Monday, December 08, 2008
Written by Larry Moonze in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba
Monday, December 08, 2008 5:20:50 PM
CUBAN President Raul Castro has said neither the US sanctions nor hurricanes can divide or defeat Cubans. Meanwhile, the third Cuba-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of state summit is underway here in Santiago de Cuba.
He further declared that Cuba-CARICOM had come a long way from the time when it was possible to isolate the island.
Leading CARICOM leaders through the Jose Marti (Cuban national hero) and General Antonio Maceo mausolems on Sunday afternoon, President Raul said Cuba had defied and was prepared to resist US hostility for another 50 years.
"As Marti said of the first war [independence war], we were not defeated by the enemies. We were defeated by ourselves when we let the sword fall down," President Raul said.
He said it was for that reason that former president Fidel Castro insisted on achieving national unity.
President Raul said Cuba had learnt from experience hence the reason it had resisted US pressure for half a century.
He said more than 70 per cent of Cubans were born under the pressures of the US-led economic, financial and commercial embargo.
"We are prepared to resist another half century of hostility from our enemy," President Castro said. "That is why not even the pressures of the blockade nor the hurricanes or anyone will divide us nor defeat us."
And during the dinner in honour of visiting CARICOM leaders, President Raul recalled that under US pressure most governments in the region had severed their relations with Cuba.
He said December 8, 2008 marked 36 years when four Caribbean nations took the daring step of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.
President Raul said the seminal event was one of historic and strategic dimension to Cuba.
He said it marked the onset of Cuba's formal relations with the future members of CARICOM.
However, President Raul said at the time diplomatic relations were simultaneously signed with Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad &Tobago, Cuba was isolated from the continent.
"Even if we had close links with almost all of the peoples in the hemisphere we only had diplomatic relations with Mexico, Chile, Peru and Canada," he said. "Today reality is different. Cuba has full diplomatic relations with 30 of the 32 Latin American and Caribbean nations. We have come a long way from the time when it was possible to isolate Cuba. The governments of those four nations and their leaders made a significant contribution to the region we all share.
President Raul who conveyed Fidel Castro's greetings to his guests also paid tribute to Errol Barrow, Michael Manley, Forbes Burnham and Eric Williams for their 1972 decision to have relations with Cuba.
Current CARICOM president (rotation chairman) Baldwin Spencer who is also Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda accompanied President Raul in laying wreaths at Marti and Maceo mausoleum.
Other leaders included President Rene Preval (Haiti), Prime Ministers Bruce Golding (Jamaica), Patrick Manning (Trinidad & Tobago), Ralph Gonsalves (St Vincent and the Grenades), Hubert Ingraham (The Bahamas), David Thompson (Barbados), Dean Barrow (Belize), Roosevelt Skerrit (Dominica), Tillman Thomas (Granada), Bharrat Jagdeo (Guyana), Dr Denzil Douglas (St Kitts and Nives), Stephenson King (Saint Lucia) and Dr Ronald Venetiaan of Surinam.
President Raul would open the summit under the theme Cooperation for greater integration in the Caribbean.
Prime Minister Spencer and CARICOM secretary general Edwin Carrington would also make formal addresses in their respective capacities.
The detailed agenda include discussing the ongoing global financial, energy, food and environmental crises and their impact on the Caribbean countries.
The leaders would tackle the issue of Cuba and CARICOM countries in the light of the Latin American and the Caribbean Summit on integration and Development scheduled for Brazil next week.
The other aspect is cooperation between Cuba and CARICOM countries, current situation and perspectives.
Cuban deputy foreign minister Alejandro Gonzalez said the CARICOM had stood with Cuba all the way.
"This summit expresses the firm will of our country to maintain the profound ties of friendship and cooperation with the Caribbean states. These are countries with abundant dignity that the United States has not been unable to sway in its policy against Cuba," said Gonzalez.
He said since 1961, at least 2,813 professionals from CARICOM nations graduated in Cuba including 815 doctors. Another 3,141 are currently studying on the island of which 1,607 were in medicine.
Of the 1,362 Cubans currently serving in CARICOM nations 87.1 per cent are in the field of health.
The CARICOM comprises Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Santa Lucia, San Vicente and the Grenadines, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago.