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Interview with H. E. Ms. Caridad Yamira Cueto Milián, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba to the Republic of Bulgaria:

In times of great suffering for humanity, once again Cuba is giving the world an example of solidarity, overcoming all barriers - geographic, political and economic. Let us globalize solidarity!

E. Mrs. Caridad Yamira Cueto Milián impresses with her high erudition, kindness and sincerity. With the typical Cuban zeal and temperament, she speaks with great love for her country and proudly presents its culture, history and achievements.

Caridad Yamira Cueto Milián was born on 24th of April 24 1962 in Pinar del Rio, Cuba. She graduated in 1986 in International Law at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations - MGIMO .

Her professional career began in the same year at the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs as an official in the Legal Division and continued as Head of the Department Multilateral Treaties and Deputy Director of the same department. From 1992 to 1995 she was Deputy Director of the Division of Multilateral Political Affairs. Her career as a diplomat began in 1995 as a Counsellor at the Cuban Permanent Mission at the United Nations Organization in New York, where she was until 1999 when she returned to Cuba and became again Deputy Director of the Division of Multilateral Political Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. From 2002 to 2006 she was Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba in the Slovak Republic. For five years she worked as Senior Official at the Division of Latin American and Caribbean Department, after which she became the Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to the Kingdom of Denmark. After 2016 she was successively Head of the Planning Department, Division of Organization, Planning, Information and Analysis and Senior Official at the Division of Europe and Canada at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.

Since November 28th 2018, she has been Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba to the Republic of Bulgaria, concurrent in the Republic of North Macedonia and in the Republic of Albania.

She speaks English, French, Russian, Slovak (basic) and Danish (basic).

She is married to Mr. Disnael Martinez Rivera, who is a counsellor at the Cuban embassy. They have one son.

- In the days of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cuba showed its solidarity and sent a team of medics to Europe and other countries around the world to fight it. Tell us more about Cuba's contribution to the fight against coronavirus.

- Covid-19 has proved itself to be a global challenge. It goes beyond borders, ideologies or levels of development. Therefore, the answer to it must also be global and joint, putting political differences aside.

In times of great suffering for humanity, once again Cuba is giving the world an example of solidarity, overcoming all barriers; geographic, political and economic. Cuba has received requests for medical help to combat Covid-19 from countries in all latitudes of the world. In the last month 25 new Cuban medical brigades, composed by 1488 Cuban health professionals, have joined the efforts to fight the pandemic in 23 countries, including Italy and Malta. They have joined other Cuban brigades which have been already providing services in 59 States.

Cuba shall not give up its solidarity vocation even when, out of political reasons, the US government continues attacking and obstructing the international cooperation being provided by our country, which jeopardizes access to health services for tens of millions of people. There is a lack of solidarity and cooperation in the world. Let’s globalize solidarity!

- What is the secret to good health care and medical success in Cuba?

- Through tremendous effort and sacrifice, under the severe US blockade that has been exacerbated in the circumstances of Covid-19, and in times of Covid-19 in particular, Cuba has been able to keep in place its universal and free public health system, supported by highly-qualified and dedicated professionals who enjoy world prestige, in spite of the crude and slanderous campaigns by powerful adversaries.

Despite the scarcity of economic resources, Cuba dedicates around 27% of the country's GDP to public health. With a life expectancy at birth of 79.7 years in 2019, infant mortality of 4.0 per 1,000 live births, the elimination of 11 immune-preventable diseases and malaria in the early 1970s and, more recently, having been the first country in the world to certify the elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS and congenital syphilis, Cuba constitutes a case study of high interest to all.

The resilience of its National Health System (SNS), its ability to prepare for and respond to emergencies and epidemic outbreaks, the presence of more than 48 000 Cuban health professionals in almost 60 countries, having graduated more than 35 000 doctors from more than 100 countries, Cuba's outstanding interventions in emergency situations such as the disease Ebola in West Africa in 2014, to name just a few examples, are elements that validate the success of the Cuban public health system. In Cuba, the right to health is not merely a constitutional but a truly public and sacred right. 

- This year marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between our two countries. At what level are our relations currently?

