Cuban President and delegation deserve a warm Vincentian welcome
December 2, 2022

Cuban President and delegation deserve a warm Vincentian welcome

Cuban President His Excellency Miguel Diaz-Canel and his delegation will pay a three-day visit to our shores this weekend. He will be the first Cuban leader to visit St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Our countries have had historical people-to-people links since the early 20th century and Vincentian workers had not only journeyed to Cuba for work, primarily in the cane fields, but some even started families and remained there. But for most of the rest of the century, Cuba remained, where Vincentians were concerned, a place far away, though a Caribbean sister-isle.

The isolation intensified following the triumph of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. The British government, which governed our country then, under colonial rules, followed the lead of the USA in ostracizing Cuba. This official policy continued even after our own Independence in 1979 and was accompanied by a propaganda barrage which evoked hostility to Cuba among large sections of our population.

It was a phenomenon not unique to our country, for most of the rest of the Caribbean did the same. It was not until 1972 when the leaders of four Caribbean states displayed the courage and independence to open diplomatic relations with Cuba, that the Cuban block out was breached. In our case, another two decades were to ensue before Sir James Mitchell followed suit. All praises to him!

Before that however, the local SVG/Cuba Friendship Society had taken advantage of the offer of Cuban scholarships to aspiring students and by 1992, 12 batches of students had already undergone or were pursuing tertiary studies there.

Many more have gone since contributing to a solid core of professionals in many fields. We owe Cuba a huge debt for this act of solidarity.

Relations between SVG and Cuba at the governmental level took a quantum leap forward under the Unity Labour Party government since 2001. It allowed Cuba to demonstrate the real meaning of solidarity for in spite of the blockade imposed by the USA, roundly condemned annually by the United Nations, Cuba has rendered tremendous assistance to this small developing country.

Who can forget the VISION Now project, in conjunction with Venezuela, under which hundreds of Vincentians received critical eye treatment, including restoring the vision of many elderly folk. The scholarship programme continued, even in spite of Cuba’s economic difficulties, and Cuban health professionals gave invaluable service here. Above all there are the two essential and grand projects, the Modern Medical and Diagnostic Centre at Georgetown and the Argyle International airport, our gateway to international development.

In spite of all its difficulties and massive international pressure, Cuba has demonstrated that it stands on the side of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. It is true that it has a different economic and social system than ours, but one does not have to agree with the ideology of a particular government to extend friendship and solidarity. One does not have to copy Cuba’s system in order to enhance valuable relations. Cuba has never insisted on this and for this we must be appreciative. It is each to his own order but friendship and solidarity among us.

Let us all show our gratitude to and solidarity with the Cuban people and government through our warm reception of President Diaz-Canel and his party.