Cuban Ambassador Armando Vergara Bueno: “We are willing to assist in the construction of the new Algeria”
On May 23, 1963, Cuba dispatched its first medical brigade to Algeria, which had just regained its independence. 58 doctors came to assist the nascent health system. This action would initiate a long process of medical aid.
On May 23, 1963, Cuba dispatched its first medical brigade to Algeria, which had just regained its independence. 58 doctors came to assist the nascent health system. This action would initiate a long process of medical aid. At present, the Cuban mission in Algeria has some 900 doctors practicing in 14 hospitals, notably in the south of the country, in specialties such as; ophthalmology, endocrinology, pediatrics and gynecology. This decades-long tradition of cooperation and solidarity is the fruit of the Cuban revolution of 1959 and its eminently humanist conception of relations between peoples. Cuba has made education and health one of its priorities. It is no coincidence that this country has, according to WHO statistics, the highest number of doctors, compared to the number of inhabitants. Cuban medical missions are present in the four corners of the planet and make their contribution to fight diseases, such as ebola and cholera, and to treat victims of natural disasters. From 1963 to the present day, Cuban medical aid is illustrated by more than 100,000 doctors and technicians worldwide. Cuba distinguished itself during the Coronavirus pandemic by dispatching, on March 22, 52 doctors and nurses to the Italian city of Milan, to provide its expertise and help combat this scourge. Cuba also dispatched 1,000 doctors and other health workers to Latin America and Africa to fight the Covid-19.
El Moudjahid: Your Excellency, could you remind us of your diplomatic journey?
Vergara Bueno: It’s an honor to express my sincere feelings of solidarity and friendship between Cuba and Algeria. For six decades, glorious pages have been written on cooperation, solidarity and brotherhood between the Cuban and Algerian revolutions in several areas. We are moving towards consolidating and widening ties in various fields. Cuba has always stood and will continue to stand by the side of Algeria, which has accompanied us for almost 58 years with exemplary diplomatic relations. Regarding my diplomatic journey, I must say that I was born in the same year of the triumph of the Algerian revolution and the signing by President J. F. Kennedy of the order imposing the blockade on Cuba. I entered the diplomatic service in 1993 and have worked in several Arab countries since 1995: Yemen, Egypt and Qatar. I presented my credentials to the authorities last November.
How would you describe the relations between Algeria and Cuba?
I would like to recall some stages, such as the 36-hour visit made by the President of the Council, Ahmed Ben Bella, to Havana in 1962 on the threshold of the October crisis and the solidarity of the Algerian brothers during these dark days. It was during this visit, on October 17, that diplomatic relations between Cuba and Algeria were established; on May 23, 1963, Cuba sent its first international medical assistance brigade to Algeria made up of 56 members. Today, our brigade works hand in hand with Algerian personnel in the assistance and care of the population in several provinces. On the occasion of the celebration in May, of the 57th anniversary of medical cooperation, in the midst of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, I offer my greetings to all the Algerian health personnel as well as to the Cuban medical brigades present in Algeria, SADR and Mauritania.
Throughout these years, there has been intense coordination between Cuba and Algeria, notably at the UN, the Non-Aligned and ‘‘ the Group of 77 and China ’’. There is also a great convergence on many subjects of the international agenda: peace, disarmament, decolonization including the right of the Saharawi people to self-determination, independence and to live in peace in their territory; climate change, the new international economic order, etc. The two countries preside over the Non-Aligned Movement. I recall that in Algeria, the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, the Commander-in-Chief, Fidel Castro Ruz, as part of the IV Summit in September 1973, announced the termination of diplomatic relations with Israel in solidarity with the Palestinian cause and Arab countries; support which, at present, is renewed in the face of successive unilateral measures adopted by the current administration of the United States against the Palestinian people, including the refusal of what is called the Deal of the Century.
History records unforgettable moments of friendship and solidarity between the historic leadership of the Cuban Revolution and the leadership of the Algerian Revolution. The visits of the hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara to Algiers during the first years of the Algerian Revolution and the seven official visits carried out by Fidel Castro Ruz, the last of which in May 2001, made it possible to evoke the heroism of the Algerian people for their independence. Today, these ties are strengthened by the exchange between the Algerian president, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, and his Cuban counterpart, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez.
Since taking office in Algiers, what is your assessment of the partnership?
