18 December 2016
Oscar Israel Martinez Cordoves, Ambassador of Republic of Cuba to New Delhi, recently came to Dhaka for one-day visit to attend Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Summit. During his visit, he spoke on Fidel Castro, who recently passed away, Bangladesh, Cuba relations and other important issues including health sector of Cuba in an inclusive interview with The Asian age. The interview was taken by Golam Rosul, Senior Sub-editor, The Asian Age at honorary consul of Cuba, Bangladesh, Obaid Jaigirdar's residence at Banani, Dhaka.
The Asian Age (AA): Fidel Castro and Cuba are related to each other. How do you evaluate Castro before and after his death?
Oscar Israel Martinez Cordoves (OIMC): The Cubans were Socialist and after the death of Fidel we became more Socialist. We will go ahead even after the demise of Fidel Castro because we have a legacy of Castro and his ideology. Before the revolution, Cuba was a poor country.
With the spirit of revolution by Fidel we have built an enriched country. We have developed many sectors including health which are the reasons of jealousy to many. Now we want to become an international corridor in trade and business sectors. And all these things happened for Fidel Castro. He is a legend.
AA: Cuba has made a lot of strides in the healthcare sector. What role can Cuba play to the health sector of Bangladesh?
OIMC: We have developed a very strong healthcare system because the Cubans think life is the most important. After the revolution in Cuba, we had only 6,000 doctors. But now, we have achieved a remarkable success in pharmaceuticals industry.
If you want to make success you need two things-one is, you should have good health and other is you have to have a very high education level. So that you can make doctors, nurses, engineers and so on. You can make professionals and the Cuban approved this since the beginning of the 1960s.
Cubans developed the health system after the revolution. Castro once said we would be a power in health care in future. Now a total of 85,000 physicians working in Cuba that ensure one doctor for 125 Cubans. Besides, 12,000 Cuban physicians are working in Brazil and 25, 000 in Venezuela and 50,000 are working in 65 countries across the world specially Africa and the countries of Latin America.
They all are working in these countries with honor as they are practicing professionalism. However, I have not submitted my credentials to Bangladesh President yet.
So I can't tell anything about the matter of Bangladesh right now. We have very good relations in health sector with many countries of the world. If Bangladesh wants Cuba will help it in health sector especially in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals. Cuba is cordial to help Bangladesh.
AA: Kindly tell us your views about the Liberation War of Bangladesh in 1971 as the country is celebrating its 46th Victory Day this year.
OIMC: Independence is a matter of pride for every nation. It is very important for a nation to achieve independence and to have sovereignty. I am highly delighted hearing the news that Bangladesh is celebrating the 46th Victory Day with much enthusiasm. We see the Liberation War of Bangladesh with special interest. Bangladesh and Cuba both are the members of Non-Aligned Movement (NAM). So, we also celebrate the Victory Day of Bangladesh in Havana.
AA: You Know Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated in 1975. Assassination attempts were also made on his daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina too several times. Similar conspiracies were hatched to kill Fidel Castro as well. How would you compare these things?
OIMC: Killing human beings can't be supported. At least 600 attempts were made to kill Fidel Castro but the vested quarters had failed. Fidel compared Sheikh Mujib with Himalaya. Both of them were very close friend. It is not good practice to kill such high personalities in Bangladesh.
AA: What is the current status of relations between Cuba and Bangladesh?
OIMC: We have very good bilateral relations. We are united with the same political views, same objectives and same ideologies. Our relation will develop more in future specially in the business sector.
AA: Please share with us your opinion on Bangladesh government and democracy.
OIMC: I came here (Dhaka) on a 24 hour visit. So I don't know details of the government and democracy. Bangladesh is a country where democracy is largely practiced. A democratic culture is prevailing here which is appreciable to the world.
AA: Do you think that relations between USA and Cuba will be normal after US president Barack Obama's recent Cuba visit?
OIMC: We don't have normal relations with the USA. It depends on them. If they (USA) lift sanctions (economic, commercial and financial) from us there will be a way to normalize our relations. We can't use US currency as exchange of money. As a result, there is no business relations with the USA.
Even a Cuban citizen faces many troubles to visit USA. US citizens of only 12 categories approved by the president can visit Cuba. President Barack Obama does not lift the restrictions by his wish because former president Bill Clinton made a law on this. It is only possible by the US Congress. They have to recognize our country and respect our sovereignty.
They will also have to give back our land of Guantanamo Bay which they occupied illegally. We need good relations. Cubans are interested to make friendly relations with the USA. And in this process, a normal relationship is possible with the USA.
AA: If Cuba improves ties with the United States in that case do you think Bangladesh can have successful business relations with Cuba?
OIMC: Yes, Bangladesh can attach business sector with Cuba. Though Cuba is a poor country, tourism is one of its economic sources. It took a tourism development project fifteen years ago. Every year 40 lakh tourists visit Cuba. Bangladesh can develop its tourist sector. In the present circumstances, it is not possible to come Bangladesh for business but in future good business relation may develop.
AA: Progressive political parties across the world consider Fidel Castro as their idol. He is no more. In this situation what will be your message to them?
OIMC: Ernesto "Che" Guevara expired long time ago. Has he been lost from minds of people? No, he is alive amid us all. Similarly after the death of Castro, we became more Fidelist. And the name of this Fidelist is Cuban Socialism. It will be spread among all the followers of Castro across the globe. His thoughts and ideology are being evaluated in many counties.
He tried to remove the distance between the poor and the rich. He worked for all so that they can become real human being. Fidel will never die away from to followers throughout the world. He will live forever in our minds.
AA: Tell your feelings as you have come to Bangladesh for the first time?
OIMC: Yeah, I feel better here. The weather and atmosphere of Dhaka is so nice. Dhaka is a beautiful city. The people of the city are very much cordial. They always speak with smile. There are many young men. If the government can utilize them properly, they may be become human resources for Bangladesh.
AA: Thank you so much for giving your valuable time.
OIMC:You are most welcome.