The Seventh Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community and Cuba was held via videoconference on Tuesday 8 December 2020.
CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque addressed the Summit’s Opening. Here are his Remarks:
- Your Excellency Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba;
- Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of State and Government of CARICOM;
- Other Heads of State and Government of CARICOM Member States;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
It is indeed a distinct pleasure for me to address the Seventh Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community, and the Republic of Cuba. [I am sure you would agree with me that] The holding of this important Summit at such a challenging time is testimony to the strength of the enduring CARICOM-Cuba bonds that have thrived for more than four decades.
Forty-eight years ago, the foundation was laid for the building of a strong and mutually beneficial relationship. This has been formally underpinned since then by instruments such as Technical Cooperation Agreements and Memoranda of Understanding.
This exemplary and solid model of South-South Cooperation stems from the historic and courageous act by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, four newly independent Caribbean States, which in 1972, a period of strong political tensions at the international level, established diplomatic relations with the sister nation, Cuba.
Over the years, the relationship has been continually enhanced and the dynamism has been encapsulated by the broadening of the areas of cooperation. These have taken into account the changes in the political, social, cultural and economic environment.
We have witnessed greater collaboration institutionally, in particular, in the fields of disaster risk management, climate change, tourism, trade and health.
This is exemplified by the Memoranda of Understanding between CARICOM and the Government of Cuba in the areas of multi-destination tourism and disaster risk reduction, concluded at our Sixth Summit held in Antigua and Barbuda in 2017.
These were issues to which you gave special attention in reviewing the relationship between CARICOM and Cuba at that Summit, and determined that they were areas, along with air and sea transportation, which required priority attention.
The new reality brought about by the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the need to give greater consideration to these issues of great importance to the economies of CARICOM and Cuba. Our discussions today, therefore, will provide us with the opportunity to explore ways and means to strengthen our co-operation in these areas.
Distinguished Heads of State and Government, our world faces a new multifaceted threat, a global health, social and economic crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the restriction on travel internationally, arising from measures to control the spread of the virus, our Member States as the most travel and tourism dependent Region in the world, are particularly hard hit economically.
Faced with the dire consequences of depleted revenues, the inability for most of our countries to access concessional financing due to the use of GDP per capita as the main criterion, creates even greater challenges.
We are of the firm belief that the time is long past for the use of a Universal Vulnerability Index as the main determinant for access to such financing.
Heads of Government, it would be remiss of me not to single out for mention, the provision by the Government of Cuba of public health personnel to our Member States to boost their limited capacity to respond to the health crisis resulting from the outbreak of the pandemic.
Such an act is an unforgettable example of the spirit of solidarity that is the hallmark of Cuba’s cooperation with the Community. I wish to express CARICOM’s heartfelt appreciation to the Government and People of Cuba for that fraternal and selfless gesture. Any attempt to discredit Cuba’s assistance in this regard must be rejected.
Even as they combat the pandemic, Caribbean countries continue to be faced with a range of challenges. According to a recent joint report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), this requires convergence and coordination between regional actors.
In this connection, I am pleased that the Government of Cuba has proposed an Agenda Item that will afford us the opportunity to address this and other matters, and find new areas of cooperation and synergies.
I am confident that the deliberations at this Summit, in the spirt of a dialogue amongst friends, will lead to further consolidation and enrichment of this long-standing and much valued CARICOM-Cuba partnership.
I thank you.