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Prime Minister P.J. Patterson left the island yesterday for Bridgetown, Barbados to attend the 11th Special Meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the 2nd CARICOM/Cuba Summit from December 7-8.
The two-day regional talks will focus on several topical issues including those related to trade and development, as well as the further strengthening of relations between Cuba and the countries of the Caribbean Community. Cuba has provided technical assistance and cooperation to the region in various areas including agricultural and human resource development, the fight against HIV/AIDS and education.
Jamaica has benefited from active cooperation programmes with Cuba at both the bilateral and regional levels. Cooperation activities have been undertaken primarily in the areas of education through scholarships and training, health, agriculture, science and technology, tourism, transport and trade and security. The country has also benefited from the presence of Cuban medical personnel and Spanish teachers throughout the island.
Jamaicans can now access free eye care in Cuba under the Cuban Ophthalmic Care Programme. Several Jamaicans have taken advantage of this facility including persons who received their sight after being blind with cataract for many years.
The relations between CARICOM and Cuba were enhanced at the first summit in Havana in 2002 with the establishment of new arenas for discussion including the Summit and Ministerial Meetings and the CARICOM/Cuba Joint Commission.
During his absence, the Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, Minister of Local Government, Community Development and Sport will be in charge of the government.