Prime Minister Mia Mottley has announced that Barbados will be getting assistance from Cuba to manage the island’s diabetes epidemic.
During a joint statement with Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel who arrived on the island on Monday afternoon, Mottley said the two countries will be working together on a medication suitable to treat diabetic ulcers, as a matter of importance.
She said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other relevant agencies have been mandated to work through the appropriate regulatory channels to make the project a reality within the next few months.
“My people here have heard me say over and over that Barbados is in the middle of a diabetes epidemic and, therefore, if I have to put on a priority list of one to 10 where this falls, this falls at 9.9. This is going to make the difference in the lives of ordinary people in every single parish in this country,” the Prime Minister said at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC).
She also thanked President Diaz-Canel for sending a medical team to assist the island with its COVID-19 response.
Mottley said Cuban nurses filled a void and made a difference in Barbados’ ability to manage the pandemic, from a medical perspective.
“I go further. I would not know where we will be a year from now if we do not continue to have a contractual relationship with Cuban nurses because our public health system is deeply in need of the additional nursing support,” she said.
Mottley also indicated that as Barbados and Cuba continue to build on 50 years of cooperation and bilateral agreements, the two will work together in the areas of culture and sports.
She said Barbados has committed to sending coaches who specialise in cricket, road tennis, and netball to Cuba to train nationals of the Spanish-speaking Caribbean nation in those sporting disciplines.
The two countries are also looking to establish cultural exchange programmes.
Mottley added: “From the perspective of tourism, if we don’t get the air transport – and I almost feel like a stuck record on this – if we don’t get the air transport and at least a single ferry moving up and down, then the ability for people to move will be compromised. It is significant that the air services agreement was one of the first agreements signed when we established diplomatic relations.
“And it is also significant that the thing that will forever bind us in adversity is the terrorist act that took place in the waters of Barbados in September of 1976 that regrettably remains as a blemish in the Americas for the fact that the person who remains responsible for the perpetration of that awful act and the murder of all of those persons has never spent not a day, not a single day for the actions that led to the loss of lives of so many,” she said in reference to the Cubana Airlines flight that was brought down by a terrorist bomb attack over Barbados.
Mottley added that if the Organisation of American States (OAS) is to be of value to the people of the Americas, it must concentrate on making sure that citizens in the hemisphere are bilingual. She said this is why the Ministry of Education must not drag its feet in establishing a Memorandum of Understanding with Cuba in that regard.
Noting that Barbados led the world in cane breeding research in the 19th century, the Prime Minister disclosed that her government was asking Cuba for help on “increasing yields in sugar cane”.
Mottley also spoke about the need to find a payment system to facilitate trade.
“And we are committing, as I said, to work with others and yourselves to be able to develop a payment system,” she told the Cuban President.
“We will seek to see how quickly we can find a mechanism that will allow for greater interregional trade that does not depend on the United States of America and their shameful continued actions that lead to blockades,” Mottley added, referring to America’s 61-year-old economic embargo on Cuba.
With Barbados spending significant sums of money in the last 40 years on coastal protection, the Prime Minister, who suggested that Cuba can help the island in its efforts, also announced that next month she will be signing a marine spatial planning agreement to begin the process of conserving at least 30 per cent of the maritime area.
The agreement is aimed at ensuring “the replenishment of our fisheries stock and the other things that are necessary to preserve the blue economy which is 414 times the size of our landscape”.
Following the joint statement, ExportBarbados and BioCubaFarma signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a trading partnership between the two entities.
President Diaz-Canel is in Barbados on a two-day official visit. He will participate in the 8th CARICOM-Cuba Summit at the LESC on Tuesday, marking the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Barbados, Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.