Excellency, it is my pleasure to receive today your Letters of Credence, accrediting you as Cuba’s Fourth Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.
The relationship between Cuba and the Member States of the Caribbean Community is a unique one that has been forged over several decades. In fact, since the historic day of 8 December 1972, which saw the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, the bonds of friendship and solidarity between our countries have grown and deepened significantly. That day is now celebrated annually as CARICOM-Cuba Day.
CARICOM-Cuba relations have been a trailblazer in South-South Cooperation. The high level of collaboration at the political level is evidenced by the Summits of CARICOM and Cuba Heads of State and Government held every three years, and meetings of Ministers of Foreign Affairs held eighteen months prior to the Summits. These high-level political encounters provide our countries with the opportunity to discuss areas of mutual interest and identify areas for co-operation. That co-operation has also extended to the practice of mutual support in the hemispheric and international arenas.
The last Summit in 2011 identified nine areas for technical co-operation, four of which are at the regional level and the others bilaterally between Member States and Cuba. The areas for technical co-operation include health, culture, language translation, natural disasters, agriculture including sugar and bananas, fisheries, water and infrastructure development. Of particular note of the regional projects include a School of Arts and a Training Centre for the treatment of persons with physical disabilities and a regional fisheries project.
Ambassador, it is perhaps in the field of human resource capacity building that the people of the Region are most keenly aware of the support of Cuba to their development. Indeed, among the Community’s external partners, Cuba is by far the largest contributor in this area through the generous offering of numerous scholarships.
As you help to build our capacity, your country, despite its constraints, has continued to supplement our human resource needs, particularly in the health sector, with the deployment of doctors and nurses in the Community. This invaluable and highly appreciated assistance has also been extended in the fields of education, sports, agriculture, and culture.
Excellency, CARICOM knows well the value of unity on the international front given that co-ordination of foreign policy is one of the pillars of our integration movement. We have, as a bloc, joined with like-minded states to both advance and protect our interests and support causes and initiatives of priority concern to us. This is why we have consistently supported United Nations resolutions aimed at ending the US embargo on Cuba and will continue to do so.
There are other possible areas for collaboration and cooperation between us on the international front. I would like to highlight of particular importance, preventing and controlling Non-Communicable Diseases, Climate Change and implementation of the UN Arms Trade Treaty. These are areas which lend themselves to us working together regionally and joining forces in the international arena to promote the search for the best possible solutions, given the potential of these issues to hinder our social and economic development.
Ambassador, the four CARICOM countries in 1972 broke the diplomatic embargo on Cuba in this hemisphere and Cuba’s active involvement and recent chairmanship of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) is evidence of the significant evolution of your country’s diplomatic role within the Americas. On behalf of the Caribbean Community, I congratulate Cuba on its successful Pro-tempore Chairmanship of CELAC which saw several issues of importance to CARICOM being addressed at the Summit in Havana last January.
These included recognising the special circumstances of small developing middle-income countries, Reparations for Native Genocide and Slavery, the role of Information and Communication Technology in Development, climate change and disaster preparedness, to name a few. All of these are topics actively being pursued on the Community’s programme of work.
Also, during its chairmanship, Cuba had called for inclusiveness when considering issues related to the UN Post-2015 Development Agenda. The Caribbean Community is in full support of that call and it is my hope that we all take an active role in this global dialogue which will decide the future beyond the global development compact represented by the Millennium Development Goals. We must ensure that our Region’s interests are adequately and effectively addressed.
In closing, Ambassador, I wish to reiterate the appreciation of the Community for the long-standing and mutually beneficial relations we have enjoyed with Cuba. It is in this tradition that I gladly accept your credentials. I formally bid you a warm welcome to the Community and I look forward to working with you in order to further CARICOM-Cuba relations.
I thank you.