- October 14th 2020 will mark 60 years of friendly relations between Cuba and Bulgaria, not only at diplomatic level but mostly between the peoples of our two countries, which are linked by affections deeply rooted in our history. Today, the official diplomatic relations between Cuba and Bulgaria are based on mutual respect and understanding, encompass active interaction within international organizations and forums, and are aimed at the continuous effort to develop cooperation in various areas. Raising the political dialogue between our countries and Governments is also an objective of our official diplomatic exchanges.  

On the eve of this historic anniversary, Cuba reaffirms the disposition to continue working for the consolidation and maintenance of even more fruitful political cooperation with Bulgaria, by fostering bilateral trade and economic relations, deepening educational and cultural ties, as well as promoting the rich cultural heritage of the two countries.

 - At what stage are the trade relations between Cuba and Bulgaria?

- I hope to correctly interpret the position of Bulgarian official authorities by seeing that today and historically, Cuba occupies an important place in the priorities of Bulgaria's foreign policy in Latin America.

The Cuban economy is permanently subjected to the severe impact of the US blockade and its extraterritorial effects. In the months prior to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, Cuba was already facing a ruthless tightening of the US economic, commercial and financial blockade, aimed at bringing our trade and access to fuels and foreign currency to a full standstill.

Despite this difficult scenario, in the last three years, the commercial exchange between Cuba and Bulgaria has diversified, prioritizing trade in flagship products for respective economies. With the support of Bulgarian trade and commerce official institutions and also counting on the firm commitment of Bulgarian businessmen, both in Havana and in Sofia, significant efforts are underway to expand and deepen bilateral trade, economic and investment ties in spheres such as agriculture, food production, mining, hydrography, export and import of Cuban medicaments, among others. We are confident that although modified in their effectiveness and scope by the severe economic impact caused by Covid-19 in our countries and in the rest of the world, our efforts to strengthen trade relations between Cuba and Bulgaria will succeed.

- How is your country's economy currently in relation to the difficult situation after the imposed restrictions?

- For Cuba, month before the current pandemic and even now, the economic challenges have been unprecedented. The early warning signs of Covid-19 came in the midst of the suffocating context of an economic war fraught with new sanctions, of an "undeclared war" on the part of US Administration against Cuba, a blockade policy that has spanned over six decades and makes now Cuba's economic and development challenges even greater and more difficult to reach. Cuba´s economy and the capacity of the Cuban people to resist, being deprived even in these pandemic times of access to markets for medicines and medical equipment, and even food supplies, continue being severely tested by the US blockade.

Denouncing this harsh reality, in his statement for the Online Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in response to Covid-19, convened from Baku, Republic of Azerbaijan, on May 4th 2020, the President of the Republic of Cuba - H. E. Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermudez, called once again for the lifting of unilateral coercive measures being imposed on Cuba and on some other nations as they, together with the social and economic effects of Covid-19, are threatening the sustainable development of the peoples.

- Many Bulgarians worked in Cuba years ago, as specialists in various fields. This is precisely why Cuba is very close to our country. Do you believe that the exchange of personnel will resume?

- The professional and personal stories of thousands of Bulgarian and Cuban families have been deeply marked by the times when our two countries exchanged specialists in different fields. Cuba opened its arms to thousands of Bulgarian engineers, technicians and professionals who helped us build a dream. Those exchanges were stopped for well-known reasons, and not exactly attributable to Cuba.

But instead of dwelling on the past, Cuba looks to the future, convinced that no political efforts or economic objectives can be fully successful if they are not enriched with "people to people" contacts, or without being supported by professional experience. 

Human knowledge cannot be replaced by technology. Despite the complexity of the times in which we live, Cuba reaffirms its willingness to continue identifying new ways to intensify the exchange between specialists and personnel of our two countries.

- You are an ambassador who actively supports different cultural events in Bulgaria. Do you have any future cultural projects for when the coronavirus crisis ends?

- The cultural sector has also been severely affected by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Once the emergency state in Bulgaria is lifted and the epidemiological-sanitary conditions allow it, the Embassy of Cuba will evaluate the realization of some cultural projects. Among others, and in close coordination with the Association of Friendship "Bulgaria-Cuba" and with the Ministry of Education of Bulgaria, we plan to carry out the Award Ceremony of the School Contest "Cuba: far and near", which will successfully reach its 17th Edition this year. A photo exhibition under the title "Two countries: millions of friends", and a concert with the motto of "Concert for Solidarity" will also be arranged to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Bulgaria.

