Cuban Ambassador to Barbados Sergio Pastrana is eager to see the removal of the US restrictions so that commerce between Bridgetown and Havana could increase.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY on the recent protests in his homeland, Pastrana said the situation facing his home country was as a result of “the effects of the long and increased blockade by the United States”, which has been made worse by the “stress of the pandemic”.
There are more than 240 US sanctions against Cuba, businesses operating in Cuba and individuals.
“These measures even went to the extreme of prohibiting the companies that normally sell pulmonary ventilators to Cuba to continue to selling them,” said Pastrana, who added that getting parts to carry out repairs has also proven difficult.
There have been shortages of food and medical supplies, increases in prices of some commodities, frequent and lengthy power outages in some communities, disruption in internet connection and complaints about the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic which have led to hardships that Cubans have rarely experienced, eliciting an eruption of intense protest action across several cities last week.
However, insisting that the hardship now facing the Spanish-speaking island was as a result of years of restrictions imposed by the US, dating back to the 1950s, Pastrana told Barbados TODAY he was eager to see deepened cooperation between Cuba and its Caribbean neighbours.
Under current agreements with CARICOM, Cuba is able to do limited trade.
“We don’t trade as much as we like. We could have even much more exchanges,” he said.
The Cuban diplomat said he saw scope for improvement in several areas including tourism and freight services, agriculture, health care and culture.
“Of course, most CARICOM countries have strong trade relations with the US or Canada. One thing that we wouldn’t like for any of our partners is to suffer the same kinds of aggressions that we are suffering. So we trade things that do not have to be subject to this type of restriction,” he said.
“We are sure we will increase our cooperation with Barbados in a number of areas. There are interests on both sides and we have a long history of diplomatic relations and the links that exist between families and so many facets of life that I am sure the relationship between Barbados and Cuba could only increase in quality and scope,” said Pastrana.
Barbados has joined other CARICOM countries in calling for an end to the US embargo.
A statement on Sunday from Senator Dr Jerome Walcott, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said: “The long-standing embargo foisted on the people of Cuba over six decades ago by the Government of United States needs to end.
“In more recent times, the many punitive economic measures instituted by the then Trump Administration have only exacerbated Cuba’s difficulties and impeded the Government’s response to its citizens’ pleas for help. Barbados and other members of the Caribbean Community have repeatedly raised their voices in unison at the United Nations, Organisation of American States and other international fora calling for an end to the embargo and the resultant inhumane consequences it has wrought on the good people of Cuba,” the statement said.
Senator Walcott added: “The Government of Barbados is of the view that the time has come for the United States to take action. All the embargo has achieved is an unjustified punishment of Cuba and unleashed a series of painful outcomes for its people. ([email protected])