On a State visit to Havana, Cuba, the Grenada Delegation headed by Prime Minister Dr The Right Hon. Keith Mitchell, engaged President Raúl Castro Ruz and other high level government officials, including Vice President of the State council, His Excellency Salvador Valdés Mesa, on Sunday, 7 December.
The visit, which comes on the fringes of the CARICOM–Cuba summit, took place at the Palacio de la Revolución in Havana, was Prime Minister Mitchell’s first one-on-one Engagement with President Raúl Castro; although he was part of several state visits from Havana to Grenada with former President, Fidel Castro.
Among the issues discussed at the Palacio on Sunday, were the continued support given to CARICOM countries by Cuba over the years, since the establishment of diplomatic relations; as well as Grenada’s and its Caribbean neighbours continued advocacy for the lifting of the over 50 years embargo on Cuba by the United States.
Prime Minister Mitchell, who was accompanied by former medical doctor and Minister for Foreign Affairs who was trained in Cuba, Hon. Clarice Modeste, as well as medical consultant, Dr Bert Braithwaite, took the opportunity to discuss enhanced healthcare cooperation, which is arguably the most solidified sector of cooperation, along with educational scholarships, technical training in professional fields such as engineering, and the traditional support that Cuba has provided in this regard.
The Grenadian officials advocated for a review of the existing terms to provide for free or reduced-fee treatment for an increased quota of Grenadian patients in Cuba each year; ongoing technical support for healthcare industry to include specialisation of Grenadian medical personnel to replace upcoming retirees; and ongoing educational scholarships for Grenadian students.
In recent months, in the face of the Ebola crisis around the world, Cuba has been one of the leading countries to contribute resources to help curb the deadly disease, which has so far killed thousands. Cuba has not only sent hundreds of medical professionals in the disease–infected regions, but it has also lent tremendous resources to help train medical practitioners in countries like Grenada, to help deal with any threat of the disease within those nations.
For that and other tangible displays of friendship over the years, Prime Minister Mitchell reiterated Grenada’s profound gratitude to Cuba for its invaluable contribution to Grenada’s development over the years, even in the face of Cuba’s own economic challenges.
President Raúl Castro, in response to the Grenadian Prime Minister, explained that Cuba has always been happy to be in a position to contribute to the development of the region and will continue to do so, in solidarity and friendship with its neighbours.
President Castro, in a rare moment of open self–analysis, discussed Cuba’s own slow but steady progress over the years in becoming a more open society, and what they, as leaders, needed to do in this regard to ensure continued growth of Cuba and by extension, the region.
The President promised the Grenadian leader that he would do whatever in his power to acquiesce to the requests of the latter, as well as work to promote policies that will ensure that Cuba remains in a position to extend “its hand to its regional brothers and sisters, even while it creates opportunities for the development and self-sustainability of its own people. “
The state meeting was part of a whirlwind visit to Cuba by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who will join his regional Heads in commemorating, with a Summit, the annual CARICOM–Cuba day, today, Monday, 8 December in Havana.