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50 years of Cuba Sri Lanka Relations

Her Excellency Ms. Nirsia Castro Guevara

Dr Srimal Fernando– Asia Correspondent for Foreign Exchange – The Diplomatic Society engages Her Excellency Ms. Nirsia Castro Guevara, Ambassador, Cuban Embassy in Sri Lanka.

A brief background/Bio data of Ambassador Ms. Castro Guevara.

Ambassador Nirsia Castro Guevara is graduated from the Cuban diplomatic school and has been working in the Asian Department of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba for 30 years.  Before coming to Sri Lanka  in 2008,  she served in Cambodia as Ambassador.  She was promoted to the position of Ambassador in 2002 and before that she had occupied different positions  as official  at the embassies of Cuba in Japan, Philippines and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea.

Dr Srimal Fernando (SF): Cuba and Sri Lanka continue to enjoy friendly relations since establishment of diplomatic relations in 1959.  What is your objective for enhancing these relations during your posting? How do you feel working in Sri Lanka?

Ambassador Nirsia Castro Guevara (Amb): As you mentioned, since 1959 Cuba and Sri Lanka  have enjoyed a friendly relationship that has been enriched with the exchanges and mutual support as part of their membership in the Non Alignment Movement and the celebration of the Summits in both capitals- Sri Lanka  1976 and Havana 1979 and 2006. Both have played an active role in the NAM, as well as in others international organizations. Besides that, we have developed several projects of cooperation at different times during more than 50 years of relations, but the  links have not reached in the economic sector to the level they could have had. We are aware that there is potential to develop the relation in several fields, so enhancing the contact and expanding the links to other sectors is and will be always an objective for our work here. I feel happy to be here and to work for these goals. It has been a great pleasure for me to represent my country here.  

SF:
How can Sri Lankan establish relations with Cubans at people to people level? What are the main factors that will contribute to enhance their relations?

Amb: Here there is a strong feeling of friendship and admiration for Cuba and its people that seems to be nourished by the fact that both countries are islands.  In many occasions Cuban experts have come to Sri Lanka to work and more than one hundred young people from Sri Lanka have travelled to Cuba to study at our universities. It is a way to establish relations at people level.  Of course more could be done.  The cultural exchanges are a good way to achieve this. We have a program of Cultural Cooperation but the actions taken have been limited. We need to increase them.


SF: Are you aware of any political, social and cultural or other upcoming interaction between the two countries?

Amb: Well, last June we received a delegation from Sri Lanka headed by  H. E President Mahinda Rajapaksa which included the Minister of Foreign Affairs Hon. Prof. G. L. Peiris;  the Minister of Construction, Engineering and Amenities, Honorable Wimal Weerawansa; the Minister of Environment,  Hon. Anura Priyadharshana Yapa and the Hon. Mahinda Amaraweera, Minister of Disaster Management, as well as other high level officials. It was a good opportunity to strengthen the relationship between the two countries.

Next  October  Sri Lanka is going to host the VI Asia Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba which is a remarkable expression of the feeling of friendship and solidarity toward my country from Asian nations and particularly from Sri Lanka.  We expect the participation of a delegation from Cuba to this conference.

SF: While the Cuban reform plan built up hopes of an opening to overseas investment, what specific sectors offer the greatest opportunities for investors?

Amb: It needs to be pointed out that the transformation process that is experiencing our economic and social model is not aimed to open the country to overseas investment because actually the national legislation to channel foreign investment to our country was  approved  and  put in force since the eighties of last century.  The legislation gave the opportunity to many companies to invest in different sectors, for example in mining and tourism. We already have foreign investments and if we don’t have more it is because as part of the implementation of the US policy of economic, commercial and financial blockade to my country many  potential investors are  prevented to invest under the threat of be subjected to economic sanctions by US, both the person and the company he represents. In many cases  they are discouraged from investing because they cannot export their  potential production to  U.S. market, again, as a result of the implementation of the US sanctions to Cuba.

