Last year on September 28, outstanding Cuban communist leader Jorge Risquet died in Havana, aged 85 years.
Risquet was born on May 6, 1930 in Havana and joined the revolutionary youth movement, in which he held various responsibilities in the Young Socialists Organisation and in the Popular Socialist Party, among which he was director of the newspaper “Mella”, secretary of organisation and secretary general of the National Committee of the Socialist Youth, to which he belonged for 15 years.
He represented Cuba and Latin America at the World Federation of Democratic Youth, FMJD, and fulfilled an internationalist mission in Guatemala in 1954. He was in that country when the CIA organized, as usual, a coup d’état against the elected government of Arbenz, a president who was trying to recover the national riches of his country.
Following a mandate of the FMJD, Risquet was preparing an international festival of the youth in that country to support Arbenz, and he had to escape from the repression initiated through the coup d’état that cost to the Guatemalan people more than two hundred thousand people massacred and killed. It may look as a coincidence, but that was the moment when he met a young Argentinean doctor, the future historic commander Ernesto Che Guevara, who also arrived to that country to help the Arbenz’ government to improve the health care attention it was trying to extend to the whole population.
Later, during the Batista dictatorship, Risquet was tortured, jailed and finally joined the Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra in 1958, at the Second Eastern Front “Frank País” under the leadership of Raul Castro.
In 1965 he was chief of the internationalist battalion, ‘Patrice Lumumba’, based in Congo Brazzaville, at the same time when Commander Che Guevara and a group of Cuban internationalist volunteers were trying to help lumumbists combatants in the former Zaire.
Later on Risquet was in charge of the Internationalist Cuban Civilian Mission in the People’s Republic of Angola between 1975 and 1979 and was deeply involved in the support to that sisterly country that ended up with the defeat of the invading South African racist troops.
He headed the Cuban delegation to the four party talks (Angola,Cuba, South Africa, plus the USA) in 1988 up to the achievement of Namibia´s independence and he accompanied Cuban Vice-President Juan Almeida to the ceremony of Namibia’s independence in March 1990.
Graduated in journalism, a founder of various publications and author of numerous books and articles, he assessed the process of creating and editing important works, particularly related to the liberation struggle of the peoples of Africa. He maintained close relations with many African leaders like Nelson Mandela, Sam Nujoma, Agostinho Netto, Samora Machel and Jose Eduardo dos Santos and many more.
His last public activity was to visit President Hage Geingob when the latter paid an official visit to Cuba at the end of September 2015. That was the last occasion I met him. I was in Cuba accompanying the President and the Namibian ambassador, Jerobeam Shaanika, offered a reception at his residence.
Risquet was dressed in a nice white guayabera. I saluted him and his wife and started to joke with both, but then she told that me he recently underwent a very complicated operation and was given an exceptional authorisation in the hospital to go see President Geingob. A few days later he passed away.
A few months before his death he was the Cuban speaker at the official ceremony held in Cuba to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the independence of Namibia.
I would like to quote part of his speech that very day:
“A quarter century ago, a 21st March, was one of the happiest days of my life.
The emotion to see the [then] South African president De Klerk’s lowering the odious flag of the apartheid regime and Sam Nujoma hoist the banner of the independent Namibia, led by Swapo, the brave organisation that guided the heroic struggle of his people to freedom.
We, members of the Cuban delegation to the ceremony for the independence of Namibia, also shared the excitement together with the Cuban Commander of the Revolution Juan Almeida Bosque, head of our delegation, as well as General Leopoldo Cintra Frias, chief of the victorious Cuban troops, which alongside with Angolan and Swapo combatants defeated at Cuito Cuanavale, T’Chipa, and Calueque the racist Pretoria troops.
At the time of the implementation of Resolution 435 for the independence of Namibia, which called for elections to choose the rulers of the new state, all Namibian trainees in Cuba of voting age, who had left their country and were young people with political education and a high cultural level, returned to their country and played a very important role in the victory of Swapo in the elections.
We must remember that the racist South African government opposed the implementation of Resolution 435. But it was forced to accept it as a result of the four-party talks: Angola and Cuba, South Africa and the United States – as a “mediator” and friend of the racists.
In the first of these four-party talks, held in London in early May 1988, Commander in Chief Fidel Castro, in the presence of Raul, instructed me: “When you take the floor, ask the South Africans if they agree with the immediate implementation of Resolution 435. If they say no, you stand up, you say the meeting is over and you leave the room.”
The South Africans were forced to accept the implementation of Resolution 435, because it was a sine qua non for the beginning of the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola.
In the current month ending ten days ago the Cuban delegation, headed by Miguel Diaz-Canel, First Vice President of the Councils of State and Ministers, participated in commemorative celebrations in Windhoek on the 25th anniversary of the independence of Namibia and the inauguration of new President Hage Geingob.
* Giraldo Mazola is Cuba’s t ambassador to Namibia.