It is often very difficult in this selfish world to understand or appreciate acts of genuine solidarity. Each act of generosity or selfless assistance has to undergo the test of “what do you want in return”? In spite of the open claims of being a “Christian society” which abound in our hemisphere, the reality is that any act of giving is viewed with scepticism as to what is expected in return.
While this is often true on a personal level, the experience of centuries in international relations has made this almost an accepted practice. In addition, those who pursue such selfish paths attempt to cover up their greed and self-interest by creating suspicions over any genuine demonstration of international solidarity.
Yet right in our own hemisphere we have witnessed manifestations of this principle by countries which, in spite of their own resource limitations and obstacles placed in their way, have in practice demonstrated what international solidarity really entails. We in St Vincent and the Grenadines are particularly fortunate to be beneficiaries. Our international airport, the splendid Vision Now programme and the magnificent contribution of the Cuban government and people in the fields of health and education are undeniable attestations to the value of this practice.
It is not just Cuba, because in recent years Venezuela too has invoked that principle in its relations with the government of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Petrocaribe programme and the benefits from ALBA membership have greatly assisted our country in treading the turbulent economic waters of the last two decades.
The latest announcement of debt forgiveness by the government of Venezuela, reported elsewhere in this issue, ranks high on the list of acts of international solidarity to countries in need. Lest the cynics raise distractions, it is significant that other OECS countries are also to benefit from debt forgiveness. This is a principle that developing nations have been fighting to be made a practice by international financial institutions and rich countries with very limited success.
The debt forgiveness will enable SVG and its OECS neighbours to deploy resources to resuscitate their economy and tend to critical needs of their people rather than spend in debt repayments. The assistance with urea will greatly benefit our farmers and local agriculture, and the persons with destroyed or damaged homes as a result of the volcanic eruption will surely welcome the donation of prefabricated homes.
What have we given up in return? By contrast there are those with huge resources and minimal contributions to our development, who shamelessly try to influence our foreign policy and dictate how we should conduct our international relations. To tell the painful truth, we as a people, do not manifest the level of gratitude to Cuba and Venezuela and their citizens here, in keeping with their over-generous contribution to our economic and social development.
As we give heartfelt thanks to the governments of Venezuela and Cuba, the least we can do in a principled manner is to join with the rest of the international community in calling for an end to the unjust embargo and sanctions against both countries. At home here, we as a people can show greater appreciation and respect for those citizens of the two countries in our midst, who are contributing significantly to our social and economic development.