|Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steve Blackett say 40 years of unbroken diplomatic relations between CARICOM and Cuba was a significant milestone and something to celebrate. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??|
Barbados continues to maintain its stance that the United States Government should lift the unilateral economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba.
Furthermore, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steve Blackett, emphasised that the embargo was "a burden" and stressed that it was an external measure which impacted not only the Government and people of Cuba, but the relationship between CARICOM and Cuba.
Minister Blackett made these comments yesterday, as he delivered the opening remarks at a panel discussion to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and CARICOM at the 3Ws Pavilion, Cave Hill Campus. The discussion was organised by the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the Cuban Embassy of Barbados.
Describing the CARICOM-Cuba relationship as one that "had expanded rather than contracted over the years", he stressed, "although more costly, we have found ways to operate within the constraints, while we continue to call for the removal of the measures. Despite significant ideological, cultural, economic and social challenges, the countries of CARICOM and Cuba have been able to count on each other’s steadfastness of purpose and goodwill over the years".
Speaking about the merit of CARICOM-Cuba Day, which was observed last Saturday, December 8, the Acting Foreign Affairs Minister said: "There is something extra to celebrate, – 40 years of unbroken diplomatic relations. This is a significant milestone.?? Its importance is magnified when we consider that not many marriages last that long even when culture, language and ethnicity is shared."
He continued: "It was December 1972 when the representatives of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, all four newly independent states of what was then called the Commonwealth Caribbean, took the decision to establish formal diplomatic relations with the Republic of Cuba."
Noting that the actions taken by the four countries at the time were risky, he pointed out that with every important investment that was expected to pay big returns, there was always an element of risk.
"It was obvious to the leaders of our countries at the time that there would have been some fall-out from this bold act.?? In fact, some pundits would suggest that what our countries did, what other Caribbean countries and longtime independent states of the hemisphere failed or refused to do, was tantamount to political suicide, given the geopolitical realities of the time," he said.
Mr. Blackett reasoned that the move by Barbados and the Commonwealth Caribbean to invest in a relationship with Cuba "was no doubt based on the consanguinity of our region, a demonstration of independence, supporting our Caribbean neighbours in their quest for self-determination, which we were then enjoying, peace in the region and building friendships for the future".??
Speaking about the present relationship between the countries, he said there was constant dialogue among Heads of State and government officials of Cuba and CARICOM, often facilitated by CARICOM-Cuba Summits. The most recent Summit was held on December 8, 2011 in Trinidad and Tobago.
He also noted that a Joint Ministerial Commission was established to oversee and monitor the implementation of CARICOM-Cuba Cooperation Agreements and Trade agreements.?? Areas of cooperation primarily include health, agriculture, sport, education, culture and the environment.
Adding that since 2002 CARICOM and Cuba had ratified a series of Declarations, including the Declaration of Port of Spain that was adopted at the 4th Summit, he explained that these agreements outlined the countries’ shared commitments, concerns and objectives.
"This declaration focuses on the current common challenges we face nationally, regionally and internationally and the planned responses to addressing them," Mr. Blackett explained, outlining that these included the fight against HIV and AIDS, the illicit trade of small and light weapons, the illegal drug trade, human trafficking and identification of some CARICOM countries as tax havens.
Other declared commitments included global climate change negotiations, continued support for Haiti and its reconstruction efforts and the work of the Caribbean Sea Commission in protecting and conserving the shared Caribbean Sea.