I have to say that the updating of our economic and social model is focused in changing the way we have been managing our economy and in general many sectors of social life with the objective to ensure sustainability for the socialist system. We need to increase economic efficiency and the capacity to produce food and material goods to give better life to people and meet the dissatisfactions that have accumulated over years of facing economic constraints.  We need  better economic  performance to be able to improve the conditions  of our free  health and education systems to give better services to our people.  At the  same time,  we seek to  promote  more dynamic participation of people  in the creation of the material wealth of the country.

The upgrade of our economic development model is intended to improve it, preserving the basic principles of socialism and making better use of material and human resources according to national needs. It means maintaining all social justice conquered and achieve higher levels in the satisfaction of people aspirations.   
It is a process in which we change the way of conducting economic management but not the principles for protecting the people.

SF: Tourism is one of the most important foreign income earning sectors of Cuba, it exceed 2.5 million tourist arrivals per year. What are your thoughts of selling Cuba to the South Asian tourist market?  

Amb: Last year  Cuba received 2.7 million tourists and the  target this year is to receive 2.9. During the first six months we have received 1.8 million.  The biggest numbers of visitors to our country come from Canada and some other European and Latin American countries. South Asian countries can find valuable things to  know  in Cuba, so your assertion makes sense. There exists an increasing interest in Sri Lanka to visit Cuba. A travel company has started to promote tourist packages. In Cuba visitors can find not only our cultural traditions: dance, parties, meals but also the character of our people and of course, the work of the revolution that has to be seen there.

SF: What is the role of the Cuban Embassy in Colombo?

Amb: Our role is identifying opportunities in both ways, for the Cuban product here and for the Sri Lankan there. Of course, in the conditions of the small countries some requirements are necessary to be able to develop trade. It’s not enough to have the will. It’s necessary to find credit facilities. 

SF: Former Cuban President Fidel Castro retired from public life few years ago. The iconic leader   remained one of the most influential political leaders for so many years around the world. Can you reflect on some of the most important achievements he gained for Cuba during his Presidency?  

Amb: Fidel took the revolutionary tradition of our patriots who fought for an independent and sovereign Cuba. They were aware of the dangers facing our independence and sovereignty and, Fidel with its boldness and wisdom managed to develop the armed struggle to achieve victory and lead the people of Cuba in a process of revolutionary transformations that mark a milestone in the development of humanity. He has shown what a small country can do using revolutionary formulas, despite being subjected to the largest and longest blockade policy that history has ever known. He has forged a new man who is characterized by its humanism, humility, selflessness and spirit of internationalism. We have to say that Fidel is a universal class leader. He always thought of solutions to the problems of Cuba, but also of humanity.
SF: What are the challenges faced by your country at the moment?

Amb: Well, the main challenge is to make sustainable our Socialism.  We need to preserve all social justice conquered with the revolution and  keep our goals of achieving higher levels in our economic and social development.  This has to be achieved with the implementation of the necessary changes in  the way we  handle  the economic mechanism  but it is  important  to  mention  that it  has to  be obtained in a scenery characterized by the  strengthening  of the  US  policy of blockade, particularly in the  banking and financial sector and the  attempts to subvert the internal situation in the country with the actions aimed to create an opposition financed from abroad.  

SF: How can friendly nations support in overcoming certain challenges faced by your country?

Amb: It is important that our friends be well informed about what is the real situation in Cuba, what the real aims of the changes implemented in the country are, and  about actions instrumented by the enemies of Cuba.  Unfortunately an important proportion of information on Cuba that is circulated in the world is manipulated and is addressed to  present a negative image of the country.


SF: Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Amb: I want to send my greetings to the readers of this publication and in general the people of Sri Lanka. I wish to thank the friends and admirers of Cuba for  their  friendship and solidarity towards our country and all the support they have given us in denouncing the policy of blockade against our country and in the campaign to publicize the innocence of our five brothers unjustly im
prisoned U.S.
 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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May 2017 Edition

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