Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. Héctor Igarza Cabrera

 Widening Havana-Paris Ties

Just few months after the December 17th 2014 announcement that Cuba and the United States were poised to renew diplomatic ties, French President François Hollande’s official visit to Havana, on 11 May 2015, marked a turning point in Franco-Cuban relations. The two countries have already forged close cultural ties, with new opportunities opening up for heightened cooperation in the economic arena as well. The Ambassador of Cuba to France, H.E. Hector Igarza Cabrera, explains the motives and stakes of this policy shift, as Cuban President Raúl Castro pushes ahead with reforms.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr Ambassador, on 11 May 2015, President François Hollande is to make the first official visit by a French head of state to Cuba. What is your view of Franco-Cuban relations? What prospects do you see for the deepening of the political dialogue between the two countries?

H.E. Héctor Igarza Cabrera: The countries of Cuba and France are united by strong ties whose roots lie in History. Before the establishment of relations between our two countries in 1902, already 113 years ago, there were cultural and historical ties. In the early 19th century, the Haitian Revolution and the slave revolt in the rich French colony of Saint-Domingue forced thousands of French colonists to abandon their property and flee to Cuba. They arrived in the eastern part of the island, settling first in Baracoa, then moving to Santiago de Cuba. Between 1800 and 1804, approximately 30,000 French were to settle in Cuba, which was a Spanish colony at the time. In Santiago de Cuba, the French founded the Tivoli district, whose architectural, cultural and linguistic impact was of major importance in the modernisation of the city.
The beautiful Cuban city of Cienfuegos, founded in 1819 by the Frenchman Louis de Clouet and fifty immigrant settlers from Bordeaux and Louisiana, is a striking example of the French presence in Cuba, so much so that UNESCO, which has listed it as a World Heritage site, has described it as “the first and an outstanding example of an architectural ensemble representing the new ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century.” Along with several other programmes, this project is now the focus of Cuba Cooperation, an organisation based in France, and is an example of joint cooperation.
Louis François Delmes, a French engraver and cartographer from the mid-19th century, also contributed to a better understanding of the island by producing valuable maps and engravings.
Advertisements published in the press of the time reflect the French influence. People were importing luxury goods from Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille. People were drinking French wines from Bordeaux: Chateau Laffite, D’Estournel, Medoc, Sauternes, as well as Cognac and Champagne… People were buying Bayonne ham and other French foodstuffs.
Jose Marti, the national hero of Cuba, surely one of the greatest thinkers of the late 19th century, was very familiar with French culture; he notably translated Hugo’s Mes fils (My Sons) into Spanish, indeed Hugo was a writer he admired both for his talent and for his support of the anti-colonial revolution in Cuba.
There is also Severiano de Heredia, born in La Havana on 8 November 1836 and who arrived in France at the age of 10. He was a very brilliant pupil at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand where he was awarded the grand prix d’honneur in 1855. He wrote several short stories and poetic essays. In 1870, he applied for French nationality. He became a member of Paris City Council for the Ternes district (17th arrondissement of Paris) from April 1873, then President of Paris City Council in 1879, before being elected to parliament in August 1881. He held the position of Minister of Public Works from 30 May 1887 to 11 December 1887. Among other measures, he fought for the reduction of the factory working day to ten hours for children aged under twelve.
Similary, the historical figure Emilio Bacardi Moreau, son of Facundo Bacardi, was born to a French mother, Lucie Moreau. This independence activist and first mayor of Santiago in 1898 left a considerable legacy of socio-cultural achievements in Cuba.
Cuba, whose economy was mainly based the cultivation of sugar cane and coffee at that time, optimised production of the latter thanks to the first coffee cultivation manuals, written by two French planters, Jean Laborie and Alex Dumont, between 1809 and 1820.
Moreover, in the Sierra Maestra mountain range, where Fidel Castro began the final and definitive struggle for the true independence of Cuba, the vestiges of more than 90 former coffee plantations have been identified, including those of Fraternidad or La Isabelica, now classified as a World Heritage Site, as well as 200 kilometres of “hill paths” in steep areas of the Sierra.
The history of the production and exploitation of copper is also marked by the action of Frenchmen such as Prudent Casamayor and the engineer Jules Sagebien, the latter having built the first railway for transporting copper.
The Alliance Française of La Havana, as well as that of Santiago, are places of intense cultural activities, teaching French to 12,000 Cubans and organising exhibitions, festivals, performances, meetings and exchanges centred on our two cultures. Given that Cuba has a population of 11.2 million, it is the country with the largest number of students in the world in Alliances Françaises.
The French film festivals that are held every year in all Cuban cities have enjoyed great success for years now. Furthermore, the Maison Victor Hugo, a centre for the promotion of French culture in the heart of Old Havana, demonstrates the political will of our leaders to preserve a common heritage.
The economic and cultural role played by the French in Cuba is considerable due to their integration into Cuban society and their contribution to the modernisation of the island, its eastern part in particular.
President François Hollande confirmed to me that he has read the literature of Alejo Carpentier, Cuba’s former cultural advisor in France, famous for his baroque style. His best known works in France include Explosion in a Cathedral (1962), War of Time (1967) and Baroque Concert (1974). In The Kingdom of this World (1949), his first great novel, he evokes the Haitian revolutionary movement. It is also in the prologue of this novel that he describes his vision of the “marvellous real”, which critics were to identify with magical realism.

