Adrian "Boo" Husbands playing a recorder at the CARICOM-CUBA Day celebrations??held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination, December 8, to mark the 38th Anniversary of CARICOM/Cuba relationship. (Picture compliments the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba)??

The recognition of CARICOM-Cuba Day on December 8, has been described by this country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, as "but one manifestation of the scope and depth of cooperation that has been forged between the Republic of Cuba and CARICOM" during their long and meaningful relationship.

Addressing a cultural celebration to mark the Day, at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination (EBCCI), University of The West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Senator McClean acknowledged that the friendship was marked by clearly defined phases of development, each of which resulted in deeper ties between CARICOM and Cuba.

According to her, the first phase had its genesis in the decision by four newly-Independent countries – Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica – on December 8, 1972, to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba. This "brave and bold" decision, she reflected, was made jointly by four visionary leaders of these states, namely President Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Prime Ministers Michael Manley of Jamaica, Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad and Tobago, and Errol Walton Barrow of Barbados.

Jazz singer, Rosemary Phillips serenades the Cuban and Barbadian delegation at the??CARICOM-CUBA Day held at the Errol Barrow Centre for Creative Imagination December 8, to mark the 38th Anniversary of CARICOM/Cuba relationship.????Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean (right) enjoying the music flanked by Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Barbados, Lisette Perez Perez and Minister of Commerce and Trade, Senator Haynesley Benn (left). (Picture compliments the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba)

??"I should put the magnitude of this decision into context," Senator McClean declared, explaining that it was made during the height of the Cold War, at a time when the Fidel Castro regime was being ostracised by the majority of the states of the hemisphere, and 10 years after Cuba’s suspension from the Organisation of American States (OAS).?? "This divergence from the status quo was a clear demonstration to the world of the place which Cuba occupies within the regional family of Caribbean nations and the respect which we, the CARICOM Member States, hold for Cuba’s sovereignty and right to self-determination," the Foreign Minister contended.

The second phase was a period of consolidation of the relationship, marked by increased cooperation in the international fora and the establishment by the Republic of Cuba of diplomatic missions in every CARICOM Member State. The Embassy of Cuba to Barbados was established in May 1994.??

The third phase commenced with the adoption of the Havana Declaration by Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community and Cuba on December 8, 2002, at the First CARICOM-Cuba Summit. This was then declared CARICOM-Cuba Day, to be observed each year in all countries of the Caribbean Community and in Cuba. "The Havana Declaration has paved the way for greater cooperation between Cuba and the Caribbean Community and resulted in the strengthening of relations between the two in multilateral fora," Senator McClean stressed.

She maintained that it was evidenced by CARICOM’s efforts during the Summit of the Americas process to promote the full integration of Cuba into the hemisphere, and in 2009 the successful adoption of Resolution 2438 to rescind suspension of Cuba from the OAS.

Meanwhile, Cuban Ambassador to Barbados, Lissette P??rez P??rez, made similar acknowledgements of the "brave gesture" by Barbados and the others, noting that it "marked the beginning of the end of an era where the United States government imposed an isolation policy against us".?? She exclaimed: "My people will never forget that such tremendous action. The decision came from countries that had shared the same tragical history of colonialism."

Mrs. P??rez P??rez further stated: "For Cubans, Caribbean commitment is to feel more like an essential part of this community of nations, where nature, history, customs and challenges lead us on the itinerary of the necessary integration." Pointing out that significant progress had been realised with respect to cooperation in the fields of education, health, energy, agriculture, sports and others, she added: "The most important resources in Cuba have been, and will continue to be sharing with our Caribbean brothers the human capacity developed in the last 50 years."

Both parties spoke highly of the "unequalled humanitarian response" by Cuba to Haiti in the aftermath of the January 12, devastating earthquake. Senator McClean commended the deployment of Cuban experts, to affected areas; and the contingent who still remain there. She told the Cuban delegation: "These acts of generosity and commitment have not gone unnoticed."?? In turn, Ambassador, P??rez P??rez noted: "The President of Haiti, the central and local authorities, whatever their religious or political ideas, all know that they can count on Cuba."

Currently, over 1,500 Cuban co-operators render their services in these areas in the 14 CARICOM countries, as well as Aruba, Dutch Antilles and Guadeloupe. Over 83 per cent are from the health sector. Additionally, eight Ophthalmology Centres have been set up in Haiti, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Jamaica and Suriname, with the aid of Cuban, human resources and equipment.?? More than 4,000 Caribbean youth?? have graduated in Cuba of whom more than 1,700 are medical personnel, and at present, there are 3,307 Caribbean youth studying in that country.

Barbados, like its neighbours, has also been the beneficiary of Cuban scholarships and funding, as well as the medical service "Operacion Milagro", which has served to significantly improve the lives of thousands here since 2008. To date, 4,130 Barbadians have been examined and, as a consequence of this programme, 354 of those individuals who travelled to Cuba for surgery are experiencing a much-improved quality of life.??

The December 8 cultural celebration at the EBCCI reflected the high level of cooperation and dedication between the two nations and this was reflected in the performances by Adrian "Boo" Husbands,?? Aja, Gabby; Stefan Walcott, John King, Rosemary Philips and others.??jgill@barbados.gov.bb

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