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The embargo imposed against Cuba by the Government of the United States of America has been identified as one of the external measures that has placed a burden on the Government and people of Cuba as well as on the relationship between CARICOM and Cuba.

However, acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Steven Blackett, noted that in spite of the challenges, the relationship between Cuba and the 15-member grouping has expanded rather than contracted in recent years. He made the comments yesterday morning while delivering remarks at the 3Ws Pavilion at the opening ceremony of a panel discussion hosted by the University of the West Indies and the Cuban Embassy for Barbados, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cub and CARICOM. That agreement was signed on December 8, 1972, between Cuba, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

“Although more costly, we have found ways to operate within the constraints while we continue to call for the removal of the measures. Despite significant ideological, cultural, economic and social challenges, the countries of CARICOM and Cuba have been able to count on each other’s steadfastness of purpose and goodwill over the years,” he said.

The Minister noted that the actions taken by those four states, all newly independent at the time, had been described as bold. But, he maintained that the decision to go beyond merely recognising Cuba, to the point of formally establishing diplomatic relations, was of far greater significance back then than it would be today.

“It was obvious to the leaders of our countries at the time that there would have been some fall-out from this bold act. In fact some pundits would suggest that what our countries did, when other Caribbean countries and long time independent States of the hemisphere failed or refused to do, was tantamount to political suicide, given the geopolitical realities of the time. We all know that with every important investment expected to pay big returns, there is always an element of risk,” he said.

Blackett added, “The considerations for Barbados and its Commonwealth Caribbean neighbours to invest in a relationship with Cuba were no doubt based on the consanguinity of our region, a demonstration of independence, supporting our Caribbean neighbours in their quest for self determination which we were then enjoying, peace in the region and building friendships for the future.”

The Acting Foreign Affairs Minister noted that as the countries mark the 40th anniversary, there is much to celebrate, given the fact that the relationship has grown from strength to strength. This, he said, has been in the fact that Cuba has established and maintains embassies in the 14 independent States of CARICOM and by extension, 13 CARICOM countries, including Barbados, have to date, established a diplomatic presence in Cuba as well.

Additionally, he noted that Heads of State and Government of CARICOM and Cuba have adopted a series of Declarations since 2002, which have articulated their shared commitments, concerns and objectives. He said that the Declaration of Port of Spain which was adopted on the occasion of the 4th Summit, focuses on the current common challenges we face nationally, regionally and internationally and the planned responses to address them, including a commitment to the fight against – HIV and AIDS; the illicit trade of small and light weapons; the illegal drugs trade; human trafficking and the identification of some CARICOM countries as tax havens.

Source: Barbados

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