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Cubans still revere Fidel — Ambassador

BY HG HELPS
Editor-at-Large
helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, January 14, 2018

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Almost 14 months since the death of father of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro Ruz, many of the people of that northern Caribbean island continue to embrace what he stood for, says Cuba's new Ambassador to Jamaica.

“Fidel might have passed on, but the legend has not died,” Ambassador Ines Fors Fernandez said during an interview with the Jamaica Observer. “The Cuban people continue to be loyal to his ideas.

“The many lessons of his legacy have proven vital at a time when Cuba is facing adverse weather events, undergoing necessary transformations, and working hard to build the kind of future to which we aspire,” Ambassador Fernandez stated.

Castro died November 26, 2016, aged 90, following a lengthy round of illness. He served as Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and as President from 1976 to 2008 when he ceded power to his younger brother Raul, who also fought alongside him in the battle that culminated in the seizure of power from then fascist dictator Fulgencia Batista on New Year's Day, 1959.

“Fidel often quoted the champion of Cuban Independence JosÚ MartÝ that “all the glory in the world fits in a kernel of corn”. Fidel put this into practice, as he did with all his precepts. No street, square or building bears his name, and no statue or monument has been erected in his honour. But Fidel remains present in the minds of Cubans,” said Ambassador Fernandez, who arrived in Jamaica last October for her tour of duty.

Castro and then Jamaica Prime Minister Michael Manley forged a firm political alliance during the 1970s, which nudged critics into suggesting that the Cuban socialist leader was influencing Manley into taking the Jamaican economy along similar lines.

Jamaica broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1981, shortly after Manley's People's National Party (PNP) was defeated by the Edward Seaga-led Jamaica Labour Party (JLP), following claims by Seaga and others that Cuba was interfering in the internal affairs of Jamaica. A dispute with Cuban Ambassador Ulises Estrada and JLP officials also added zip to the decision to chop ties, which were restored after Manley returned to lead the PNP to victory in the 1989 general election. Estrada, who died in January 2014 aged 79, was declared persona no grata by the Seaga Administration. A journalist for Cuban newspaper Granma, he also served as Ambassador to Yemen, Algeria and Mauritania.

Castro has always been admired by large numbers of Jamaicans, who hailed his courage to stand up to the pressures of United States administrations, empower his people and achieve significant gains in the areas of education and health care. Hence, when Manley restored ties there was widespread acceptance. It was also Manley who established ties with Cuba in late 1972.

“Cubans remember him as a great humanitarian, as one of the world's great promoters of universal health care and universal access to quality education. His speeches, especially addresses to the Cuban people, registered the candor and transparency of familiarity between speaker and audience,” Ambassador Fernandez added.

“Most of the Cuban people talk about him in present ,not in past. He still enjoys so much devotion from the Cuban people and millions of people around the world,” she stated.

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