Interview with Ambassador of Cuba H.E. Danilo Alonso Mederos

Recently, the Prague Forum has interviewed His Excellency Danilo Alonso Mederos, Ambassador of Cuba in the Czech Republic.  His Excellency has offered , in a very friendly way, very interesting information about his country and its relationships with the Czech Republic

Prague Forum: How long are you already posted in Prague Mr. Ambassador?

Ambassador: Well, I arrived here in April 2019. So, three years and a half now.

Prague Forum: So, you finished half of your mission already. How long will you still stay?

Ambassador: Maybe I will finish end of this year or maybe in 2023. It depends on the situation.

Prague Forum: Have you already seen many parts of Prague? And if yes, what is your favorite place?

Ambassador: Well, I really enjoy Prague. It is it is a very nice and beautiful city. Prague has many beautiful places. I like the Charles Bridge very much, Wenceslas Square, and the parks. Prague has a lot of parks and green areas.  I really like them.  Indeed, Malastrana reminds me of Havana.

Prague Forum: Which other parts of Czech Republic did you visit?

Ambassador: I have travelied in different cities here in Czech Republic, like Brno, Nürnberg , Pilsen

Prague Forum:. How is it going on in Havana with the renovation of the old town? Is it going ahead?

Ambassador: In Havana the old town is “old Havana” – this is how we call that part of Havana. It is a place, which was founded by the Spanish 500 years ago.
On the 16th of November, the city has celebrated their 502 years of Foundation of Havana.
All Havana will be reconstructed in a very nice form, currently, Havana is recognized as patrimony of humanity (UNESCO), like Prague. Havana is working very hard on the modernizing of the town. UNESCO recognized this, also the people who live in old Havana are rebuilding the town by themselves. The People in Cuba are very friendly and kind. They are special people for me.

Prague Forum: All interviews about Cuba need mentioning the most famous Cuban,  Fidel Castro.

Ambassador: I was in Emirate Arabas in 2017/2018 on a work mission. And we met with one person who was a police officer. He asked me where I am from. I told him Cuba. He didn’t know anything about Cuba, and he asked me where Cuba is located. I told him just the name Fidel Castro and the man laughed and understood.

Prague Forum: Did you know Fidel Castro personally?

Ambassador: I, personally have had some interaction with him. He has been a very great person. Some leaders of the world says that Fidel could look into the future. One leader said; Fidel go to the future and return to tell us.

Prague Forum: He was the leader of the Cuban revolution that took place 1959. What about the main reasons for the Cuban revolution?

Ambassador: In Cuba we had a government which was very corrupt and more than one million of the people in Cuba were illiterate. Additionally, the public health system was a disaster, especially out of Havana. The economy was a disaster as well. The entire situation in Cuba was very bad.
In 1953 Fidel began the revolution. The 26th of July 1953 was the start of the revolution in Mangala in Santiago de Cuba, the Cartel. This action was condemned, Castro was jailed . Afterwards he went to Mexico. In Mexico he organized the next step of the revolution, which began on the 2nd of December with a small boat. They traveled from Mexico to Oriente, in the east of Cuba. They began the war with only 82 people. In the beginning Fidel and his people lost some battles and had to go to the mountains of Oriente. In the mountains he was organizing the war.
When Fidel was practically alone in this situation, he had only five people with him and only two guns. One day he met with his brother Raúl.  Raul asked “how many people do you have?” Fidel answered they were 7”. Raul again: “And how many guns do you have?” “Well, we have five guns. Well now, we will win the war” This is how the revolution started.

Prague Forum: By the way, now you mentioned Raul, we talked about Fidel. Many people think because he is always connected with Fidel Castro, Che Guevara is Cuban, but he is from Argentina. Did he join Fidel and the revolution before 1959 or after?

Ambassador: Yes, they met in Mexico. Che Guevara was a doctor. He travelled with a motorcycle through whole America. When he arrived in Mexico, they met in one house and started a very good friendship. Che Guevara went with Fidel to Cuba on a boat. Granma is the name of that boat. That boat is now in a museum in Havana.. It is like a small yacht. 82 Persons were sailing to Cuba on that Yacht.
Let me tell you the story. During the travelling to Cuba from Mexico there were a lot of people on the boat. Unfortunately, two persons dropped off the boat and fell into to the ocean, because there was a very strong storm on the sea. When Fidel found out that two of his men dropped off into the water, he ordered searching for them. Fidel said: “we don’t leave anybody behind”. That is the behavior of Fidel. – Not leaving anyone behind.

Prague Forum: You mentioned Mexico but the biggest and most important neighbor are the United States of America. Did the relations to the United States of America develop in the last 30 years till now?

Ambassador: Well, since 1960s the United Stated of America have some issues with their relationship to Cuba. In the economic, financial, and commercial sector for more than 60 years – exactly 62 years. The whole situation is complicated. In 1980s when the communist regimes in Europe were close to collapse, many governments were saying that Cuba would collapse as well. But two years before that, Fidel said to the Cuban people: “If one day the Soviet Union Collapse and the People who are living the communist system break down, we will stand here.” It was like looking into the future

Prague Forum: When I think about the economic aspect of Cuba, I always think about Cigars, Coffee, Tourism, and medical pharmaceuticals. Can you add anything to this list?

Ambassador: We have also other products, good products like honey. Years ago, we had sugar, but now it is not exported anymore.
Not only medical products, also Health Professionals and Sport Professionals, women, and men.

