Former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Sir Shridath Ramphal, has acknowledged that Cuba has never forgotten the acts of solidarity and courage shown by four independent Caribbean territories and later the OECS in establishing diplomatic relations with that country.
Sir Shridath made this observation earlier today while speaking at a ceremony to mark the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Cuba and CARICOM at the 3 Ws Pavilion, Cave Hill, St. Michael.
Giving the background to the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, Ramphal said: “The year 1972 was tumultuous in its own way. The Cold War blew hot and cold; OPEC and new oil prices had thrown the world into turmoil and the West into panic. President Richard Nixon had won a second term in the White House and the theology of Henry Kissinger reigned; but America was still in Vietnam. In the hemisphere, the Cuban Missile Crisis had drawn a line in the water.”
He pointed out that this was the geo-political scene in which Guyana under Forbes Burnham agreed to host the meeting of Non-Aligned Foreign Ministers. Sir Shridath noted that this was the first major “non-aligned event” in the Americas outside the United Nations.
Sir Shridath, who was Foreign Minister of Guyana at the time, said the first matter for Guyana was an invitation to Cuba, which was a member of the non-aligned movement.†He stressed that extending an invitation to Cuba was never an issue for the Forbes Burnham Government.
He pointed out that the Guyana government was mindful that it would have been the first full international meeting in the hemisphere that post revolutionary Cuba would be attending outside the United Nations, adding that at that time the anti-Cuba sentiment was pervasive in America, with the exception of Canada, Salvador Allende’s Chile and an ambivalent Mexico.
Sir Shridath pointed out that it was in this environment that Guyana signalled to Havana that when the Cuban the foreign minister came to Georgetown, the government wanted to discuss the matter of diplomatic relations.
He noted that no sooner had he greeted Cuba’s foreign minister, Dr. Raul Roa, at the airport that he intimated to him that following on Guyana’s signal, he had brought with him a draft Diplomatic Relations Agreement and plenipotentiary powers from Fidel Castro to conclude it.
Sir Shridath said he told Roa although they were interested in establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, he would prefer to give the three other independent CARICOM countries the chance to join Guyana in doing so.
He recalled that immediately after the meeting Burnham contacted Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad, Errol Barrow of Barbados and Michael Manley of Jamaica and all three prime ministers agreed to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“The effect of this sovereign collective Caribbean act of principle was immediate,” Sir Shridath said. “The global diplomatic embargo against Cuba collapsed. Today, Cuba has formal diplomatic relations with over 160 countries.”(NC)