SVG observes 40 years of diplomatic relations between CARICOM and Cuba
December 28, 2012
SVG observes 40 years of diplomatic relations between CARICOM and Cuba

As he observed the 40th anniversary of official diplomatic relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba, Minister of Foreign Affairs Douglas Slater renewed calls for the United States blockade against the communist Caribbean country to be removed.{{more}}

Slater, speaking at a ceremony on December 13 at Frenches House in Kingstown, told the audience of Vincentian and Cuban citizens and diplomats that the Caribbean region was prepared to facilitate any talks between the two nations that would lead to an end of the more than 50-year-old impasse.

“We are willing, and we have told them that we are willing, in whatever way we can, to facilitate rapprochement with the Americans and Cuba,” Slater said.

“CARICOM is willing, and CARICOM is able and CARICOM is ready.”

The US embargo against Cuba began as a military blockade in 1958, following the revolution that brought communist leader Fidel Castro to power.

It was then upgraded to trade and travel sanctions in 1962, when Cuba aligned itself with the then Soviet Union.

On December 8, 1972, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago established diplomatic ties with Cuba, with other Caribbean countries following suit over the years.

St Vincent and the Grenadines’ established official diplomatic relations with Cuba in May 1992, and has advocated that all sanctions against the country be lifted.

Slater, a former minister of health, who studied in Cuba, said he was hopeful that Havana-Washington relations could be better, since there was no valid reason for tensions between them.

“I am optimistic. I hope that the Americans will act maturely and understand that the reasons for casting out Cuba from this big family of Latin America and the Caribbean … are obsolete. It is time for us to move on.

“I really do hope that the Americans will understand that in their own interest, they should hurry along and normalize relations with Cuba. It will be beneficial to all of us, I think, and it will make this area of the world a more prosperous area and an area of peace.”

Slater outlined the areas in which Cuba has helped this country and the rest of the Caribbean, namely scholarships, in the medical and technical fields, as well as in equipment and other assistance, and noted that if the cost of these contributions were to be quantified, then the sum would be billions of dollars.

He said the relationship with Cuba has opened doors to other Latin American territories through different agencies such as ALBA and CELAC, which has brought benefits to the region.

“And therefore, when there is a call for us to support Cuba in any cause, if that is the only reason, we should consider to give generously.

“… CARICOM countries over these 40 years have been very supportive of Cuba, in the cruel embargo that has been imposed by the United States of America. We will continue to oppose the cruel embargo on Cuba until it is lifted.”

Also addressing the gathering was former foreign affairs minister Alpian Allen, who praised the four initial Caribbean leaders — Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Norman Manley and Eric Williams — for their boldness, as he highlighted Cuba’s assistance to the region.

“The very high level of cooperation is very evident in the assistance and advice given with regards to the present Argyle International Airport, soon to become functional.

“The medical service provided by Cuba to the region has significantly improved the vision and lives of thousands of CARICOM citizens, including many Vincentians.

“I am of the firm conviction that the steadfast commitment of the government and people of Cuba to assist us in the aforementioned areas must be loudly applauded…”

Allen also made the call for fresh dialogue between Cuba and the United States.

“CARICOM countries, in the face of US disapproval, have enjoyed a special relationship with Cuba. It is a relationship that is based on the principles of international law, including respect for sovereignty, non-intervention, and no interference in domestic affairs.

“Today the value of the relationship between Cuba and CARICOM is stronger than it has ever been, and this is due to Cuba’s unwavering commitment to the countries of CARICOM,” he said.

“We strongly believe that the return of Cuba to the hemisphere’s family of nations makes good sense, in the context of regional cooperation and stability.”

Also present at the ceremony were former foreign ministers Herbert Young and Mike Browne.

Cubans present included delegations from the Argyle airport work team, technicians at the diagnostic centre in Georgetown, and members of the medical fields. (JJ)