Cuba: ‘We want to be treated as equals by the US’

Ambassador Abelardo Rafael Cueto Sosa is not too enthused by the US’ easing of the 50-year blockade against Cuba

Sadiq Naqvi Delhi 

“Our relationship with India has always been good,” says Abelardo Rafael Cueto Sosa, the Cuban Ambassador in New Delhi. “In fact, after Narendra Modi was sworn in as the Prime Minister, President Raul Castro sent a letter congratulating him. The norm is that you reply to such a letter with a couple of lines, but Modi wrote two paragraphs.” Sosa explains how the relationship between the two countries has gained in strength since the days of Nehru. The walls of the spartan living area of Cuba’s embassy are adorned with photographs of Nehru with legendary former Cuban President Fidel Castro and revolutionary Che Guevara.

“There is an interesting story about this photo,” he says, pointing to a photograph of Nehru and Castro. “After the revolution, when the Cuban delegation led by President Castro arrived in New York for the UN General Assembly, the Sheraton refused to accommodate the delegation. They pitched tents in Central Park and spent the night there. Later, someone who owned a hotel in Harlem gave Castro a room. Nehru was Castro’s first guest during his stay in the hotel. They spent six hours together. The next day, Nehru came with Nasser and [Kwame] Nkrumah.”

The conversation then meanders to US President Barack Obama and the easing of US-Cuba relations which were non-existent after the two countries ended diplomatic ties following the Cuban revolution. “We are ready to establish diplomatic relations with the Americans,” he says. “But we want to be treated as equals.”

The US was never comfortable with a socialist Cuba and there are numerous instances of it having tried to derail the revolution. The CIA was responsible for the capture and execution of Guevara in Bolivia. The US always believed that it could tame Cuba into joining its sphere of influence. “They never thought that their most precious jewel in the Caribbean can be socialist. They could never tolerate a free Cuba,” Sosa says. “They believed in La Fruta Madura, and imagined Cuba to be a ripe fruit which would eventually fall in their kitty.”    

He adds, “The Americans were even responsible for transferring the dengue virus and the swine flu virus to Cuba and there was a time when we had to cull all the pigs in the country,”
Sosa says.

The two countries’ relations have warmed a bit after Obama announced a relaxation of the more than five-decade-old blockade. “The blockade is still intact. However, there has been some relaxation from the American side. People from the US can travel to Cuba if they belong to 12 categories,” the Ambassador says, while stressing that relations cannot normalise until the US lifts the blockade and removes Cuba from the list of countries sponsoring terror. “We have never supported any kind of terrorism,” he says.

The sudden warmth shown by the US has also led to apprehensions about the fate of the revolution if market forces are allowed a free run in a restricted space like Cuba. “The Americans know that we Cubans can die to protect our revolution,” he explains, adding that the chances of Cuba going the China way are bleak. “Like Lenin said, socialism is global in essence but peculiar to every country. So China chose a different path and our path is different.”

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2015