Ambassador and journalist by profession, Pedro Pablo Prada Quintero has the loquacity characteristic of his people, very Cuban. A condition that he will highlight during the extensive interview at the diplomatic headquarters of Virrey del Pino y Arribeños, two blocks from Barrancas de Belgrano. The 50th anniversary of uninterrupted relations between Argentina and the island is celebrated, a milestone stuck in the convulsed 1973 and an opportunity to interview him and go beyond the subject that he summons us. It was a Monday, May 28 of that year, that the two nations related to multiple ties and historical figures such as José Martí and Ernesto Che Guevara, officially reestablished the link severed in 1962 due to pressure from the United States.
-How did this key event happen for the two countries?
– President Héctor Cámpora invited Cuba to the inauguration and his Cuban colleague Osvaldo Dorticós arrived along with Chile’s Salvador Allende. The Argentine went to meet them at the airport. An absolutely unusual gesture, out of all protocol, but which reflected a feeling that prevailed within Argentine society and its political class towards Cuba and the Cuban Revolution. That day passed in the midst of the madness of the inauguration and the following saw the more formal interview between the two heads of state and the reestablishment of relations was agreed. But something happened. The Cuban foreign minister had had a need to leave the meeting at the Casa Rosada and they realized that in his absence the signature could not be made, which was relegated from the 26th to the 28th. That is when it occurred and how it appears officially registered.
– What is the value that Cuba gives to this uninterrupted relationship of fifty years with Argentina?
– For us it is very important. Argentina is one of the group of countries that, starting in the 1970s, began to break the US blockade against Cuba, the regional political and diplomatic isolation. It should be remembered that Argentina had been one of the countries that most resisted the break in relations and the sanctions against Cuba. There are those who speak in absolute terms, that this cost Arturo Frondizi the presidency. It seems to me that it is a simplification of the facts, but I cannot deny that it undoubtedly influenced the attitude of imperialism and the oligarchy and the military here, who did not view the resistance to sanction Cuba with a good attitude. On January 31, 1962, Argentina had voted in abstention along with Mexico and four other states against the sanctions. And seven days later, on February 6, the country was forced to break relations.
– But eleven years later they were restored that May 28, ’73?
– When diplomatic ties were recovered, relations existed with Mexico, the only country that did not interrupt them, and Peru, Panama, Chile and the island states of the Caribbean that had agreed to independence had joined. It was an absolutely new scenario and this happened in a few months, between the years ’70 and ’73. A very short period of time and that barrage of diplomatic and political acknowledgments to Cuba meant a major blow to the United States’ policy in the region and to the intention of isolating the Cuban Revolution. For this reason, when they talk to me about the 50th anniversary, it is much more. There is a whole history of joint battles, of efforts by both peoples and countries, of historical political figures from Argentina and Cuba who mark that path. We never forget that here, the solidarity movement with Cuba was born in 1953 after the events of the assault on the Moncada Barracks, the massacre of the revolutionaries who went to assault it and the repression unleashed by the Batista dictatorship.
– Was that gesture returned almost thirty years later during the Malvinas War?
– The United States has no friends, only interests. And as imperialism that it is, when the peoples of Latin America had to need it, it abandoned them. The episode of the Malvinas War in the middle of the dictatorship made it evident and many people ask themselves: how is it that Cuba and Fidel came to the idea of supporting Argentina at that juncture being a military dictatorship? Simply because Fidel and Cuba were very clear that what was at stake and what was being settled was not a military dictatorship but the right to exercise sovereignty over a territory in America that had been usurped by a foreign colonial power backed by imperialism.
– Two imperialisms?
– There were two imperialisms against a Latin American country and there we could not hesitate, there could be no doubts about what was the option. We had to support the Argentines, those who were dying in the Malvinas defending that portion of Argentine territory. I am convinced that we would do the same with any other portion of our America that was attacked, assaulted, and usurped.
– Are the 50 years of diplomatic relations a new starting point to strengthen them?
– Each goal is a starting point. The commemoration of 50 years allows us to look back and also forward and propose a process of deepening, expanding ties. I believe that relations have a potential that today is not sufficiently developed politically, economically, culturally, in cooperation… We need Argentina and you need us too. We are not alone in this world to be able to stand up to these great powers. We need to integrate our economies. Argentina is one of the major food producers and its experience should be studied in all Agronomy faculties in Latin America and the Caribbean. It should help the countries of our region to eradicate hunger. We have a binational agreement to exchange medicines for food that is a precursor. It was a great idea of Fidel and Néstor in 2003 and that is what we are moving today.
-In what other aspects Cuba and Argentina dialogue to improve that link in real terms?
– Politically, continue to fine-tune the concertation of both governments at the regional, multilateral and international organizations. Argentina has supported the rejection of the United States blockade from the first day the complaint was filed. Argentina has criticized the inclusion of Cuba in the list of countries sponsoring terrorism. Foreign Minister Santiago Cafiero has just said it in an interview they did to him. I think it marks a path and the work of both countries for Latin American and Caribbean integration. We have a very clear idea that either we unite or we sink.
– You are a journalist as well as a diplomat. What do you suggest to counter false news and misinformation that affect our peoples?
– I think that today, given the diversification of communication spaces, talking about the media is talking about a small parcel. There is so much multiplicity that one has to consider everything. It is not just a newspaper, TV, the networks… The challenge is much more complex, because there is something that belonged to the most genuine of the journalistic tradition, which was ethics. And it is not possible to do journalism or report without ethics. In its absence is the foundation of the fake news, of the manipulations, of the way in which societies are implemented. You can never forget what William Hearst, the creator of the famous chain, wrote when he sent some journalists to cover the Spanish-American war in Cuba. He told them: you send photos, I will put the war. So it was. The history of the war was the one that William Hearst wrote in the American press of the time, sitting comfortably in his office in the United States.
The besieged embassy
In the days before the coup of March 24, 1976 and during the genocidal dictatorship, the Cuban embassy, its diplomats and Argentine staff were victims of disappearances, assassinations and all kinds of attacks.
“It is known that this embassy became a target of terrorism in an unusual event in diplomatic relations. Probably there is no such cluster of terrorist acts in the history of international relations. The ambassador and his entourage were machine-gunned at the door of this headquarters, miraculously saving their lives and only the escorts were injured ”, begins by recalling Prada Quintero.
After the attack on Ambassador Emilio Aragonés, which occurred on August 13, 1975, “the kidnapping of two Cuban diplomats took place and their subsequent disappearance, torture and murder according to everything that has been reconstructed from that history until the recovery of their corpses many years later. Three other diplomats were also kidnapped, although fortunately their lives were saved and they were released and sent to Cuba,” he explained.
Prada Quintero also recounted how the repression reached the local staff of the diplomatic headquarters: “I must remember the way in which they acted, especially aggressively, against the Argentines who worked in the embassy. Seven of which were kidnapped and disappeared. Of all of them, only the remains of one person have been recovered. She was one of the teachers at the Cuban school that was in the embassy. The entire family of one of the seven disappeared was likewise kidnapped and disappeared. The wife, the two daughters and the son-in-law married to one of them. There are two books written about it.”