Prague Forum: I heard that you send some medical assistance  even to Italy during the Pandemic

Ambassador: Yes, During the Pandemic to Italy and other European states. Also, to many countries in America, Africa, and Asia. We have a team of doctors who are prepared to help during to catastrophic situations, for example when there were earthquakes in Haiti, Pakistan or in other countries, the Cuban professionals went there to help. The Cuban doctors went to those places and stayed there for months even if there were few hospitals in good conditions. They were adapting themselves. It was like camping in tents.

Prague Forum During the 80s and 70s you have sent,  also in cooperation with the Soviet Union,  some  revolutionary forces to Angola and also to other countries.

Ambassador: Yes. Let me explain that. In Angola, the president, it was Agostinho Neto,  called Cuba to ask for some help. It was not a cooperation with the Soviet Union.
It was our own decision to cooperate with  Neto.
Then,  in 1990,  the Cuban soldiers went out of Angola and returned to Cuba. Our soldiers did not take possession of  any resource there,  like diamonds, oil, or other resources.  We just offered solidarity with the people of Angola. We have a good relationship with the government of Angola, like with all other countries. In Angola we cooperate in other areas when they need. We have the cooperation, and they buy the contract – cooperation. Very often, Cuba does not receive any financial return, we do it as a spontaneous act

Prague Forum: This leads me to the next Question. Which countries are the most important economic partners of Cuba?

Ambassador: Well, we have a very good relationship with China, Venezuela, Vietnam, Spain, Mexico, Argentina, France, and Germany. We have also good a cooperation and relationship with Russia. With Japan we have some kind of cooperation as well. We have good relationships with a lot of countries expect of one. We would like to have a good commercial relationship with the United States, but they don’t want to.

Another person: But now they opened the embassy of USA in Cuba, right?

Ambassador: Yes. But they opened it when Obama was the President of the United Sates. They opened it and its still staying formally in Cuba. We have an embassy in Washington as well, and we have an ambassador there.
The US has an embassy in Cuba but not an ambassador. Our ambassador in Washington now is a lady.

Prague Forum: How would you describe the current economic system in Cuba? Is it still like a planned economy or is it a mix?

Ambassador: The economic situation in Cuba now is difficult. During the  the pandemic, the situation was more difficult because the health system in Cuba is free for all people who live in Cuba. In Cuba the poorest person receives the same attention as the one with more money. The pandemic required many resources for the purchase of respirators, PCR, attention in hospitals.  Also, we have lost about 5 million of tourists during the pandemic.

Prague Forum: I know about the embargo, but what is with the vaccine Pfizer. Who do they Americans allow that is exported to Cuba?

Ambassador : No.  We decided to develop our own vaccine because of two reasons. Pfizer and the other developers of vaccines have prioritized   large countries. In Latin America and other countries, we don’t have enough resources. Then our country said to our scientists: “let’s go to develop our own vaccines”.
In 1960 Fidel said, when the revolution was only 2 years going: “the future is the future of science – man and women. We must give opportunities to Intelligence”.
Afterwards one of the first measures that the revolution had, was that all people of Cuba would learn to write and read. In 1980 Fidel met with a group of scientists and began to develop Biotechnology. He said that in the future the biotechnology and the Technology of Information would be extremely important. In biotechnology we have improved and developed.

Prague Forum: What about Foreign Investment?

Ambassador: Well, Cuba has developed its economy well. We created some Enterprises in the country. Micro- and Small Enterprises help our economy a lot recently. Moreover, we have foreign investments in Cuba, especially in the tourist sector and generally also in all other sectors. Cuba is open to FDI.  This world is complicated. We must find and take a way to develop our country with Independence and solidarity in the same conditions as other countries as well.  A lot of times, our government sent messages to the government of the United States in public form and in private form as well, that we are in the position to have relationship with them but in the same condition as other counties have with the US.

Prague Forum: And what conditions would be needed from the site of the Unites States in order relations could be normalized ?

Ambassador: First of all, we would need a withdrawal of the blockade  This is the first step. Secondly we would demand respect for our system, which is what Cubans have chosen.

Prague Forum: Are there several political parties in Cuba?

Ambassador: No just one political party. In Cuba we don’t vote for a political party. The system in Cuba is participation. The people in the community choose one person. That person was maybe a worker, a doctor, or an artist. This is what the community is choosing. Each community choose one representative person for them. In the region they made the decision by themselves for the local government. Like this is it in the national embassy and parliament. In our parliament there are 600 people. We have workers, teachers, doctors, sportsmen and artists. It is a representation of the Cuban society.
We have only one political party, which means that we don’t choose whom we want to conduct the government. Democracy in Cuba is the participation of the people,  86% of the people have voted in favour of the new Constitution. We only want the world respect our decisions. There are so many different forms of democratic. Some countries have Kings and Queens and say they are democracy. We respect that. There are many form of political systems also in the United States.

Prague Forum: What about the relations between Cuba and the Czech Republic? How did these  develop after? What is the current status?

Ambassador: The first ambassador of a socialist country in Cuba had been the Czechoslovak ambassador. The Russian ambassador came later. We have a very good relationship as for the economic aspect and in the exchange program of students. We had in Cuba a culture house of the Czech Republic and Czechoslovakia. And we had here one culture house too. Relationships have improved again in the recent past
I am the first the ambassador of Cuba here in Czech Republic since 1990

Prague Forum: Thank you.

Ambassador: Thank you.

 

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