“Cuban President Fidel Castro today announced to the Cuban people that he would not be seeking re-election as President of the Cuban State Council and as Commander in Chief of the Cuban armed forces.
It is a very significant announcement as it marks the end, not just of an era, but the end of eras; because President Castro remains the longest serving Head of Government the world has ever known. He is one year short of having been at the helm in Cuba for 50-years. But the announcement also brings into particularly sharp focus, the political revolution that has endured and has constantly commanded the attention of the world. And a revolution which has challenged the orthodoxies that have defined the rest of the world.
During the period of the great ideological divide, we were fierce opponents of the political values that were espoused then and we expressed that opposition in very forceful terms. Happily, that era is behind us.
Jamaica and Cuba today enjoy a relationship that is mutually respectful and mutually beneficial. As recently as a few months ago, Cuba provided assistance to us in tackling our significant engineering challenge to rescue the Palisadoes road. When I visited Cuba in December 2007, for the PetroCaribe summit in Cuba, I held discussions with Acting President Raul Castro. Those discussions were warm, they were friendly, they were constructive. And whether then or now, or whether during that period of ideological turbulence or during the placidity of current political relations, no one can dispute Fidel Castro’s steadfastness, his courage, the strength of his leadership or his unswerving commitment to the cause of the Cuban people.
Life is never static. The world has changed. Cuba has changed and we too have changed. There is a transition which will now take place and one of the hopes we have is that this transition will be a defining moment and that it will enable Cuba to take an unambiguous place in the international community and put an end once and for all to the isolation of Cuba and the Cuban people.
Indeed I think that it must be recognized that in the process that has been taking place in Cuba, not one dictated from outside, not one required in terms of some conformity but one determined and managed by the Cuban people themselves. In that condition, the way is being paved for a normalization of international relations insofar as Cuba is concerned and I hope that that normalization will be allowed to proceed without being detained by unreasonableness.
As far as Jamaica is concerned, we expect that under the new leadership that will emerge, good relations between our countries will continue. Indeed, just last week I received an official invitation from Acting President Raul Castro, to pay an official visit to Cuba. I indicated to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I am accepting the invitation and discussions will take place with the Cuban authorities to determine the appropriate time for that visit bearing in mind the transition that will now be underway.
On behalf of the government and people of Jamaica, we want to extend to President Fidel Castro our best wishes, aware as we are, understanding as we do, the seriousness of his illness, we want to wish him the best and hope that he will continue to enjoy life, to be able to see the continued progress of his Cuban people” .
Thank You.

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