Jamaica is very pleased to commemorate once again CARICOM-Cuba Day – on the, 8th December 2010. Building on the success of the celebrations in 2009, we felt it would be appropriate to collaborate with the University of the West Indies this year, as it is an institution that demonstrates the unity of our region and serves twelve of the fourteen Member States of CARICOM.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica the Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh
Thirty-eight years ago, the first four independent countries of CARICOM – Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – established diplomatic relations with Cuba, in what was at that time in the context of the Cold War, a courageous and historic stand. This bold position was subsequently adopted by all fourteen (14) sovereign states of CARICOM, thereby affirming the Community’s commitment to the integration of Cuba into the wider Caribbean family and rejecting the policy of isolation of Cuba promoted by other actors.
Since 1972, the Community has enjoyed excellent relations of friendship with Cuba and implemented wide-ranging programmes of cooperation. At a regional level, we have collaborated in the areas of education, with the provision of numerous scholarships by Cuba; health, with the training of nurses and the establishment of Eye Care Centres; disaster relief; and energy saving progarmmes. I take this opportunity to acknowledge, with appreciation, the positive results that these programmes have had on the social and economic development of CARICOM Member States. We remain very satisfied with the progress that we have made.
The relations of friendship between CARICOM and Cuba have been nurtured over the years by a series of Summit meetings between our Heads of State and Government. These summit meetings have been held every three years since 2002, thus demonstrating the political commitment of both sides to the relationship, and the importance assigned at the highest level to CARICOM-Cuba collaboration. The First CARICOM-Cuba Summit was held in Havana on 8th December 2002. That Summit issued the Havana Declaration which, among other things, designated 8th December as CARICOM-Cuba Day and called for the commemoration of CARICOM-Cuba Day each year in each Member State. The Second and Third Summits were held in Barbados in 2005 and Santiago in 2008. We look forward to 8th December 2011 when the CARICOM region will host the Fourth Summit in Trinidad and Tobago.
Regular meetings have also been held between the Foreign Ministers of both sides. This year the 3rd CARICOM Cuba Meeting of Foreign Ministers was held in Havana on 17th September, at the invitation of H.E. Bruno Rodriguez Parilla, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba. I attended this meeting along with nine other CARICOM Foreign Ministers, where we reviewed the state of relations between Cuba and CARICOM, and discussed multilateral issues, including the Situation in Haiti, Environment and Sustainable Development, the Millennium Development Goals and Integration and Political Co-ordination in Latin America and the Caribbean. At the conclusion of the meeting, the CARICOM Foreign Ministers had the pleasure of meeting with H.E. Raul Castro, President of Cuba. The Honourable President reflected on the importance assigned by Cuba to its relations with CARICOM and expressed his gratitude to CARICOM for its support throughout the years. He also called for Cuba and CARICOM to continue working towards the strengthening of co-operation and solidarity. Indeed, we remain proud of the fact that the relationship between CARICOM and Cuba has flourished and that cooperation between the two sides has strengthened, despite the various developments and challenges evolving on the international stage.
Next week Monday, 13th December 2010, the Cuban Foreign Minister, H.E. Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, will be paying an Official Visit to Jamaica, where he will hold bilateral talks with the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Honourable Dr. Kenneth Baugh, on issues of mutual interest.
One issue of significance to CARICOM-Cuba relations is the unwavering support of the entire Community for numerous UN General Assembly resolutions calling for the elimination of the economic blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States. On 26th October this year, during the Sixty-fifth Session of the General Assembly in New York, 187 countries voted in favour of an end to the Embargo, which is consistent with the voting pattern of last year. It is evident by this trend that the majority of the nations of the world support the normalization of relations between the US and Cuba.
Over the past two years, there has been a very active drive towards regional integration and development. CARICOM and Cuba have placed strong emphasis on the importance of regional integration which is confirmed by our active involvement in the Summit of Latin America and the Caribbean on Integration and Development (CALC), the Rio Group and the emerging Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC). Together we are working to position Latin America and the Caribbean to become a powerful pole of influence in the world, one that would offer hope and bring lasting prosperity to the peoples of our region.
Last year I spoke of the Operation Miracle Eye Care Programme, under which more than 10,000 Caribbean nationals have benefited from free eye care in Cuba, and the fact that Jamaica was about to move to a new level with the establishment of an Ophthalmology Centre in Jamaica. I am very proud to say that this became a reality on 27th January 2010, when the Jamaica/Cuba Eye Care Centre was officially opened at the St. Joseph’s Hospital. The Centre has been providing first-class eye care treatment, an invaluable service to the most vulnerable, saving some from going blind and many others from remaining visually disabled. I reiterate to the Government of Cuba, our deep appreciation for their invaluable assistance in providing the staff and equipment for the Centre.
As we celebrate CARICOM-Cuba Day today, I take the opportunity to extend to the Government and people of Cuba, our best wishes for the continued growth and prosperity of their nation, and to affirm that CARICOM looks forward to the further strengthening of the bonds of friendship and the promotion of integration and development between the Republic of Cuba and the member states of the Caribbean Community.