Some of the Cuban nurses stationed in Barbados at the ceremony for the commemoration of the Cubana Airlines tragedy in Paynes Bay, today. (S. Pilé/BGIS)

The Cuban contingent of nurses, who were assigned to help Barbados in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, will continue their work on the island for another six months.   

Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba to Barbados, Sergio Jorge Pastrana, made the disclosure this morning during the 44th commemoration of the Cubana Airlines tragedy, held at the Cubana Monument, Paynes Bay, St. James.

On October 6, 1976, 57 Cubans, including the entire Cuban fencing team; 11 Guyanese, mostly medical students, and five North Koreans, who were diplomats, died off the coast of Barbados in the bombing of Cubana Flight 455.

Mr. Pastrana noted it was somewhat profound that the small gathering at the memorial event comprised medical personnel, sports persons and diplomats, a reflection of the careers that many of 73 persons who perished had been robbed of fulfilling.

“Those present here today are following the careers that they were not able to complete. It is in that vein that we citizens of the Caribbean must remember them and commit to the fulfilment of our lives in rendition of the dreams they were not able to achieve. It is somehow pleasing to understand that our Cuban sport coaches are here training the Barbadian youth to learn sport disciplines, and a cohort of Cuban nurses are here working at the forefront of the Barbadian effort for the control of the pandemic of the COVID-19 virus.

“I am happy to report to you here that yesterday the agreement was signed between Cuban and Barbadian authorities to make their stay to continue here working for six more months.

“With their help, Barbados will be able to cope with the occurrence of new imported cases of infected travellers coming from abroad, and thus to be able to control any contagion that is recognised through tracing and isolation in such a way as to avoid the occurrence of any local community spread of the virus,” Ambassador Pastrana stated.

Also addressing the gathering was Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, David Comissiong. He pointed out that the annual occasion to mark the tragedy should be used to send a strong message to the global community that the region must remain a Zone of Peace – a stance numerous regional leaders, including Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley, have articulated.

“We must strive for a world where mutual respect and peace dominate and the seeds of hate, intolerance and terrorism are eliminated.  Indeed, we can’t help but note that this horrific Cubana tragedy proved to be a catalyst that motivated our Caribbean Community to establish one of the fundamental planks of our collective Foreign Policy: namely, the notion that the Caribbean must be a Zone of Peace,” he said.

Ambassador Comissiong further noted that October 6 also provided an opportunity to reflect on Cuba’s contribution of medical personnel to alleviating the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Cuba has led the way. We all owe a great debt of gratitude to the Government of Cuba for the invaluable assistance rendered through the provision of much-needed healthcare workers to respond to COVID-19 in the Caribbean Community.  The Government of Barbados will continue to draw upon this assistance,” the Ambassador said.

Also present at the brief ceremony were Guyana’s Consul General in Barbados, Cita Pilgrim; Chargé d´Affaires of Venezuela’s Embassy in Barbados, Álvaro Sánchez; Head of the Cuban Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, Dr. Daymarelis Ortega; President of the Caribbean Movement for Peace and Integration and the Barbadian Solidarity Movement with Cuba, David Denny; and President of the Association of Cuban Residents in Barbados, Yaima Payne.

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