T.D.L.: Nearly thirty years after the last visit to Cuba by a French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius made an official visit to Havana on 1 April 2014, during which he inaugurated the Business France office in the country. How would you describe the prospects for an intensification of Franco-Cuban economic exchanges? Furthermore, in your view, to what extent can this visit be qualified as “historic”?

H.E.H.I.C.: The largest French investment is by the Pernod-Ricard Group (Havana Club Rum). Other large groups are involved in development projects on the island. They are concentrated in tourism (Accor), building and construction (Bouygues), telecommunications (Orange and Alcatel-Lucent), energy (Total, Alstom), electrical construction, food, and transport (Air France).
Sixty French companies operate through partnerships with Cuban entities, representative offices and companies owned by locally settled French citizens: 13 of them are established in the form of international economic associations (joint ventures or contracts of association) and 20 in the form of subsidiaries. There have been regular the French employers’ association, the MEDEF (March 2012, October 2013). The Havana International Fair, which is held each year, is an opportunity for French companies to showcase their expertise. French exports to Cuba, in turn, are guaranteed by Coface.
Laurent Fabius also exercised his new responsibility as French head of Foreign Trade for the first time in Havana, meeting Mr Rodrigo Malmierca, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment, boosted by the new law to attract capital. On this occasion Mr Fabius was able to reiterate France’s interest in participating in the development of the Cuban economy, given the prospects offered by the ongoing reforms and the future special economic development zone around the deepwater port of Mariel. In addition, we have chosen to prioritise 11 areas in which French companies can invest: forestry and food, sugar, industrial, tourism, energy (renewable sources), mining, transport, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, health (service exports), trade and construction.
However, one can describe the visit of Mr Fabius to Cuba as truly historic if one takes into consideration the fact that the last French foreign minister to have visited our country was Claude Cheysson in 1983, already 31 years ago. Mr Fabius is also the French minister who was the first among his European colleagues to visit since the European Union (EU) began the process of normalising relations with Cuba.
Moreover, I would like to remind you of the statement made by Mr Fabius when the re-establishment of contacts between the governments of Cuba and the United States was announced: “The United States and Cuba have just announced their decision to restore diplomatic ties more than half a century after the closure of their embassies. I welcome these announcements, which, as has been long hoped by France, pave the way towards full normalisation and, ultimately, to the lifting of the embargo on this country. France has been strongly committed in recent years to the rapprochement between the European Union and Cuba. Relations between France and Cuba have flourished since my official visit to Cuba in April 2014. France will continue to stand alongside the people of Cuba during this new chapter in its history.”
Prior to Mr Fabius’ visit, Mr Jean-Pierre Bel, former President of the French Senate, came to Cuba in January 2013, and following Mr Fabius, we received a visit by Ms Fleur Pellerin, at the time Secretary of State in charge of Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, who travelled to Cuba in May 2014. From our side, Mr Manuel Marrero Cruz, Minister of Tourism, travelled to Paris in January 2014, and, soon after, Mr Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs, in March 2014.
In this process of rapprochement, we must also mention the visit to Cuba just completed in March 2015, of Mathias Fekl, France’s new Secretary of State in charge of Foreign Trade, Tourism and French Nationals Abroad, which precedes the upcoming visit of the President of the French Republic, Mr François Hollande, to crystallise the historic relationship between our two peoples.
Before this historic first visit by a French president to Havana, in April 2015 we will also have the visit to France of the Cuban Foreign Minister, Mr Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, upon the invitation of his counterpart Mr Fabius, which will pave the way for rolling out the red carpet to the President of France, His Excellency Mr François Hollande.
These contacts mark the end of a long period of rapprochement between our two countries and, at the same time, the beginning of deeper relations in all areas. But they also demonstrate the importance the French President attaches to relations with Latin America and the role that Cuba can play in French aspirations.

