Sat | May 25, 2019

Cuba: No US threat will make us desert Venezuela

Published:Tuesday | May 14, 2019 | 12:14 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
People play dominoes in Candelaria Plaza in Caracas, Venezuela, yesterday. The South American country is still going through a period of political uncertainty with Opposition Leader Juan Guaido’s challenge to the rule of President Nicolás Maduro.
People play dominoes in Candelaria Plaza in Caracas, Venezuela, yesterday. The South American country is still going through a period of political uncertainty with Opposition Leader Juan Guaido’s challenge to the rule of President Nicolás Maduro.

Cuban Ambassador to Jamaica Inés Fors Fernández is calling on United States President Donald Trump to provide unequivocal proof that the 20,000 medical workers in Venezuela are actually Cuban military personnel.

Accusing the US of spreading propaganda that there are Cuban military operatives in the troubled South American country trying shore up the under-fire Nicolás Maduro administration, Fors Fernández vowed that Cuba would not turn its back on its friend, Venezuela.

“No threat will make us withdraw our solidarity and friendship for the people and government of Venezuela,” she declared at a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week.

According to the ambassador, of the 20,000 Cuban workers in Venezuela, 60 per cent are women, working alongside Cuban doctors. Without giving a time frame, the ambassador said they have provided 1.5 billion medical consultations and performed approximately 3.4 million surgeries.

She said that Cuba has been noting a recent escalation in political tensions in the South American country, including Opposition Leader Juan Guaido’s instructing of his political envoy in Washington to immediately open relations with the US military in an attempt to put more pressure on Maduro to resign.

But while Guaido has repeatedly echoed comments from the Trump administration that all options for removing Maduro are on the table, few in the US or Venezuelan opposition, for that matter, view military action as likely.

Fors Fernández told The Gleaner that there has also been an escalation of hostilities by the US against Cuba, with Washington accusing Havana of provocatively deploying military forces on the Venezuela border with Colombia.

She slammed as unfortunate a characterisation by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo last month, which painted Cuba as a destabilising force in region and a direct threat to US national security interests.

COUNTRY OF PEACE

“These falsehoods constitute an affront to the people and government of Cuba, the people of Venezuela, the international community and the US people to know the truth,” said Fors Fernández.

She said that Cuba was a country of peace and that its foreign relations were based on respect and cooperation, touting its long track record in recognising solidarity and friendship, particularly with developing countries.

“The US government knows that there are no operatives and no Cuban troops in Venezuela. My government has demanded that the US provide any evidence to support such charges. There is only Cuban medical staff on humanitarian missions in that country,” the ambassador said.

She said that indications are that the US thought it would have been far easier to oust Maduro, but have since found themselves in a pickle as much of the population still sides with him.

“I think that they thought it would be easier for them to take Guaido to the presidency. I honestly believe so. It’s our perception, but the fact is that it’s not been very easy because the Venezuelan government has been very firm; the Venezuelan people have been supportive, and of course, there are sections of the population that think differently, but most of the population support the government,” said Fors Fernández.

Oil-rich Venezuela has sunk into economic and social collapse marked by hyperinflation, measured to be about 80,000 per cent, and a scarcity of basic goods that has sent an estimated 3.7 million of its citizens to emigrate amid rising political tensions that have turned deadly.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com