HAVANA, Cuba, Dec 9 (ACN) Let us defend solidarity and cooperation as indispensable forces to face together the great challenges and threats upon us, said on Tuesday Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, President of the Republic of Cuba, when addressing the VII Virtual CARICOM-CUBA Summit.
Below is the full text of the Cuban President’s opening speech.
Good afternoon, CARICOM.
Once we have checked that all the connections are ready, we will proceed to inaugurate this Summit.
I welcome everyone who is connected.
The Honorable Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM);
Honorable Prime Ministers and Presidents of CARICOM member countries;
His Excellency Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary General of the Community;
His Excellency Mr. Didacus Jules, Director General of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
His Excellency Mr. Rodolfo Sabonge, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States;
Distinguished heads of delegations and special guests:
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate my congratulations to the Prime Ministers of Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on their re-election to those posts, and to the Presidents of Guyana and Suriname and the Prime Minister of Belize, on their electoral victories. I wish them all success in their roles.
It is a great honor for our people to host the Seventh CARICOM-Cuba Summit, which the restrictions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic make it impossible for us to attend.
We are small nations facing colossal challenges. Forced to live together in an unjust and unequal international system that prioritizes progress and benefits for the most developed, we feel more severely the effects of the pandemic on our peoples and our economies.
In times that demand more solidarity, cooperation and unity, it is urgent to join forces.
In Cuba, we developed a National Plan to prevent and control the pandemic based on the articulated management among institutions, which is supported by the strengths of the Health System, scientific development and responsible participation of the people, all of which allowed us to create and apply effective protocols against COVID-19.
Important advances in biotechnology and the production of domestically made medicines have favored the confrontation to the epidemic with results in sight, while our scientists work intensely in four vaccination candidates, already in phase of clinical trials.
Following our traditional vocation of solidarity, as far as possible, we have responded to the requests for support that we have received with health personnel.
I am grateful for the trust placed in the 681 Cuban health professionals who, in order to combat COVID-19, joined those who were providing services in Caribbean countries and territories.
The United States Government’s fierce campaign against Cuban medical collaboration, which deprived several Latin American populations of health services, could not prevent our dedicated collaborators from supporting the sister nations of the Caribbean.
This has been achieved in a context marked by the tightening of the unjust United States economic, commercial and financial blockade, which CARICOM has firmly rejected in a position that we appreciate.
The current US administration, responsible for the tightening of the encirclement policy, is also carrying out actions of open interference against Cuba by encouraging, financing and conducting illegal acts in our territory, which desperately seek to promote social and political instability.
It is possible to perfect the exchanges to design and work on opportunities and joint projects. We have the political will to carry them out.
In the midst of the difficult economic conditions we are going through, the limitations imposed by the new reality, I reiterate Cuba’s willingness to cooperate modestly with our Caribbean brothers in the area of public health, especially in the confrontation with COVID-19.
We are willing to share our experiences, contribute with advice in the epidemiological field and at the same time keep offering scholarships in medicine and other specialties. Today, we welcome 741 Caribbean scholars in our country.
Currently, 2,048 Cuban doctors, technicians, nurses, sports coaches, engineers and professors are collaborating in 19 countries and territories of the Caribbean and are willing to continue cooperating in the areas where it is needed.
There are other spaces with great potential for cooperation such as language teaching, both in Spanish and English; the preparation of our nations for the mitigation of natural disasters and the fight against climate change, in which progress has been made in addressing the common vulnerabilities of Small Island Developing States and countries with low-lying coastal areas.
In recent years, dozens of specialists from the region have been trained in the management of the response to natural disasters with the participation of the Cuban scientific community and UNESCO. Cuba’s Civil Defense and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency signed an agreement to expand and integrate regional early warning systems.
The Center for the Stimulation of the Development of Children, Adolescents and Youth with Special Educational Needs that we developed together with Guyana, can be used by all CARICOM countries.
Our economies have the potential for intraregional exchange. We know that it is difficult to achieve fluid and mutually beneficial trade, but we can identify the trade niches to be exploited for the benefit of our nations by taking advantage of the Revised Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation between CARICOM and Cuba and its Second Additional Protocol.
We must strengthen the business incentives offered by the instruments signed to advance in the economic area.
I reaffirm our call to review and modify the current “graduation” criteria for receiving Official Development Assistance, so that they adequately reflect the reality and specific needs of highly indebted middle-income countries, particularly the Caribbean States.
The current criteria do not reflect the real levels of economic and social development, nor the multidimensional effects of poverty, inequality, and vulnerability.
We are also concerned about the inclusion of CARICOM member states in the lists of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions and call for a change in this approach with negative consequences on the economy of Caribbean countries that have demonstrated their willingness to cooperate and dialogue in order to find mutually beneficial solutions for the parties.
Dear brothers and sisters:
We appreciate that the close relations that CARICOM and Cuba forged have been consolidated and that they were personal endeavors of the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro Ruz and Army General Raul Castro Ruz. The idea of our leaders to cooperate in solidarity, to support each other in the face of the challenges posed by the colonial past and to defend the essence of our friendship, remains firmly defended by all of us.
I am grateful, once again, for the solidarity, respect and courage of the Caribbean in its relationship with our country. We are small giants in a world where hypocrisy and cruelty reign.
I invite you to share the items on the agenda so that this meeting may serve to confirm that the unity of the peoples is essential for human betterment and for achieving a more just, equitable and sustainable world.
Let us defend solidarity and cooperation as indispensable forces to face together the great challenges and threats that lie ahead of us.
I take the words of Army General Raul Castro Ruz in the above quote from Antigua and Barbuda, to ratify that “The Caribbean can always count on Cuba, it has been like that and it will be”.
Thank you very much.