- We know that education and science are at a very high level in your country. Is there any interest in student exchange between the two countries?

- Yes, the level of education and science in my country dotages Cuban students with sufficient knowledge and skills to be successfully inserted in the educational programs of different countries of the world. In the case of Bulgaria, we are interested in energizing, in particular, the exchange of students between respective Universities, as well as in increasing the exchanges between scientific and cultural institutions, including museums, as singular vehicles for the promotion and preservation of the cultural heritage of our two countries.

 

- Cuba is an extremely loved tourist destination. Despite the distance, more and more Bulgarians are visiting it. Are there any tourism-related initiatives?

- The scale of disruption caused by Covid-19 in tourism is extremely serious. Virtually, all destinations in the world have imposed travel restrictions, in many cases banning them entirely, in order to contain the pandemic.

Even in these challenging times, Cuban tourist destination continues to be attractive and above all, very safe, for thousands of tourists from different countries, including Bulgarian tourists.  It would be worth noting that when the emergency state was decreed in Cuba due to Covid-19, more than 300 Bulgarian tourists were in our country, which, given the level of our exchanges, is not a negligible figure. As of today, 38 Bulgarians are still in Havana and other towns of Cuba. All of them are safe and healthy.

The 40th Edition of the International Tourism Fair (FIT Cuba), the most important professional event of the Cuban tourism industry, originally planned from May 4th to 9th 2020, in Varadero, had to be postponed due to Covid-19. High level officials from the tourist sector in Bulgaria were specially invited to attend this event and confirmed their disposition to attend. We hope that Bulgaria will be represented through high-level personalities, Bulgarian tour operators and travel agencies at the 40th

Edition of FITCuba to be reconvened at the end of this year.

- You have been in Bulgaria since 2018 together with your husband, Mr. Martinez Rivera, who is an advisor to your embassy and with your son. What are your impressions, did you manage to get acquainted with our country and traditions? Do you have any favourite places you visit in your spare time?

- My family has always been my pride and my strongest support. In Sofia, we have experienced memorable and encouraging moments. The stay in Bulgaria, together with the years of work in our previous diplomatic destinations in New York, Bratislava and Copenhagen have made us feel proud to belong to the Cuban Revolutionary Diplomacy, what is the diplomacy of the Cuban people.

We used to say that the capital is only the face of the country…We have visited quite a number of cities and towns in Bulgaria. In all of them we met intelligent and honest people, people that love peace and solidarity. We have visited impressive monasteries, as well as places of great historical, cultural and economic value. We have visited also amazing schools in the towns of Varna, Plovdiv and Vratsa, and even in the small village of Karadzjovo. In all of them we have met highly qualified teachers and students very proud of their country; young generations prepared for the future.

Bulgaria, for its part, has welcomed hundreds of Cubans, who have watched their children and grandchildren grow up here. Today there are hundreds of Cubans residing in Bulgaria who live and work in this country, who love Bulgaria, but without ever giving up love or losing their ties with their motherland. The friendship and solidarity between Cuba and Bulgaria have transcended political parties and leaders. They transcend times, because they are rooted in our peoples.

My son, Disnael José, is 16 years old and is self-taught in Bulgarian language and feels identified with the character of the Bulgarians... And that reminds me of what the Cuban national poet Nicolás Guillén said: "... Cubans are the Bulgarians of the Caribbean and the Bulgarians are the Cubans of the Balkans." In our spare times we walk and walk through the city, through the forest, because we like to be "diplomats on foot". My husband, who is an indissoluble part of our small "diplomatic team", my son and I will always be proud of having contributed, in a very humble manner, to build bridges between Cuba and Bulgaria.

For all Cubans and for us, Bulgaria will always be a distant but endearing rose.

The photos are provided by the personal archive of H. E. Mrs. Caridad Yamira Cueto Milián, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba to the Republic of Bulgaria.

Above: Her Excellency with her husband and son

Below: moments from the more important events during the mandate of H. E. Mrs. Karidad Yamira Cueto Milián in the Republic of Bulgaria. The last photo shows the map of the world where Cuban medical brigades were sent.