Lázaro Herrera is the Cuban Ambassador to The Gambia. After finishing his studies at the High Institute of International Relations, Ambassador Herrera served as Cuba’s ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, The Bahamas, Washington, Thailand and Myamnar. He also served as Cuba’s Ambassador to Thailand and Myamnar before coming to The Gambia.
Bantaba recently caught up with Ambassador Herrera and here is an excerpt.
Bantaba: The Gambia and Cuba have a long history of relationship, how would you describe the current state of the ties?
Lázaro: I would describe Cuba-Gambia relations as excellent. It is a kind of relations cemented by common roots and mutual respect. Cuba and The Gambia have very good coordination and support each other in many issues of common concern in the international organisations. Both countries worked very closely in the framework of the south-south cooperation. There is a brotherly relation between the leaders of both countries. So, I can say that Cuba – Gambia relation is an example of south-south cooperation.
Bantaba: As Cuban Ambassador to The Gambia what will you do to cement the already existing bilateral relationship?
Lázaro: Well, in fact from my point of view the question should be what I am doing, because from the very beginning of my arrival in the Smiling Coast, I have tried my best to continue strengthening the bond of friendship between both countries. I have established very good relations with many Gambian institutions, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Assembly, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education, just to mention some. In doing that, I interpret not only my role as Cuban ambassador, but also the feeling of brotherliness on behalf of my government and people.
Bantaba: What was Gambia’s contribution to Cuba particularly with regard to the blockade imposed on Cuba by United States?
Lázaro: At this point I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest gratitude, on behalf of the Cuban Government and people and on my own behalf, for the great support Cuba has received from the Government and people of The Gambia in this battle to put an end to such irrational policy which is the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States.
Cuba has always received strong support from the Gambian Government and people. It was the case of the battle for the liberation of the Cuban Five; it is the case of Cub’amins demand for the devolution of the illegally occupied territory of Guantanamo and is also the case of the Cuban battle to put an end to the criminal blockade.
I also want to express our eternal gratitude to the strong movement of solidarity with Cuba here in The Gambia, which has accompanied my country in the above mentioned battles during all these decades.
Bantaba: After 50 years of embargo US decided to renew ties with Cuba what is your reaction?
Lázaro: First of all, I welcome the beginning of this new period in the relations between the two countries. Cuba and US are neighbours and it is something that nobody can change. So both countries have to learn how to live as neighbours, how to behave as neighbours. More exactly, United States has to learn how to behave as Cuba´s neighbour, without interference in our internal affairs, respecting our sovereignty, renounce to continue organising actions to try to subvert Cuban political system.
In July 01, 2015 presidents of Cuba and the US announced simultaneously the decision to re-establish diplomatic relations between both countries. It was a result of a new attitude adopted by President Obama, recognising Cuba as a sovereign country, considering Cuban government as equal; as a genuine government; recognising that both sovereign countries can sit down and talk even discuss about their differences, but without pre-conditions (because Cuba will never accept preconditions); and respecting each other and on an equal base.
Such historical decision was also the result of a long period of negotiations, but to be fair, it was above all a result of the resistance of the Cuban people and its determination to pay a high price to preserve its independence and sovereignty.
Bantaba: What is the interest of the two countries now that they open a new page?
Lázaro: The common interest is to continue working together try to forge ahead in this long and complex process toward normal relations. To try to focus in common interest. That doesn´t mean to ignore the differences.
Both countries can find many opportunities in the scientific, trade, economic and many other fields based in common interests and mutual benefit about these fields. In fact there are many American businessmen interested in doing business with Cuba, many scientists recognise the high scientific level of Cuban professionals and are ready to work together in different fields. But everything has to be based on mutual respect, no matter the political differences.
To be continued!