Cuba on Monday marked the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean Senator Maxine McClean announcing that Barbados would soon be following the lead of its CARICOM counterparts in appointing a resident envoy in Havana.
“Cuba has agreed to our request to have Donna Forde serve as Barbados’ first resident Ambassador to the island,” McClean revealed during a reception at the PomMarine Hotel.
She also said Barbados was looking forward “to further collaboration that reflects the developments and needs of our respective economies,” while noting that the Ministry of Education, Science Technology and Innovation was finalizing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education.
However, in his address, the Cuban ambassador to Barbados, Francisco Pena, lamented the negative impact of the decades old United States trade embargo on his country’s relationship with CARICOM.
“We have to go through some “crazy” procedures when trying to seek funding for projects because most of the Caribbean banks are not indigenous to the region,” he said, adding that “because of that, it was impossible for us to announce today that we have a bilateral agreement ready to be signed, which will introduce to Barbados our flagship medical programme to prevent diabetic patients from having their feet amputated.
“We are also working in conjunction with the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Health, on a health tourism project in Barbados which will also benefit the rest of the Eastern Caribbean,” he added while commending Barbados for the stance it had taken at the United Nations against the embargo, which he described as “an act of genocide”.
At the same time, the Cuban diplomat praised the previous Obama administration in the US for taking steps to re-establish diplomatic relationships between Cuba and the US, adding that “we will continue to fight against [the issue with the banks] in the same way we have fought against the blockade”.
Next week, CARICOM and Cuba will come together in Antigua and Barbuda for the sixth Cuba-CARICOM Summit.
CARICOM ambassador Gail Mathurin said “the summit will provide the opportunity to sustain the high level relationships that exists between us, review existing collaborative agreements and look at new areas of cooperation”.
During the summit, a Memorandum of Understanding is to be signed between the Cuban government and the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency following the recent damage caused by Hurricane Irma.
“We want to extend our condolences to Cuba for the loss of life you experienced from Hurricane Irma, but we deeply appreciate that despite your challenges you reached out to other Caribbean countries, including those in CARICOM to render assistance,” Mathurin said on behalf of regional grouping.
Cuban president Raul Castro is down to attend the summit along with the CARICOM leaders.
Barbados and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1972, around the same time that the agreement was signed linking CARICOM with Cuba.