T.D.L.: The visit to Cuba by the head of French diplomacy took place in the context of the negotiations opened with the EU on 28 April 2014 with a view to signing a new cooperation agreement. How are these talks progressing? What is your analysis on the possibility of the EU revising the common policy that has been in force since 1996 with regard to your country?

H.E.H.I.C.: The EU is an important partner for Cuba, in fact, its second largest trade partner. Trade between Cuba and the EU is dynamic, even if the balance of trade is in favour of the Europeans. Four out of Cuba’s ten biggest partners are European: Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and France. In 2013, 36.7% of Cuba’s exports went to Europe and 25.9% of its imports come from this region. For their part, Europeans mainly import foodstuffs, beverages, cigars, sugar and its derivatives, as well as mineral products such as nickel and scrap metal. In return, the EU exports machinery and spare parts, foodstuffs, chemicals and derivatives to Cuba.
With regard to tourism, four European nations feature among the top five sources of tourists to Cuba after Canada: Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and France. In February 15, 2015, France rose to third in this ranking.
Delegates from the EU and Cuba, whose relations had been officially suspended since 2003, have been negotiating since May 2014 for an “agreement on political dialogue and cooperation”. In early 2014, the twenty-eight member states approved the opening of dialogue with the purpose of normalising relations with Cuba. This proposal was accepted by Cuba, which wants the EU to abandon its “common position”, in force since 1996.
The Government of Cuba stressed its interest in moving forward in its relationship with the EU, particularly regarding the negotiation of a mutually beneficial agreement for both parties on a reciprocal and non-discriminatory basis of equality.

T.D.L.: The meeting between President Raúl Castro and President Barack Obama on 11 April 2015 has confirmed the rapprochement initiated by Cuba and the United States. In light of the first meetings between Cuban and US officials in Havana in January 2015, how would you describe your expectations with regard to this process ?

H.E.H.I.C.: As we speak, Cuba and the United States have announced their decision to restore diplomatic relations in the context of a process we have recently initiated. However, it should be pointed out that we have not yet renewed diplomatic relations and that we do not yet have ambassadors respectively in Washington and Havana. Between 21 and 22 January 2015, a US delegation came to Cuba and a Cuban delegation travelled to Washington the following 27 February, as part of this process I just mentioned.
On many occasions, the Government of Cuba has privately and publicly expressed its willingness to hold respectful dialogue with the US government, on the basis of sovereign equality, to discuss various topics in a reciprocal manner, without prejudice to the national independence and self-determination of our people.
Following a dialogue that lasted several months, our two countries have been able to move forward in agreeing on certain matters of common interest to both nations.
As the historic leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, promised, in June 2001, when he said “They will return!”, Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio returned on 17 December 2014 to our homeland where they joined René and Fernando, who had already seen out their unjust punishments. These five Cuban antiterrorists are a source of pride for us and an example of fortitude.
The great joy of their families and of all our people who rallied tirelessly for this outcome, extends to hundreds of committees and solidarity groups, governments, parliaments, organisations, institutions and personalities who for 16 years called for their release and made courageous efforts to this end. We express our deepest gratitude and recognition to them.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank, in particular, the French solidarity organisations and French citizens, who, individually, accompanied us in this struggle.

T.D.L.: What are the prospects of this rapprochement leading to a lifting of the US embargo and marking a new phase for the future development of Cuban society and the Cuban economy?

