The Cuban government has assured the South African government that its recent warming of relations with its historical foe, the United States, will not diminish its relations with South Africa, its historical friend.
Cuba’s visiting first deputy foreign minister Medina González gave this assurance to his South African counterpart Luwellyn Landers when they met in Pretoria on Monday.
Gonzalez is visiting to join the South African government in celebrating 20 years of relations between the two countries. He had just laid a wreath at the Wall of Names at Freedom Park in Pretoria. It honours about 2,000 Cuban soldiers who died defending the MPLA government in Angola against apartheid government military forces, among others.
They are among about 80 000 names engraved in stone on the wall, who are remembered for defending freedom in eight conflicts.
“We have explained the context in our conversations today that Cuba will maintain, as it has always maintained, an external policy of principles… of maintaining historical relations with the friends of today and the friends we have always had,” Gonzalez said when a journalist asked what impact the recent re-establishment of relations with America might have.
“And even to deepen those relations,” he added. Gonzalez said too that the opening up to the US should be seen as part of a broader opening up to the world, and not something special.
“Cuba has undertaken a process since several years ago for updating its economic and social model. It’s a sovereign process. It’s an independent process where we have taken the necessary decisions on our own for what we consider to be the best for our development.
“It’s a process that intends to diversify relations with the entire world. And the relations with the United States should be regarded within the context of this broad process.
“They don’t have any special treatment. It will be based on the principles like with all other countries, principles of equality and mutual respect. Even though I remind you there is still a very important obstacle, that is the economic, trade and financial blockade against our country. Which continues to impact very much negatively on our development.
“It is the main cause of creating problems which have made it difficult for us to advance in our development.”
He dismissed a suggestion that the economic reforms now taking place in Cuba would also lead to greater democraticisation, because he said, Cuba had already been developing its own form of democracy for much longer than that.
“The Cuban democracy has had a very important development since the very beginning of the revolution in 1959. It’s what we have been doing always. It’s our own democracy, it’s our democracy, according to our interests.”
Landers said Cuba’s contribution to South Africa’s development had been “immeasurable”. He said Gonzales and his delegation had visited Limpopo province on Sunday where the majority of Cuban nationals are based.
Gonzalez said there were over 500 Cuban professionals working in South Africa, of whom 350 were in the medical area. These were distributed across different provinces, mainly in Limpopo where there were 62 medical professionals.
“They are doing work that is very much appreciated by the populations here. And it is a reflection of the excellent state of bilateral relations which have profound historical grounds which go back much prior to the liberation of South Africa from apartheid.”