Cuba’s new Ambassador to Canada discusses peace, climate and the Revolution

“We do not live in a bilateral world” 

In early March, new Cuban Ambassador to Canada Rodrigo Malmierca Díaz took up his responsibilities in Ottawa. Ambassador Malmierca was previously Cuba’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations from 2005-2009, and Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment from 2009-2023.

People’s Voice editor Dave McKee met with Ambassador Malmierca in Ottawa, to discuss several issues in Canada-Cuba relations and international affairs.

Dave McKee: You took up the position of Cuban Ambassador to Canada earlier this month. Do you see specific priorities or challenges ahead in your new position?

Ambassador Malmierca: Cuba and Canada have good relations, particularly economic. Canada is the largest market for Cuba’s tourism industry, and there is strong bilateral trade of over $1 billion including exports and imports. There is also foreign capital from Canada invested in Cuba.

This is a historical relationship – it isn’t something we are trying to create. With the Triumph of the Revolution in Cuba in 1959, the United States immediately tried to go back to the neocolonial period, and it tried hard to isolate Cuba. When Cuba was suspended from the Organization of American States in 1962, most governments in the region broke off relations. There were two exceptions – Mexico and Canada.

Pierre Trudeau visited Cuba and established important relations with our country; when he died, Fidel Castro came to the funeral. Jean Chrétien and Justin Trudeau have also visited Cuba.

So, we want to continue developing this relationship on a respectful basis, but we do not live in a bilateral world so there are some complications.

We know that Canada and the US are important strategic partners. We also know that the US has tried to destroy the Cuban Revolution from its beginning, in particular through the 64-year-long blockade.

Canada opposes the blockade, but we have to understand that Canada is strategically aligned with the US in many other ways.

But there are other issues. For example, Canada has a strong relationship with the Caribbean, of which Cuba is part. So, there is a coincidence of priorities with respect to the Caribbean, which is helpful for Canada-Cuba bilateral relations.

The ongoing criminal blockade by the US continues to take a toll on the Cuban people and economy, but this doesn’t mean that Cuba is alone – can you tell us about some of the international economic support which is helping Cuba?

The blockade is the biggest obstacle we face – our people suffer from it every day.

During the Trump administration, the US introduced more than 240 new measures to strengthen the blockade. The final measure was placing Cuba on the State Sponsors of Terrorism list – this is completely untrue, but they did it and now banks around the world have extra concerns when it comes to doing business with Cuba.

The blockade is not just a handful of prohibitions – it is comprehensive. During Trump, the blockade was strengthened every day, and Biden hasn’t changed that.

Studies show that the majority of people in the US, and the majority of businesses, are opposed to the blockade. The vast majority of the international community also rejects the blockade, as we see with repeated votes at the United Nations.

Cuba has strong economic partners – China, Vietnam, Mexico, Russia, Venezuela, and I would add Canada to that list – and this helps us to deal with the effects of the blockade, but it doesn’t eliminate them. We continue to resist the blockade and are grateful to the countries who help us to survive.

At the same time, we are grateful to the groups of people throughout the world who stand in solidarity with Cuba and who continually raise their voices. There is This includes in Canada, in areas across the whole country.

There is no place in the world where people do not express support for Cuba. Even people with quite different viewpoints can be united in solidarity with Cuba.

In response to the recent protests in Santiago de Cuba, the Cuban government met with the people and discussed some of the measures the government is taking to alleviate the worst symptoms of the blockade – can you tell us more about those measures?

What happened in Santiago de Cuba was isolated – it involved a group of 500 or so people who went to the government headquarters and asked for answers to the difficulties they are facing.

But this was magnified and distorted by the US government and media.

The whole situation lasted only a couple of hours. The authorities came, they met with the people, and they answered their questions. From Fidel’s time to now with a new generation of leadership, the key is constant contact with the people. So, in Santiago de Cuba, the protest happened on a Sunday and President Díaz-Canel arrived there on Monday, the next day.

The government’s measures are complex, since there are many economic difficulties arising from the blockade but also from the COVID crisis. Tourism is our most important industry, but the country was closed for two years. And while tourism is recovering, it is not yet at the pre-COVID level.

