India-Cuba: Spy turned diplomat seeks deeper collaboration with India in pharma and biotech

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Published: July 28, 2019 10:04:20 AM

The Cuban five were spies. They were Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González Llort and René González. And had infiltrated anti-communist militias of Cuban exiles in Florida. They were arrested for espionage by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1998.

 

India, Cuba, Spy turned diploma, India,  pharma, biotech, Cuban five, Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González Llort, René González, america, cunba, cuban relvolution, Donald Trump, Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity ActTitle III allows US citizens with claims to confiscated property in Cuba to file cases in US courts against companies working on that property.

What’s in a name? A lot, especially when that name is a part of an important narrative. For from 1998 to 2014, Left groups across the world usually greeted visiting American delegations with slogans demanding the release of the ‘Cuban Five’.

Who were Cuban Five?

The Cuban five were spies. They were Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, Antonio Guerrero, Fernando González Llort and René González. And had infiltrated anti-communist militias of Cuban exiles in Florida. They were arrested for espionage by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1998.

Interestingly, the last of the five was released in December 2014 in exchange for a Cuban national in jail for spying for the US.

One of them, Fernando González Llort, released in February 2014, went on to become a member of Cuba’s parliament last year. He is also president of the Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (abbreviated in Spanish as ICAP) — the island nation’s international solidarity front.

Speaking to media persons in New Delhi, González Llort, on a solidarity tour with Che Guevara’s daughter Aleida to mark 60 years of the Cuban revolution, said the US President Donald Trump’s activation of Title III of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act, 1996, in addition to the existing economic blockade, was “asphyxiating the Cuban economy”, especially its famed health sector.

“We think it’s criminal that a Cuban child who needs heart surgery is not able to get one because anesthesia, medicine, or a machine is not available because of the blockade. Particularly medicine is not available because some part, or the whole of it, or some component has a US stamp on it. Or some part of the equipment is from North America. Due to the US blockade, these machines are not available to us at times,” he said, in response to media queries about the robust health sector of that country.

Title III allows US citizens with claims to confiscated property in Cuba to file cases in US courts against companies working on that property. Cuba fears that this will be the last straw that may drive away other firms that choose to trade with it despite credit restrictions by international banks.

India-Cuba Relations

“Next year we will be celebrating 60 years of our friendship with India. India is a growing economy and with a robust financial sector, investments would be of great help. Our country is internationally recognized for its advancements in Biotech and Pharma sectors. There are opportunities for collaboration in these sectors. Also, Indian businesses can also invest in tourism and we can provide resorts and places for the increasing number of Indian tourists. Through collaboration, Cuba has more or less achieved the basket of medicines it needs,” he told the Financial Express Online.

His past

Before he joined the government, fresh out of university, González Llort served as lieutenant in a tank regiment of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces in Angola from 1987-89, and was decorated twice. On returning, he joined his country’s counter-terrorism efforts, moving to Miami in 1993 under the alias Rubén Campa. He spent almost 16 years in prison, including more than a year in solitary confinement.

And even though, he tried, during his days in the jail, to distance himself from the situation, reminding himself, “this is not about me, and looks at my situation in the historic perspective of the US’s attempts to destabilize Cuba from the very beginning.”

Talking of the US, he says, “I believe the people of the US are noble people and are ready to help others in times of difficulty. When my family would visit me in jail, which was very limited, the local US citizens kept them in their homes and arranged for transport to visit the jail.

What about the Cubans in the US?

He says that they are there because of economic reasons.

However, the soldier who went on to become a spy and is now a politician-diplomat remains critical of US politics.

In April this year, Cuba has adopted a new constitution that gives sanctity to private enterprise, gay rights and devolution of powers to municipalities. González Llort pointed out that under the constitution the maximum age for contesting for President has been capped at 60, with a two-term limit and is more suited to modern times.

Fidel Castro had established a one-party Republic in Cuba after overthrowing the US-backed military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1959. Castro was the longest-ruling non-royal ruler of a country. He was as Prime Minister from 1959 to 1976 and then as President from 1976 to 2008, retiring at 82. He died in 2016.

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