Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will gather in Cuba next week to further strengthen the good relations that already exist with that Spanish-speaking country, and discuss pressing concerns that are of interest to the region.

They will attend the Fifth CARICOM-Cuba Summit on Monday, December 8. Prime Minister Freundel Stuart underscored the importance of this meeting, saying that a number of critical issues would be discussed.

Mr. Stuart stated: ???The Official Visit and the Summit will provide an opportunity to review developments in the world since our last encounter in 2011 in Port of Spain; to renew the historical friendship between Barbados and other CARICOM countries and Cuba; to acknowledge the selflessness of Cuba in lending assistance in confronting challenges like the Ebola virus; and to reaffirm our support for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba.???

Barbados??? delegation will be led by Mr. Stuart, and includes Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert Morris; and Permanent Secretaries in the Prime Minister???s Office, Sonja Welch and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Charles Burnett.

The Heads and President Raul Castro are expected to discuss a number of issues, including the CARICOM-Cuba Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, technical cooperation, renewable energy, tourism, natural disaster mitigation, and Cuba???s new Foreign Investment Law.

Cuba has provided thousands of Caribbean nationals with academic scholarships, and it has extended valuable technical assistance in a number of areas to CARICOM and other countries.

And, over the years, the Caribbean Community has shown its solidarity with Cuba in consistently calling for the removal of the trade embargo imposed by the United States 52 years ago.

The first CARICOM-Cuba Summit for Heads of State and Government was held in Cuba from December 7 to 8, 2002, on the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

At that time, the Heads agreed that December 8th each year would be celebrated as CARICOM-Cuba Day and that a summit would be held every three years.

It was felt that the annual observance and a regular summit would appropriately commemorate the three decades of cooperation and friendship between CARICOM countries and Cuba and serve ???as a symbol and guiding light in the process of developing even greater levels of cooperation and practical and meaningful collaboration??? among the countries.

Although a Spanish-speaking country, Cuba and its CARICOM neighbours share a number of similarities and traditions. The country is steeped in cultural awareness, and its social, cultural and scientific development, as well as its primary health care system, education and world-renowned sports programme, are the envy of many countries.

The two pillars of the Cuban economy are tourism and sugar, but the country also produces tobacco, coffee, rum, honey, cocoa, citrus fruits, and construction materials. Other sectors include pharmaceutical and bio-technological industries, mining and fishing.

Barbados also has special ties to Cuba through the descendants of Barbadians who migrated to Cuba at the turn of the 20th century to work in the sugar industry there, many of whom remained in Cuba. The Prime Minister is expected to meet with members of the Barbadian diaspora on his visit.

With the successes that Cuba and CARICOM have been able to achieve over the years, next week???s summit should, therefore, serve to strengthen the relations that currently exist and provide the impetus to better handle the global challenges impacting the region.


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