H.E.H.I.C.: The president of the United States recognised the failure of the policy applied against Cuba for over fifty years, the absolute isolation it has caused for his country as well as the damage that the embargo has caused to our people. He also therefore ordered a review of our country’s obviously unjustifiable inclusion on the list of state sponsors of international terrorism.
These changes are the result of almost a half a century of heroic struggle by the Cuban people and loyalty to its principles. But they have also been possible thanks to the new era which our region has entered into and the resolute and courageous demands being made by the governments and peoples of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).
We also sincerely thank the 188 States who voted against the embargo at the United Nations, those which supported the same request at the General Assembly, during summits and international conferences, and all the popular movements, political forces, parliaments and personalities who have tirelessly lobbied for this goal.
Nevertheless, Cuba will not surrender its ideals of independence and social justice, nor will it deny a single one of its principles, nor will it cease to defend its national sovereignty.
We have informed the US president of our willingness to work towards the normalisation of bilateral relations, once diplomatic relations have been restored, which implies the adoption of reciprocal measures to improve the climate between our two countries, resolve other outstanding issues and make progress on cooperation.
However, the main problem remains: the economic, commercial and financial embargo, which causes enormous human and economic damage and violates international law, must be lifted.
The restoration of diplomatic relations will mark the beginning of a journey towards the normalisation of bilateral relations, but it will not be possible while the embargo persists, while the territory illegally occupied by the naval base in Guantánamo Bay is not returned to us, while radio and television programmes violating international standards continue, while equitable compensation has not been granted to our people for the human and economic damage it has suffered.
It would be neither moral nor just, nor acceptable, were anything to be asked from Cuba in return. Should these issues remain unresolved, this diplomatic rapprochement between Cuba and the United States would be pointless. It must therefore not be expected that, in exchange, Cuba should negotiate internal “issues” that fall within our absolute sovereignty. We have made progress in recent negotiations precisely because we have treated each other with respect, on an equal footing. To continue moving forward, this basis must be maintained.
For now, the measures that have been announced in this respect have been very limited. The ban on credit and the use of dollars in our international financial transactions persists; individual trips by US nationals in the framework of the permission for “interpersonal exchanges” are prohibited, as they are intended for subversive purposes, just as travel by sea is prohibited; we are still forbidden from buying equipment and technology with more than 10% of US components on third-country markets, as would be the case for Airbus aircraft, in which we are interested, whereas imports of goods containing Cuban raw materials by US nationals are still forbidden, along with many other bans.
President Barack Obama could make determined use of his vast executive powers to fundamentally change the application of the embargo, since the decision depends only on him, not needing to go through Congress. All the measures he has authorised in telecommunications could also be authorised in other sectors of the economy and that is why it is important that he has decided to start a debate in Congress with a view to removing the embargo. The spokespeople of the US government have made no secret of the fact that methods are changing, but not the objectives of this policy, and that the interference in our internal affairs will continue, which is something we will not accept.
Lifting the embargo will be a long and difficult process that will require the support, mobilisation and resolute action of all people of good will in the United States and around the world.

T.D.L.: President Raúl Castro has initiated reforms to further open up the Cuban economy. How is this “gradual” process set to continue? What are the key measures introduced by the new law on foreign investment passed on 29 March 2014, in particular with regard to access to land ownership and the hiring of local labour? How is the currency reform announced in late 2013 progressing?