It is a big challenge to address all of the problems at the same time, but the President and the Prime Minister of Cuba announced in December a number of initiatives to help the economy develop.

One of the big challenges has to do with inflation and high prices, which also affects more developed countries like Canada. For Cuba, the most important thing in addressing this, and other, challenges is to not abandon anybody. Now, compare this with the approach taken in other countries, where the people are abandoned – and harmed – with the only aim being to benefit the macroeconomic indicators.

In Cuba, the people come first. And this means that the measures need to be explained to the people.

Some people criticize us by saying that we are giving too many concessions to the private sector. But Cuba is not trying to concentrate big capital – it is committed to maintaining the state sector because that is the place for redistribution of wealth. What we have is small business, but under control of the state.

Another example of the measures is in the new constitution, which gave more decision-making power to provinces and municipalities. This is because some problems and challenges are better confronted and resolved at those levels. We aren’t talking about macroeconomic issues, but about provincial and local issues and about solutions that are adapted to provincial and local conditions.

This is a process for us, because those levels of government are not necessarily used to this, but it is developing.

Ever since the Triumph of the Revolution in 1959, Cuba has worked consistently for peace and disarmament. The current global context is one of increasing imperialist aggressiveness, skyrocketing military spending including renewed nuclear arms production and proliferation, and the ongoing genocidal siege of Gaza. What initiatives and responses is Cuba taking in this context?

Cuba is for disarmament – complete disarmament, not just nuclear. This is not an easy thing to achieve, but that is what we are committed to.

At the UN, Cuba is active in the defence of peace and disarmament. We try, at the very least, to control the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction. We advance constructive policies in the UN and other organizations, to support disarmament.

In the practical world, though, the military industry is developed according to the interests of a group of powers. In some cases, these industries or complexes are more powerful than the governments themselves. The military industry is a profit-driven enterprise, so it is no secret that corruption and assassination are part of it, and sometimes this results in war. War is good for this business.

So, when we look at the genocide in Gaza – and there is no other word to describe it – it is sad that, after four attempts to get a ceasefire resolution at the UN, the one that finally passes is just for the month of Ramadan. And even then, the US abstained.

Cuba’s position is one of complete solidarity with Palestine, and President Días-Canel has spoken of this often in the past months.

When it comes to defending peace, it is important to work for non-proliferation and disarmament, but it is also important to oppose existing wars and aggressions.

The Cuban government recently announced an ambitious plan to convert the country’s electricity production to 29% “green” sources in 2030 and to 100% by 2050. This plan also includes shifting to domestic energy sources, to achieve “total energy sovereignty.” This is the type of plan that People’s Voice and the Communist Party of Canada have advocated here, so it is very important to know that Cuba is already committed to it. Can you tell us more about the transition plan, what it means for the Cuban Revolution, and what some of the challenges are?

Cuba imports about 60 percent of its oil, so we have a real need to develop more energy.

But even if Cuba had a huge oil discovery tomorrow, it would still need this transition plan because of the realities of climate change. This is not just a Cuban issue, but a global imperative.

We have lots of sun, and the technology for solar energy and battery storage has advanced, so this it possible for Cuba to generate all the energy it needs within Cuba itself. Mostly, the plan is based on solar energy, but it also looks to wind power and some other sources.

The transition is in its early steps now, but it is very concrete. There are projects in the works now which in the near future will generate 2000 MW of electricity from solar energy. Cuba currently uses around 3000-3500 MW per day – that would be what is used for normal operation and functioning of the economy – so these projects will provide well over half of that.

A few years ago, we said that 25 percent of energy would be from renewable sources in 2030, but we may go further than that. A lot can be done at the level of homes and individual businesses. For example, in the Mariel Special Development Zone, companies wanting to set up enterprises there must use solar panels on their buildings.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that it is very important for us to be able to explain the truth about Cuba to the people of Canada.

There is so much manipulation, so much distortion, so many lies, that we always appreciate the opportunity to explain the real Cuban reality.

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