Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley. (Prime Minister’s Office)

Today, as we celebrate the 49th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between four newly independent Caribbean states and the Republic of Cuba, it is important to reiterate that despite the progress made we still have much work to do.

When the leaders of Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana decided on December 8, 1972, that they would send a message to the world that the isolation of Cuba was wrong and they would no longer be a part of it, they were establishing a philosophy that  says fairness and equity would govern the relationships of their nations with all others.

They were also saying, at a time when the East-West divide was as clear as the distinction between night and day, that the governments of the region, small and insignificant as they were in geo-politics, would never project themselves as voiceless.

One year short of half a century later, while the people of Cuba still suffer the ill effects of an embargo, it is heartening to recognise the number of countries across the globe that have followed the bold stance of Prime Minister Errol Barrow, Michael Manley, Eric Williams and President Forbes Burnham.

While our leaders, back in 1972, took their pro-Cuba stance based on principle and not economic gain, across the CARICOM region Cuba’s hand of friendship has been more than sufficient to repay any perceived debt.

Cuba’s opening of its tertiary education facilities to Caribbean youths and its highly recognised eye-care programme “Operacion Milagro”, aimed primarily at seniors suffering from cataracts, have been of immense value for decades.

However, its outreach to Barbados and so many other CARICOM neighbours with nurses and doctors to join the battle against COVID-19 trumps all others.

The depth of this gesture becomes even more apparent when we acknowledge that this was not a country giving of its surplus, but a neighbour helping neighbours while itself battling the same scourge.

On behalf of the Government and people of Barbados, I extend sincere thanks and best wishes to President Miguel Diaz-Canel and the people of Cuba as we celebrate 49 years of formal diplomatic relations. It remains my fervent wish that as we mark the 50th anniversary next year it will be against the backdrop of the total removal of the embargo.

Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley

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