I propose to use my column this week to publish part of the text of a very important speech on Cuba that was delivered in Parliament last Tuesday by Hamilton Lashley, Member of Parliament for St. Michael South East, and which [he] had the political decency to share with me and other representatives of the various political parties of Barbados. The text is as follows:-
“Mr. Speaker, as we meet here today, a mere three days after I and several other Barbadians participated in a most moving ceremony at the Cubana Monument in Holetown [Payne’s Bay] to commemorate the 36th anniversary of the Cubana tragedy of October 6, 1976, I consider it to be incumbent on myself to use this opportunity to reflect on two very important anniversaries relating to the heroic nation and people of Cuba, and to invite this Honourable House to join me in such reflection and commemoration.
“The first such anniversary I would like to bring before this Honourable House of Assembly is the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between revolutionary Cuba and the then four independent nations of the English-speaking Caribbean – Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and our very own Barbados.
“It was on the 8th of December 1972 that four small but principled and self-respecting Caribbean nations took the courageous step to defy the mighty United States of America and to break the almost total diplomatic isolation that the USA had imposed on revolutionary Cuba in our Western hemisphere.
“It behoves us to recall that 1972 was a mere 13 years after the triumph of the Fidel Castro-led revolution in Cuba in 1959. Almost from the very beginning of “Revolutionary Cuba”, the government of the USA launched a formidable multi-faceted assault on the Cuban nation and people, consisting of the fomenting of internal subversion on the island, the organizing and training of mercenaries to attack Cuba, the unleashing of terrorist aggressions against the Cuban people, the waging of a powerful diplomatic offensive against the Revolution, and the deployment of a raft of economic aggressions against the new Republic of Cuba, with the aim of paralyzing the nation and destroying its revolutionary process.
This last mentioned aggression has come to be known as the “blockade” of Cuba and consists of such measures as the cessation of US purchases of Cuban goods; the US government’s banning of US companies from exporting goods to Cuba; the unilateral US imposition of sanctions on ships from third countries that enter Cuban ports; the US Treasury Department’s freezing of all Cuban assets in the US; the application by the US government of sanctions against countries that have trade relations with Cuba; the imposition of a travel ban on US citizens desirous of visiting Cuba; the restriction of monetary remittances to Cuba, and the list goes on.
“Indeed, it should be noted that as recently as 31st July of this year, the US State Department further intensified the blockade by perversely including Cuba on a unilateral and arbitrary list of States that the US government accuses of sponsoring international terrorism. Of course, the real purpose that is being pursued with the inclusion of Cuba on that spurious list is the fabrication of a pretext to increase the persecution of Cuba’s international financial transactions, thereby exacerbating and adding to the US $1 trillion in damage that has already been caused by the illegal blockade.
“But, at least, in this current era, Cuba routinely has no less than 180 countries annually voting with it in the United Nations for a termination of the illegal blockade! This, however, was not the case back in 1972 when the USA exerted maximum power and influence right across the Western hemisphere! Back then, not even Mexico, a relatively large and powerful traditional friend of Cuba, dared to defy the USA and officially recognise Revolutionary Cuba. And so, we must give much credit to the four great political leaders of the English-speaking Caribbean who possessed the fortitude and sense of principle to do what was right and to insist that the new revolutionary Republic of Cuba was an integral part of our Caribbean region and had to be officially recognised as such. Of course, I refer to none other than the late Michael Manley of Jamaica, Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, and our own Right Excellent Errol Walton Barrow.
“Today, the 8th of December is officially celebrated as “CARICOM – Cuba Day” by the nations of Cuba and the Caribbean Community, in recognition of the precedent-setting diplomatic event that took place on that historic 8th of December back in 1972. The actions of the four English-speaking Caribbean countries broke the diplomatic isolation of Cuba and opened the floodgates to recognition by virtually all of the nations of the hemisphere and even further afield.
“And so, it is entirely fitting that this honourable Parliament take time out to acknowledge that the 40th anniversary of this seminal event will occur this year, and prepare itself to commemorate this special anniversary in a fitting manner. It also behoves the members of this Parliament, as proud sons and daughters of the Caribbean and worthy heirs of Manley, Williams, Burnham and Barrow, to rededicate ourselves to the task of working with our Cuban brothers and sisters to finally and irrevocably defeat and dismantle the inhumane blockade that has scarred and demeaned our Caribbean region for the past 50 years.”
*David Comissiong is President of the Peoples’ Empowerment Party.