(Caption: Charge d’Affaires Vera and Minister Shoniyin at a dinning table)
Cuban Chargé d’Affaires in Monrovia, Yordenis Despaigne Vera, says though Cuba still feels the consequences of the economic blockade imposed on his country by the United States in 1958, he could not withhold expressing his gratitude to Liberia for being one of the 191 bilateral partners that voted at the United Nations to lift the blockade.
In his statement on the occasion marking the celebration of the 59th Anniversary of Triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Chargè d’Affaires Vera said: “This is a clear sign of the almost unanimous rejection by the international community of the blockade imposed by the United States against my country.”
According to Vera, the U.S. blockade remains the main obstacle to the development of Cuba and a flagrant violation of the human rights of the Cuban people.
The US imposed embargo on Cuba is enforced through six statutes including Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917, the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations of 1963, and the Cuban Democracy Act of 1992.
Others are the Helms-Burton Act of 1996 and the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000.
The Cuban Democracy Act maintains sanction on Cuba so long as the Cuban government refuses to move toward “Democratization and greater respect for human rights.”
Regardless of the negative consequences of the sanction, the Cuban Chargè d’Affaires told diplomats including U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Sam Watson that his country continues to make strides in healthcare and education.
In his statistical narration, Vera said last year Cuba had the lowest child mortality rate in its history – 4.1% per 1,000 live births, which is accordingly one of the lowest rates in the world and the lowest in South America.
Additionally, he said Cuba has reduced maternal mortality to 38% per 100,000 live births, and cancer mortality has also decreased.
In 2017, Despaigne Vera said life expectancy at birth continued to grow, reaching up to 78.45 years of age, where women live an average of 80.45 years and men around 76.50 years.
Relating to healthcare, the Chargè d’Affaires disclosed that Cuba maintained solidarity and support in more than 60 countries in 2017.
“Today some 50,000 Cuban health workers are working in those 60 countries. On the other hand, almost 29,000 doctors from 90 countries have been trained at the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM), including 172 young people from the USA,” he noted.
The ELAM was created and founded by Cuban Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro to train foreign doctors free of charge. Of the over 2,000 students from every continent studying there, there are 80 Americans and five Liberians.
He extended, on behalf of the Cuban Government, congratulations to President-elect George Weah and Vice President-elect Jewel Howard Taylor, and expressed his government’s desire to work with the CDC-led government that is to soon take over.
The Government of Liberia was represented by Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Elias Shoniyin, who acknowledged the role of Cuba in Liberia and the world at large.
He said Cuba is teaching the world about self-determination, and its achievement in health and education “is quite encouraging.”
He boasted of Cuba’s role in the bilateral relation existing between it and Liberia, making references to scholarships for Liberians to study in Cuba and the role of its doctors in combating diseases as some benefits of the relationship.
Minister Shoniyin reiterated the Liberian Government’s unflinching support in joining other countries to advocate for the lifting of the economic blockade on Cuba.
During the Obama Administration there were concerted efforts directed towards the lifting of sanctions on Cuba. It was in that light that President Obama and U.S. first lady Michelle Obama paid a visit to Cuba and both USA and Cuba exchanged ambassadors.
Progress was also made in establishing U.S. businesses primarily in communication in Cuba, and the first commercial flight from the U.S. landed there on August 31, 2016.
However, when Donald Trump took over from Obama following elections in 2016, he promised to maintain the blockade against Cuba until its alleged poor human rights record improves.