Cuban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rogelio Sierra Díaz, conducted a four-day official visit to Barbados last week as part of his tour of Caribbean countries with which his country enjoys more than 45 years of diplomatic relations.
Amidst the Cold War that saw a dividing line of political alliances between the West and East, Barbados joined Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago in thumbing their noses at the Western powers in 1972 and established diplomatic relations with the Caribbean sister island of Cuba, that was aligned to the East.
Barbados tied the diplomatic knot with Cuba on December 08 of that year.
In an exclusive interview with the Deputy Foreign Minister Sierra Díaz, Barbados TODAY enquired about the mood of Cubans and their government when Barbados ended Cuba’s diplomatic isolation.
Sierra Diaz: “We felt great joy and significant support to our nation. Barbados, along with Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago – these four Caribbean nations – represented enormous support to Cuba in its effort to get regional legitimisation.
“Also, we felt great appreciation and acknowledgement as well as gratitude for this dignified and brave gesture of the Barbadian authorities which allowed [us] to establish diplomatic and political relations between both nations”.
He said that Cubans think of Barbadians as “people that defend just causes especially; a people that has historically given us their solidarity, their friendship and which has supported the fight against the United States blockade, and with whom we have been able to enjoy an extraordinary and beneficial relationship for both countries.”
“When Barbados established diplomatic relations with Cuba along with three other independent nations of the Caribbean, it became the first link in the relations between Cuba and the rest of the Caribbean countries.
“This… gesture had other very [good] consequences for Cuba because [it] had a positive effect on breaking the diplomatic and political isolation in which the United States Government intended to put Cuba.”
BT – What stands out in the Barbados-Cuba relationship?
Sierra Diaz: “One of the characteristics of the relationship has been a respect of each [other], trust, and mutual cooperation and collaboration for the benefit of both of our peoples. We have cooperation programmes developed by Cuba and Barbados related to the health sector, sports, culture, an advisory on climate change, which have contributed to these bilateral ties. At the same time, the relationship has allowed us to take advantages of our ties.”
BT – What would Cuba like to see improved in its relationship with Barbados?
Sierra Diaz: “We would like to continue working together to improve cooperation in addressing natural disasters; to continue supporting each other in multilateral scenarios; and to continue cooperating in so far as our capabilities go in the benefit of our nations.”
“Cuba has supported Barbados and other countries in the Caribbean in the international arena, for example defending the right to compensation for Caribbean nations for the sad consequences of slavery.
“We have also worked together in defence of the small island states, which, [like] Barbados and Cuba, have to face challenges and difficulties that are derived from climate change and natural disasters. Both nations work together in favour of the unity and integration of our peoples in multilateral fora and regional scenarios.”
BT – Is the CARICOM and Cuba call for an end to the US embargo effective?
Sierra Diaz: “I believe so. I’m certain that the position adopted by Barbados, same as the position of other members of the Caribbean Community against the United States blockade against Cuba, has been enormously significant not only to the people of Cuba and its authorities but also for the international authority.
“The fact that our close neighbours have perceived that this is a criminal and unjust act, a coercive and forced measure, against another small Caribbean nation as Cuba is a reference for other nations in the world to support the defence and struggle of Cuba.”
BT – Point to some features of the CARICOM/Cuba memorandum of understanding that was renewed last December.
Sierra Diaz: “It allows our nations to work on both multi-destination tourism and the promotion of bilateral trade in a much more efficient manner. The second protocol for promotion of trade between the Caribbean Community and Cuba has enabled a reduction in fees on 350 Caribbean products. This promotes export from Caribbean nations to Cuba which contributes to a more dynamic trade exchange between our nations.”