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Kolkata: Cuban Ambassador Felicitated by AIPSO, Calls for More Cooperation Between Cuba and India

The ambassador recounted the historic roots between Cuba and Kolkata, noting that both Che Guevara and Fidel Castro visited the city after the Cuban revolution.
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Alejandro Simancas Marin, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to India, was felicitated at an event organised by the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation (AIPSO).

Talking to reporters after the event, Marin said that young people are the mainstay of the Cuban revolutionary system, and the representation of youth and women in Cuban politics has increased manifolds.

To illustrate his point, he highlighted that Fidel Castro was 33 when he led the revolution and Che Guevera was 29, adding that the young generation has been vitally important to the Cuban revolution.

In the last two years, as the world witnessed the stress put by COVID-19 on healthcare institutions, Cuba's healthcare system has been praised for its response to the pandemic, as per Marin. He also said that COVID-19 dealt a cruel blow to the country amid the economic sanctions.

While Marin said that his trip to Kolkata was for trade considerations, he also noted that the city is historic as both Castro and Guevera had visited it after the revolution. He stressed that there should be more in-depth cooperation between Cuba and India in bioinformatics, bio-pharmaceuticals, Ayurveda and natural medicines.

The session involving Marin was chaired by Prof. Ashoknath Basu, former VC, Jadavpur University, while Prof. Anjan Bera, general secretary, AIPSO, ushered in the guests. The ambassador was gifted with Rabindranath Tagore memorabilia which includes a copy of a Tagore painting, a facsimile copy of Gitanjali and a book called, The Religion of Man, penned by Tagore.

The session saw Marin's felicitation by AIPSO leader Rabin Deb, CITU West Bengal state secretary Anadi Sahoo and Bera.

In his welcome speech, Bera highlighted that AIPSO is affiliated with the World Peace Council, and since its inception, it has been the largest peace organisation in the country, involving all progressive, democratic and secular forces.

"We firmly condemn the United States' imperialistic interference and subversive actions in the internal matters of Cuba, aimed at destabilising socialist Cuba and imposing regime change," Bera said, adding that AIPSO demands an immediate lifting of US blockade and sanctions against Cuba.

"We also demand immediate withdrawal of the US Military Prison in Guantanamo Bay. The US has no right to continue to occupy the Cuban land."

"AIPSO salutes the Cuban government, especially for their achievements in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic situation, which is praised even by the World Health Organisation (WHO)," he further said in his welcome speech.

Praising the healthcare system of Cuba, he said that the West Bengal has a long and illustrious tradition of anti-imperialist people's movement, and the people of the state have always extended their solidarity with the people in distress in any corner of the globe- be it Vietnam, Nicaragua, South Africa under the apartheid regime, Venezuela, Chile, Myanmar or Cuba.

India has always had a unique friendship and solidarity with the Cuban people despite the vast geographical distance between the two countries. It was amongst the first countries to extend recognition to Cuba after the 1959 revolution. Kolkata is the city where Guevara had visited in 1959, in July—just a few months after the Cuban revolution.

Castro also visited the city during his historic stop-over at the Kolkata airport on September 17, 1973, while returning from Vietnam. He was then welcomed and greeted at the airport by the people of West Bengal in large numbers.

Retracing the Indo-Cuba Solidarity Programmes

At the beginning of the 1990s, Cuba was struggling economically due to US sanctions and the fall of the Soviet Union. In early 1992, a National Committee for Solidarity with Cuba was formed in India.

In West Bengal, a state-level Cuba Solidarity Committee was formed in April 1992, with West Bengal Chief Minister Jyoti Basu as its chairman. The Cuba Solidarity Week was observed from August 9-15, 1992. A Cuban ship named Caribbean Princess left Kolkata port in October 1992 after collecting rice, wheat, medicines, and other essentials.

The first Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba was held in Kolkata in September 1995, inaugurated by Basu.

In 2008, AIPSO organised a series of programmes demanding the release of the five Cuban heroes – who then were jailed in a US prison on fake and fraudulent charges. Rosa Aurora Freijanes, wife of Fernando González, one of the five, attended a solidarity programme in Kolkata on September 26, 2008.

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