Little has happened in five months, a period during which the pace of trade has been impacted by the pandemic, but lines of cooperation are being drawn in several areas. We are working on holding the XXIInd session of the Intergovernmental Commission in Havana, on a date to be set later. There is a deep mutual determination to consolidate and extend the ties of cooperation to several sectors: health, water resources, special education, sports. We are looking for ways to further strengthen and boost this historic association between Cuba and Algeria.
Medical cooperation is cited as an example, could you tell us more?
We support the efforts of the Algerian authorities to offer quality medical assistance to the population. Our medical brigade offers services in various programs that have a great impact. I have received numerous proofs of recognition of the work carried out, both from the Algerian authorities and from those healed thanks to the care of Cuban doctors with their Algerian peers. Cuban staff work with great dedication and commitment and offer excellent assistance in coordination with the Algerian side. We offer our experience in preventive medicine and we are available to continue to exchange the best experiences between the two parties in the field of health and health care and we will continue to share with our Algerian brothers our achievements in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry including some products already used in Algeria which have been very successful. Solidarity has never been lacking between Cubans and Algerians. During this pandemic, cooperation and solidarity are an obligation and these precepts have guided the work of Cuban aid workers. I reiterate our gratitude to the efforts of the Algerians and the Cubans during the pandemic. Our staff and all Cubans in Algeria follow the daily reports given by the Algerian authorities.
The world is currently going through a health crisis, how does Cuba intend to contribute to this battle?
We supported the efforts of the Algerian authorities and the Ministry of Health, Population and Hospital Reform in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. Our medical staff support training efforts and share experiences by innovating in the use of equipment.
Regarding Cuba’s support for other countries, I’m quoting a recent statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the size of the current crisis “forces us to cooperate and practice solidarity, even with countries with the political differences. The virus respects neither borders nor ideologies ”. Steps must be taken to coordinate the production and distribution of medical equipment, protective equipment and medicines. Countries with resources must share with those most affected and those who receive less aid. It is with this approach that we are working to try to make the modest contribution of a small nation which has no natural wealth and is subjected to a long and brutal economic blockade. Throughout the decades we have gained experience in developing international cooperation in health, which is recognized by the World Health Organization. Twenty-one brigades of health professionals have been dispatched to join the effort from 20 countries, while 60 brigades are in other nations to fight the disease.
We also shared some drugs with proven efficacy in preventing or treating the disease. In addition, our medical staff took part from Cuba, via video conference, in consultations and debates on specific treatments for patients.
Is the epidemic under control in Cuba?
Cuba is facing the pandemic like the rest of the world. We rely on a universal public health system with preventive medicine at its core; a solid scientific community with significant scientific achievements applied in the treatment of suspect cases and a willingness of the government committed to the well-being of the people. We also have a plan for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus, but everyone’s contribution while respecting confinement and civic responsibility is fundamental. The country is in the stage of limited local transmission and we are working tirelessly to avoid an increase in the number of people affected.
However, this colossal effort is made despite the immense limitations imposed by the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the US government, which represents an extraordinary constraint on our objective of guaranteeing the raw materials and equipment supporting the Cuban public health system. as well as the specific needs to deal with this type of pandemic.
Are there other plans to strengthen bilateral relations?
The relationship of friendship, fraternity and solidarity must reach new horizons to continue exchanges in all fields. We are willing to assist in the construction of the new Algeria. I would like to express an eternal gratitude for the countless proofs of Algeria’s friendship in the fight against the blockade and for the consolidation of the historical ties between our two peoples and nations.
What are the difficulties hampering the surge of solidarity in the context of a blockade?
The persistent and immoral attacks following the blockade of the US government constitute a crime in the midst of this pandemic, but that will not prevent us from continuing our solidarity support. We will share our knowledge with everyone, even with this neighboring country which is causing us so much damage.
I address a message of fraternal encouragement and hope for the Algerian brotherly people and their authorities. To overcome this Covid-19 crisis, we count on two powerful weapons, cooperation and solidarity, defended and practiced by Cuba and Algeria throughout the history of their Revolution.
I wish a ramadan moubarek to Algeria and to the whole Muslim world.
Translation into English: Hana SAADA
Interviewed by : elmoudjahid/ Sami Kaidi
Link to the original text in the French language (elmoudjahid):
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