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Speech

The celebration of CARICOM-Cuba day each year on 8th December presents a fitting opportunity to reflect on the strong ties of friendship and cooperation which link the Republic of Cuba and the member states of the Caribbean Community.
CARICOM-Cuba Day coincides this year with the 37th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the first four independent countries of CARICOM, namely Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, and the Government of Cuba. This bold action at the height of the Cold war when only three other countries of the Americas maintained ties with Cuba (Canada, Chile and Mexico) and when the country was suspended from the OAS by a Resolution of 1962, marked a watershed in the history of Cuba’s relations with Latin America and the Caribbean.
The diplomatic embrace of Cuba promoted by Jamaica and other countries of CARICOM in 1972 has flourished to the point where Cuba was admitted as a member of the Rio Group in November 2008 and participated actively at the XXVIII Ministerial Meeting of that body held recently in Montego Bay, Jamaica; the 1962 Resolution that suspended Cuba from the OAS was rescinded in June 2009 by the OAS General Assembly in San Pedro Sula, Honduras; and 187 countries voted in October 2009 at the Sixty-fourth General Assembly of the United Nations in favour of ending the United States Economic and Trade Embargo against Cuba.
Jamaica remains committed to the continued deepening of bilateral and regional ties with Cuba, which have been strengthened over the years by many high-level visits, including the official visit to Cuba by Honourable Bruce Golding in May 2008 and again in December 2008 on the occasion of the 3rd CARICOM-Cuba Summit. It was on that occasion that the Honorary Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) was presented to the former Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz, in recognition of Cuba’s support for the region and its leadership role among developing countries. Fittingly, former President Castro became the first non-CARICOM national to receive CARICOM’s most prestigious honour.
A number of wide-ranging programmes of cooperation have been promoted by Cuba at the bilateral and regional levels. Jamaica acknowledges with appreciation the positive effects that these programmes have had on the social and economic development of CARICOM Member States.
Of special note is the Operation Miracle Eye Care Programme, under which more than 10,000 Caribbean nationals have benefited from free eye care in Cuba. The programme will move to a new level with the establishment of an Ophthalmology Centre in Jamaica, with cooperation from Cuba, pursuant to the agreement signed in July 2009. This centre is expected to provide services to Jamaican and other CARICOM nationals.
The Cuba/CARICOM Scholarship Programme has been ongoing for over twenty years and hundreds of CARICOM nationals have received valuable training in medicine, engineering, agronomy and other areas. There are currently 281 Jamaican students pursuing higher education in Cuba under the regional and bilateral scholarship programmes.
Moreover, Jamaica and Cuba have engaged in mutually beneficial technical and economic cooperation through the short-term assignment of Cuban professionals in the areas of health, education and agriculture, among others.
We celebrate CARICOM-Cuba Day, in the confidence that the further strengthening of our ties of friendship and cooperation with Cuba will foster the deepening of our integration and development, for the benefit of our peoples.

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