H.E.H.I.C.: The economy is the priority and it is our duty to put all our efforts into ensuring that we implement the sustainable and irreversible development of socialism in Cuba. The challenge we face is very great, we must raise the economy to the level of the political prestige that this small Caribbean island has earned thanks to the Revolution.
The growth of the Cuban economy slowed to 1.3% in 2014, which is significantly lower than forecast and the lowest increase since 2006. The projections for 2015 are for growth of just over 4%, with a policy in place to revive local industry, namely through foreign investment.
Cuba has indeed adopted a new law on foreign investment, designed to attract capital to “update” its economic model, without resorting to “shock therapy”, nonwithstanding the effects of the international economic crisis and the US embargo, still in place despite the announced improvement of relations with the United States.
Law 118/2014, known as the “Foreign Investment Law”, sets out the conditions that apply to business with foreign investors: joint ventures, international economic association agreements, companies with 100% foreign capital, agreements for the joint production of goods or the provision of services, management agreements for the production of goods and/or services and management agreements in the hotel sector.
The Cuban State guarantees foreign investors free transfer abroad of funds in convertible currency, exempt of tax or other charges in connection with the transfer. It also guarantees the net profits or dividends obtained by the operation of the investment, and receivables in the case of the liquidation, sale or transfer of all or part of the investment.
The law provides for “full protection and security to investors, who may not be expropriated, except for reasons of public utility or social interest” and stipulates that investors should be compensated.
In addition, there are some specific incentives to attract investors. First, a special tax regime: profits are exempt of tax for the first eight years and in exceptional cases for a longer period. Subsequently, the tax rate is 15% and 0% for reinvested earnings. However, for companies exploiting natural resources, a tax rate of up to 50% may apply.
We still provide some advantages that it is sometimes difficult to find elsewhere: a highly skilled workforce, political, social and legal stability, a safe environment for foreign personnel, government support for the development and promotion of technological research and innovation, and applications of the latter, among other factors.
The investment projects are remarkable because of their decentralised nature, because they contain proposals made by national companies interested in having access to foreign capital, oriented towards exports and substituting imports, and who wish to foster modernisation, infrastructure development and technological change, which are the country’s main motivations.
The negotiation deals include technical and economic pre-feasibility studies that will be updated each year. They will have a greater depth of analysis, using approaches that encourage links with the productive aspects of the economy.
The new portfolio of foreign investment contains 25 proposals for the special economic development zone around Mariel (5 in the food industry, 13 in the biotechnology and medical industry, 6 in the industrial sector and 1 in renewable energy) and 221 others in 11 sectors of the economy throughout the country, for a total of 246 negotiation opportunities.
As a result, significant opportunities have been opened up across the country: 32 projects in the agro-food sector; 6 in the construction industry; 56 in tourism; 13 in renewable energy; 4 in the sugar sector; 10 in mining; 86 in oil; 3 in transport; and 1 in wholesale trade.
For labour needs, Cuba has employment agencies that supply staff who come with preparation, training, skills and competencies for each profession or trade required by foreign companies operating in Cuba and, at the same time, that guarantee employment for Cuban workers who are socially insured by the Cuban state. If one day a foreign company considers that its profits do not correspond to its expectations and decides to leave Cuba, its employees will not remain helpless because the Cuban state is responsible for finding them another job.
One thing is certain: the land in Cuba is not for sale. A company can sign an agreement granting usufructuary rights, which can be renewed, but the land will remain in the possession of the Cuban people and be socially owned.
With regard to monetary unification, it is a “subject of extreme complexity”, which will follow its course in 2015. We decided to end the use of the double currency that was for many years a necessity but which, at present, is an obstacle to the development of our economy and causes headaches for our economists. We will therefore have only one currency in circulation, the traditional Cuban currency. This measure will put an end to a system in which we had the Cuban peso (CUP), for internal use, and then the convertible peso (CUC), worth 24 CUP, which is equivalent in value to the US dollar. Henceforth, as is the case everywhere else in the world, any tourist or foreigner arriving in Cuba, will have to change his currency into pesos (CUP) to make purchases and pay for all services.

T.D.L.: Crowning the normalisation of its relations with its Latin American neighbours, in January 2014 Cuba hosted the second summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). What is your analysis of the impact of the Cuban presidency of this organisation on the deepening of regional integration? What are the specificities of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA)?

