Caricom-Cuba: Fifteen Years Working for Common Targets

Havana, Dec 4 .-About to mark its 15th anniversary, the summits between Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) consolidate today as a unavoidable chartered course to structure a common agenda to achieve a new international and just order, solidarity, integration and trade.

The sixth meeting of leaders of Cuba and Caricom, scheduled for December 8 in Antigua and Barbuda, will rejoice in this period of meetings focused on reinforcing the links in different fields, although diplomatic relations between Cuba and its Caribbean neighbors celebrates its 45th birthday.

Sources of the Foreign Ministry told Prensa Latina that the Cuban Revolution ‘will never forget’ the noble gesture and attitude of Caribbean leaders Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Eric Williams, when they established links on December 8, 1972.

The leaders of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad y Tobago opened ‘the way to a relation based on mutual respect, friendship and cooperation’, said diplomatic authorities of the Greater of the Antilles.

After meeting in this capital and in Bridgetown, Barbados, the first two to which attended Cuban president Fidel Castro, following summits were hosted in Santiago de Cuba (2008), Port of Spain (Trinidad and Tobago (2011) and again in Havana (2014). The impact of climate change, the environmental challenges for island states, the coordination of positions in world forums against unilateral coercive actions, including the economic, financial and trade blockade of the United States against Cuba, have been the leading issues of a bulging agenda.

‘Cuba never forgets the Caribbean demand of putting an end to the U.S. blockade on our noble and heroic people, whose essence has not changed’, underlined Raul Castro in the Port of Spain summit.

On the other hand, business and trade authorities assert there exists a high level of trade as part of the integration ratified by Cuba when committing to cooperate in fields such as health, education, sports and others.

This 2017, transcendent moments in bilateral links were marked in a meeting to evaluate a second cooperation agreement and the sending of constructors and engineers to support recovery tasks after the devastating impact of hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean, especially to Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica.

In November, the Cuban ambassador in Guyana and representative to the regional bloc, Julio Cesar Gonzalez Marchante, signed the Second Protocol of the Agreement of Trade and Economic Cooperation with Caricom to expand exchange.

According to figures provided by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca, trade output during 2016 rose to 126 million dollars, an increase of 98 percent compared to the previous year.

During the meeting last March, Malmierca said the bilateral exchange doubled, but it is still ‘relatively small’ compared to a much bigger potential, he said.

He recalled that Cuban collaborators (1762 at present) are distributed in all Caricom countries, most of them related to the health sector.

In a matter of formation of human resources a total of 5640 Caribbean students have been formed in Cuba and until that date, there were another 822 youths in courses due to the scholarship system, despite the reduction in the amount of places.

Inside Caricom, the Cuban official recalled this island gave prioritized attention to Haiti, sending 689 collaborators and 900 tons of food products, water and other products to help mitigate the effects of hurricane Matthew.

‘It keeps being a challenge to all our governments and commercial enterprises to streamline the bases we have already set up to this moment. What is significant is there is a definite will and a firm determination for all to carry out that task’, he pointed.

With that spirit, the leaders of the region will gather next Friday in the Antigua parish of St. Mary with the hope in turning this 6th Summit into ‘a space for exchange and coordination in a frank, friendly and brotherly environment’.