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Cuba and CARICOM celebrate 40 years

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Cuba and CARICOM celebrate 40 years

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Dec 8, CMC – Barbados Saturday said that Cuba and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) remain “committed” to deepening their existing relations as the island observes 40 years of diplomatic relations with the Caribbean’s only Communist country.
In a statement to mark the occasion, Barbados recalled that even before the 15-member regional grouping had totally embraced Havana in the face of political and economic pressure from the United States, Jamaica, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Bridgetown had done so.
It regarded the stand as “a very bold display of foreign policy by a newly independent state”.
Earlier this week, Guyana said a series of activities including cultural events, special public engagements, and interviews with key stakeholders will be held and that the highlight of the celebrations will be a grand reception on December 8.
A Guyana government statement said that Georgetown and Havana “have continued to build upon the spirit of cooperation that has characterised their diplomatic relations and which has contributed to the development of Guyana’s human resource base especially in the areas of education and health”.
It said the Cuban scholarship programme, “which is perhaps the biggest success story of the Guyana-Cuba relations” has been of significant benefit to the CARICOM country and that Cuba recently announced that it will be offering specialist scholarships in the areas of pathology, psychiatry, gynaecology and dermatology.
In 1972, Guyana along with Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados established diplomatic relations with Havana despite a diplomatic embargo by the United States soon after Fidel Castro came to power more than 50 years ago.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A. J. Nicholson, said the country would continue to stand in solidarity with Cuba, in its effort to promote regional integration in the Caribbean.
“We truly believe that Cuba is an integral partner and should therefore be fully involved in hemispheric affairs. Cuba has indeed been a true friend to Jamaica and undoubtedly will remain so,” he said, noting that Cuba’s relationship with CARICOM has been enhanced over the years through deeper co-operation with the implementation of mutually beneficial economic and technical programmes.
 “We continue to pursue our common interest within the context of our own spirit of friendship and co-operation over many years and through people to people exchanges and high level visits between both countries”.
Cuba’s Ambassador to Cuba Yuri Gala Lopez, expressed appreciation for the decision taken by the four CARICOM countries to establish diplomatic relations with Havana.
“Cuba will never forget this noble and courageous gesture on the part of its Caribbean brothers and sisters. This actually marked the beginning of a close and excellent relationship of friendship, solidarity and co-operation that Cuba enjoys today with all CARICOM member states that have established diplomatic ties with Cuba,” the Ambassador said.
He said that over the past 40 years, more than 20,000 Cuban specialists have provided services mainly in the fields of health and education in all CARICOM countries, and that Cuba’s scholarship programmes have benefited over 3,600 CARICOM nationals,.
 “For Cuba it is not about giving others what we have to spare, but to modestly share the few resources that we have, as our contribution for the building of a better world,” he said.
The Barbados government said that it is “ proud to commemorate the establishment of diplomatic relations between CARICOM and Cuba in 1972.  We join the people of the Community in celebrating 40 years of relations with Cuba on CARICOM-Cuba Day”.
It noted also that in 2002, CARICOM and Cuban leaders declared December 8 as CARICOM-Cuba Day, noting that the countries were “thrust together by geopolitical realities and common regional and global challenges [which are maintained] by mutual respect for the right to self-determination and to the development of a model of their choosing”.
The Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat Saturday published the declaration that also called “for the immediate lifting of the unjust economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against the Republic of Cuba, which is contrary to international law and the principles of the United Nations Charter”.
Antigua and Barbuda also issued a statement noting that it is “in firm support of the removal of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America on the Republic of Cuba”.
St. John’s said that it is  “particularly appreciative of the solidarity which has characterised the relations, and the technical and other forms of assistance that Cuba has consistently provided to the country, particularly to the youth of Antigua and Barbuda as they seek to develop their professional skills and contribute to the building of their nation”.
Describing the relationship between CARICOM and Cuba as “mature”, Barbados said the structured political dialogue facilitated collaboration on matters of regional and global significance, and technical cooperation for development.
 “CARICOM and Cuba are committed to working together to achieve agreed goals of development, such as the protection and conservation of the Caribbean Sea, and common patrimony of the wider Caribbean region,” Barbados said, adding that the countries are also advocates on issues such as climate change, the fight against HIV and AIDS in the region, illicit drug trafficking, transnational crime and international terrorism.