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Former Cuban President Fidel Castro


Former Cuban President Fidel Castro

Qatar’s Emir, Deputy Emir and Prime Minister have sent cables of condolences to the Cuban president following the death of his brother, former head Fidel Castro.

Castro ruled Cuba for nearly 50 years until his brother took over in 2008.

The 90-year leader of the Cuban revolution has long been a controversial figure.

According to Al Jazeera, many in Havana expressed sadness at his demise yesterday, while exiled Cubans in Florida celebrated with champagne.

Qatar sympathies

Condolences were sent today to Raúl Castro from Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Deputy Emir Sheikh Abdullah bin Hamad Al-Thani, QNA reported.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al-Thani, Qatar’s Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, also extended his sympathies, the news agency added.

Meanwhile, the embassy of the Republic of Cuba in Qatar joined the hashtags #PorSiempreFidel (Forever Fidel) and #HastaLaVictoriaSiempre (To victory, always) to tweet messages mourning the death of the former leader.

Translation: #ForeverFidel, for more than 60 years you multiplied in every child and man (a desire) to dream and fight for a better world.

The Doha mission also issued an official message to Raúl Castro, expressing “anguish and sadness” over his brother’s death.

Praising Fidel Castro for fighting for social justice for all, the embassy concluded, “your example and beautiful ideals will live on eternally in our hearts.”

Growing ties

Qatar and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1994, when Cuba opened an embassy in Doha.

However, it was another seven years until Qatar opened its mission in Havana, in 2001.

That same year, Fidel Castro made his first visit to Qatar as part of a short regional tour.

He met with the then-Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and visited Ras Laffan.

The Cuban Hospital


The Cuban Hospital

Since then, relations between Qatar and Cuba have been growing stronger.

More than 400 Cuban medical professionals work at the Cuban Hospital in Dukhan, which is part of the state-run Hamad Medical Corp. (HMC).

The staff operates under an agreement between the governments of Qatar and Cuba.

Following a state visit to Cuba last November, Qatar’s Emir signed a number of agreements with the current president.

This included a commitment to invest $2 billion in the country over the next five years.

Qatar's Emir and Cuba's foreign minister in Doha last week


Qatar’s Emir and Cuba’s foreign minister in Doha in 2015.

And just last week, Cuba’s foreign minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla met with the Emir in Doha to discuss developing their countries’ relationship, particularly in economy and investment, QNA reported.

During the visit, Parrilla also went to the Cuban Hospital and met with staff there, according to the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations.


Qatar’s Emir at Advisory Council opening session

“No one” expected last year’s rapid drop in energy prices, but Qatar must now deal with its new economic reality head-on, the nation’s Emir has said.

In a strong speech during the opening session of the 45th Advisory Council today, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani emphasized the need to cut subsidies that lead to “extravagance and waste.”

He also urged greater efficiency in government and pledged to stimulate the private sector, as Qatar prepares to roll out its new five-year plan.

Summing up the new strategy, Sheikh Tamim said:

“When I see on the streets of Qatar the phrase “Qatar deserves the best,” I say, “Qatar deserves the best from its sons” – implying that only the nation’s children can guarantee its future.

The speech follows the same tone of last year’s address, during which Sheikh Tamim said the government can no longer “provide for everything” and that a shift in priorities was needed.

National Development Strategy 2017-2022

Sheikh Tamim began his speech with a nod to his late grandfather, former Emir Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, who died last week.

“With his departure we lost one of our most prominent leaders and builders of modern Qatar … his scented memory will remain vivid in the minds and hearts of all Qataris,” the Emir said.

He then explained some of the objectives of the upcoming National Development Strategy 2017-2022, which include:

  • Completing all 2022 World Cup-related projects and infrastructure on time;
  • Shifting some of the responsibility for health and education projects from the state onto the private sector;
  • Transitioning from a nation of “simple social welfare policies” to “a state of action” by empowering citizens; and
  • Cutting the fat in government.

Call to action

The Emir also acknowledged that many objectives in the current NDS have not yet been met, and added that a full evaluation of why is taking place.

Qatar World Cup bid celebration, 2010.

Sean Knoflick/Flickr

Qatar World Cup bid celebration, 2010.

That document was drawn up shortly before Qatar was awarded hosting rights to the World Cup and thus did not factor in the country’s rapid expansion, tournament deadlines and high project costs.

Sheikh Tamim concluded by saying: “Wealth alone is not enough and citizenship means affiliation (sense of belonging).”

“We have the right to offer the citizen education, training and employment and it is their right to do their job to the fullest.”

See the text of his prepared remarks here.


Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani


Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani

Yesterday marked the three-year anniversary of one of the most peaceful leadership transitions the Middle East has seen in recent years.

On June 25, 2013, Qatar’s longtime ruler Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani handed over power to his fourth son, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

At the time, Sheikh Hamad, now called the Father Emir, said in his final address as leader:

“The time has come to turn a new leaf. You our children are the munitions of these homeland…we have always thought well of you, pinning hopes on you.”

Challenging years

The last three years have been challenging ones for Sheikh Tamim, who has had to deal with the fallout of Qatar’s support of political revolutions in the region and ensuing diplomatic turmoil within the GCC.

The nation is also grappling with plummeting oil prices that have brought about Qatar’s first budget deficit in 15 years.

However, the people of Qatar appear to believe the new Emir is navigating these tests successfully.

Over the past few days on Twitter, hundreds have been posting messages of support for his reign under the hashtags #تميم_بن_حمد (Tamim bin Hamad) and #الذكرى_الثالثة_لتوالي_امير_قطر_الحكم (the third anniversary of the Emir’s rule).

Some tweets, like this one from the Emir’s sister and Qatar Museums chairperson Sheikha Al Mayassa, were simple, just saying “Wishing Qatar the best all year.”

Others wished him a long and successful reign:

Translation: God knows that you are the best progeny (for the best ancestors). We pray to God that acceptance of you on earth endures and love for you in people’s hearts increases.

Translation: We pledge allegiance to you, Tamim, to listen to you obediently and work for the continuous advancement of Qatar.

And some quoted the Emir himself:

Translation: “As a nation, we adhere to our principles and values and do not (refuse to) live on the margins. We don’t roam aimlessly or suffice with being followers.”

Were you here during the handover in 2013? Thoughts?