H.E.H.I.C.: CELAC is a regional organisation that brings together, for the first time, the 33 countries in the region without the United States and Canada or any European country. It results from more than two centuries of struggle for independence, and is founded on a solid convergence of views. This unique model seeks to break with the traditional patterns of dominance by large international financial institutions by creating its own instruments. This is the case of the ALBA Bank, which enables countries to develop their own projects, and SUCRE (Unified System for Regional Compensation) for fairer trade with greater monetary independence.
This new type of integration has served to expand cooperation in matters of health and education, as demonstrated by the thousands of medical aid workers who assist the most vulnerable populations. The eradication of illiteracy in most of its member countries is another one of ALBA’s achievements.
For our peoples and governments, CELAC represents the shared vision of a Great Latin American and Caribbean homeland. This organisation aims to create a common political space whose fundamental principle is that of respect between nations and peace in the region. It defends the sovereign use of resources for the well-being of all, the progress of our peoples and the principles of states’ self-determination and equal sovereignty.
The Havana Declaration and the 2014 Action Plan reaffirm the political will to consolidate Latin American and Caribbean integration, and to act collectively through consultative processes. The signature by all heads of state and government of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace represents a major milestone both regionally and globally.
ALBA is a new integration model based on mechanisms of economic complementarity and the development of social projects for the benefit of “Our America”, which has entered a new era – since the creation of CELAC – and is progressing towards the achievement of its goals: independence, the sovereignty of natural resources, integration, the implementation of a new world order, as well as social justice and democracy of the people, by the people and for the people. Indeed, an unprecedented level of commitment to justice and the rights of peoples has been achieved within this framework, surpassing that of any other historical period.
Together we represent the third largest economy in the world, we have the second largest oil reserves, the greatest biodiversity on the planet, and we concentrate much of the world’s mineral resources.
Fostering unity in diversity, being united in action and respecting our differences remain our primary objectives and an essential necessity. Thanks to the economic and social policies in place, along with the sustained growth of our region, in the past decade we have withstood the global economic crisis and reduced poverty, unemployment and the unequal distribution of wealth.
We must address structural gaps, ensure free and high-quality education, universal and comprehensive health coverage, social security for all, equal opportunities, and human rights for all people.
The 83 points listed in the final Havana Declaration include the designation of Latin America as a zone of peace, in which regional conflicts will be resolved only through dialogue and the use of force is ruled out; the recognition of the action indigenous peoples in favour of biodiversity and the need to avoid the commercialisation of their knowledge by transnationals; and a package of measures to combat poverty, illiteracy and inequality, while promoting food security, agricultural development, technical and scientific cooperation, or economic and financial integration.
Furthermore, the presidents also committed to supporting the peace process in Colombia, the rights of Argentina over the Falkland Islands, the Latin American and Caribbean character of Puerto Rico (now annexed by the United States), the reconstruction of Haiti, and rejected the embargo maintained by Washington against Cuba.

T.D.L.: Cuba was the first country to have responded to the call of the World Health Organisation (WHO) to contain the Ebola virus, deploying 256 of its doctors in West Africa. How did your country deal with the magnitude of the health challenge posed by this epidemic? In light of the strong commitment of its medical experts abroad, can one speak of a Cuban “health” diplomacy? With regard to your experience in African issues, how would you like to see cooperation between your country and Africa evolving?

H.E.H.I.C.: Africa, which is also where we have our roots, needs no advice or interference, but the transferal of financial resources, technology and fair treatment. We will always defend the legitimate interests of nations with which we have fought shoulder to shoulder against colonialism and apartheid and with which we have fraternal relations of cooperation. We will always remember their solidarity and unwavering support.
The South African government, financially speaking the richest on the African continent, was equipped with nuclear weapons whose systems had been delivered by the State of Israel, with the agreement of President Ronald Reagan, in order to hit the Cuban and Angolan forces defending the People’s Republic of Angola, occupied at that time by the apartheid regime. No peace negotiation or peaceful settlement was possible while Angola was being attacked by the best trained and best equipped army on the African continent. It was these systematic efforts to bleed Angola dry that led Cuba to deal a deadly blow to the racists in Cuito Cuanavale, a former NATO base that South Africa was trying to occupy at any cost.
This arrogant government was forced to negotiate a peace agreement that ended the military occupation of Angola, brought about the independence of Namibia and hastened the end of apartheid in Africa. The African continent was freed of the nuclear weapons that had threatened Cuba for the second time in its history. The Cuban internationalist troops withdrew from Africa with honour.
Whereas several countries sent the type of material aid they considered possible according to their abilities and interests, Cuba contributed by sending 265 doctors and nurses to Guinea Conakry, Sierra Leone and Liberia as a gesture of continuing medical cooperation by Cuba in Africa. Since the beginning of the Revolution in 1959, 76,000 Cuban doctors and nurses of both sexes have contributed and worked in 39 African countries. Today, more than 4,000 of them still undertake missions in 32 countries on the continent, while over the same period 3,392 Africans from 45 African countries have been trained as doctors in Cuba. Africa deserves our respect and our support, it can always count on the hand of friendship extended by Cuba.     

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