile prisoners: USAID contractor Alan Gross, an American ‘aid worker’ arrested for distributing illegal communications equipment in Cuba in return for the remaining members of the Cuban Five in jail in the US.

The Cuban Ambassador to Uganda H.E Francisco Javier Viamontes goes through a copy of the mighty Red Pepper at the Embassy in Kololo
The Cuban Ambassador to Uganda H.E Francisco Javier Viamontes goes through a copy of the mighty Red Pepper at the Embassy in Kololo recently

The Five were falsely accused by the U.S. government of committing espionage conspiracy against the United States, and other related charges.

“In January, a delegation of US will travel to Cuba to begin discussion on a roadmap for the renewed relations,” Javier said before adding, “It is the most important step between the two countries in the last 56 years, the perfect gift for the new year.”

The relations between the two countries were strained after Fidel Castro’s takeover in 1959 and the subsequent nationalization of properties including those owned by Americans, much to the chagrin of Washington.

According to H.E Javier who was 14 at the time, “Fidel Castro announced socialism and nationalized property with compensation. Some accepted the offer while others rejected it.” For those who rejected the offer, majority of them travelled to the US forming a community that has been hostile to the Havana administration.

“Everything in Cuba was American before the revolution and they owned almost half of it but that changed with the arrival of the Cuban revolution,” H.E Javier said.

On whether the move will succeed considering the fact that the US congress and senate are controlled by Republicans who oppose the new development, Javier said;

Cuba and the US are set for new friendship following commitment from both leaders
Cuba and the US are set for new friendship following commitment from both leaders

“Obama needs support from all circles not only in the US but across the world because for the last 56 years they have maintained the embargo on Cuba, the Americans have been on the losing end. If it goes according to plan, three million Americans are expected to visit Cuba which will improve our economics.” the Ambassador said.

What remains now is the lifting of the economic blockade the US imposed on Cuba in April 1960 following Cuba’s nationalisation of properties belonging to US citizens and corporations. Sanctions were strengthened to a near-total embargo in 1962.

“It has affected all spheres of the Cuban society but with this new dew development, we hope it will lead to the removal of the embargo. We have to be prudent as we seek a new way forward,” the ambassador remarked.

In October 2013, the UN General Assembly urged the US to end the more than 5-decade-old economic embargo against Cuba, which Havana describes as barbaric and amounted to genocide.
This came in a symbolic vote of the 193-nation General Assembly. The unenforceable resolution was 188-2. The United States and Israel voted against it, while Pacific island states of Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau abstained.

AMBASSADOR EXPLAINS CUBAN HEALTH SUCCESS

Cuba is famed in the world for its “5-star” health system and the ambassador explained to this reporter why the system that has also trained Ugandans is tick!

“In 1959, at the time of the revolution, Cuba had 11 million people and only six thousand doctors. Three thousand left after the revolution in brain drain. It is at this time that Fidel Castro decided to train a new army of medical personnel to fill the gap,” H.E Javier explained.

As a result, a pilot health program was introduced to train doctors in the country that only had 3 universities and battling the effects of the US embargo.

“Health education was declared free in Cuba at the time and made a universal right including education. Because of that, Cuba now has 75,000 doctors,” the ambassador said.

He added that, “Cuban doctors have participated in international medical missions. They are known as internationalists and 300, 000 have in different missions across Asia, Latin America and Africa.”

The ambassador proudly said that Cuba now has 14 universities in each of its provinces.

“3,800 Africans have been trained in Cuba and some at the Latin America school of medicine. My government gives scholarships every yearto countries from Latin America, Asia and Africa. 150 Ugandans have so far graduated from Cuba and between 30 – 40 students from here are currently pursuing their education on Cuban scholarship,” H.E Javier said.

President Museveni tours Cuba's health facilities during a state visit in 2009
President Museveni tours Cuba’s health facilities during a state visit in 2009

When asked why Cuba does this, the ambassador explained that it is the desire to share what “We have.”

“Africa has to set its priorities right if it is to achieve a commendable health system like that of my country,” the ambassador said when asked what Africa can do to heal its ‘sick’ heath system.

Cuba is not famed for its superb health system but also a fabulous education that boasts of 98% literacy rate in Latin America.

“In 1961, Fidel declared an anti-illiteracy campaign which I and my wife participated in. We were mobilized to teach Cubans how to read and write and in one year, the leader had declared that illiteracy was over,” the ambassador said.

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