“I am honored to serve my country as an ambassador – for the first time”
Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive
Not only is Prague the first place where H.E. Mr. Danilo Alonso has served as an ambassador of his country, but he is also the first Cuban ambassador in the Czech Republic since it was formed in 1993. As he says in our interview: “There are some issues on which we hold different positions, but there are more issues that unite us, and we work on them”. The Ambassador also acknowledges the fact that Cuba is among the Czech people’s favorite tourist destinations, and suggests visiting the Cuban Embassy’s stand at the annual Prague and Brno Tourism Fairs.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your professional career before being appointed as Ambassador of Cuba in Prague?
I was born in Havana, the capital of Cuba, in 1951. In 1973 I graduated from the University of Havana with a degree in Physics. I became a professor, and for over ten years worked in the Secretariat for Nuclear Affairs in Cuba. My duties consisted of attending to the preparation of personnel for nuclear activity in Cuba. In those years, I visited many countries where Cuba had students studying at universities. Among those countries was also Czechoslovakia, which I visited twice in the 80s. It was then that I was able to get to know Prague, and admire its architecture and the beauty that characterizes this city, for the first time. Since its foundation, I went to work for the Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment of Cuba, where I held various positions, including that of an advisor to the minister and vice minister, until my appointment as Ambassador to the Czech Republic.
You are not a career diplomat; how did you prepare for your ambassadorial duties?
Indeed, as you can see from my previous answer, this is my first experience as an ambassador. I consider it a high honor, having been proposed to occupy the position of Ambassador in the Czech Republic by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.
During my work in the science sector, I accumulated experience in short-term work missions to different countries in Latin America, Europe, and Africa, which certainly contributed to my preparation as an ambassador. Diplomatic work is a new and good experience for me.
You have been in the Czech Republic for four years. What did you learn about us Czechs?
My experience in the Czech Republic has been very positive and comforting. I have been able to meet interesting people, and see very beautiful and preserved places. I have also learnt about the character of the Czech people and your sense of responsibility and discipline, as well as the way you organize your work.
Many people in the Czech Republic know about my country, either because they worked there for a while, have relatives who did, or because they went to Cuba as tourists. In all cases, they keep very pleasant memories of their stay in Cuba and let me know (about it), which also makes us Cubans feel better. Unfortunately, during the four years we all lived through the experience of COVID-19, which prevented me from having further contact and visiting other regions of the country. Despite this, I have managed to visit several regions. I saw some factories, research centers, universities, schools, and social centers. I also met with local authorities and Czech friends, with whom I had the opportunity to share and talk about Cuba and the relations between both countries.
Did you have to change your lifestyle when you became a diplomat?
I believe that being an ambassador does not substantially change my lifestyle. It is a new experience for me, in which I have had the opportunity to meet colleagues from different countries and exchange experiences with them.
It is also a major responsibility to be the representative of my country before the Czech authorities, which I have assumed with dedication, and the desire to do the best possible job.
Can you give a piece of advice to the young people who wish to become responsible ambassadors in the future?
My advice to new ambassadors is very simple: prepare very well, study and learn every day, be well informed, and have a general and comprehensive knowledge of culture that allows you to talk about different topics, within reason. Don’t complicate things, and be grateful for the opportunity to meet new cultures and people.
Since you worked at the Ministry of Science, Technology, and the Environment of Cuba for many years, would you like to share a piece of wisdom in this respect here?
I do not think I am able to advise the Czech Republic on these issues. I can only say that collaboration, and scientific and technical cooperation between different countries, is a way to strengthen the bonds of friendship and brotherhood between people who live in different regions – it is an effective contribution towards peace between peoples.
In all countries, big or small, there are opportunities to collaborate and learn from each other. Science and technology, when used correctly, render an invaluable service to friendship and solidarity, and will allow us to build a better world for all.
Many Czech people find Cuba a fascinating holiday destination. Do you support this inclination?
I agree that Cuba is a very interesting tourist destination for the Czechs. Despite there being no direct flights between Prague and Havana, as there were in previous years, over 10,000 Czech tourists went to Cuba annually before the pandemic. In 2022, the Cuban tourist destination began to recover, and around 5,000 tourists traveled to Cuba. We hope that in 2023 this figure will multiply and reach its previous levels.
Cuba has tourist facilities in all of its provinces, beautiful beaches, a pleasant atmosphere, and above all very friendly people, who are always willing to help tourists and people who visit the country.
Czech tourists really like to tour Cuba, and among their preferred destinations are Viñales, Trinidad, Santiago de Cuba, the paradisiacal keys, and of course Havana and Varadero. In our consulate, there is tourist information about Cuba, supported by different media that those who visit us like a lot. At the Prague and Brno Tourism Fairs, we also have an annual promotional stand that is highly visited by attendees. Several Czech travel agencies organize trips to Cuba, and facilitate the stay of tourists in our country. The granting of tourist visas is also a very simple and expedited process.
What is the current status of Czech – Cuban relations?
Relations between our countries are normal. Both countries have embassies in their respective capitals. A systematic exchange is maintained, and inter- chancellery consultations are carried out to analyze issues of common interest.
Cuba has thanked the Czech government for its moral support to achieve the elimination of the economic blockade that our country has been subjected to for over 60 years, and which constitutes a true violation of the human rights of Cubans.
There are some issues on which we hold different positions, but there are more issues that unite us, and we work on them.
I can’t forget to mention a commercial exchange between both countries, which we aspire to continue increasing. There is also an exchange in some spheres of science. I believe that there are areas of culture, health, and knowledge in which relations could be increased for the benefit of both countries.
This interview is done on the occasion of the National Day of Cuba. Do you have any wishes for your country and Czechia too?
I would like the relations between the two countries to continue to strengthen for the good of our countries and peoples.
For Cuba in particular, I would like the US government to eliminate the economic, commercial, and financial blockade that we have resisted for over 60 years, and that affects the Cuban economy so much, and to eliminate Cuba from the unfair list of countries that sponsor terrorism.
For both countries, I would like a world of peace and friendship, in which matters are resolved amicably and on equal terms. The world has urgent problems to solve such as climate change and sustainable development for all countries and regions. For that, friendship, collaboration, and peace without conditioning or impositions, are essential.
Many wishes may seem utopian at first, but sooner or later they will have to come true if we want everyone’s common home, the planet, to survive existing threats.