Good Morning. It is a great pleasure to join you at this important meeting.
First, I must thank the Government and People of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana for their well-known warm and generous hospitality in hosting this Sixth Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Caricom and Cuba. Excellent arrangements have been put in place to create the environment which would encourage fruitful deliberations.
Today’s meeting will serve to strengthen the solidarity and friendship which symbolise and underpin the Caribbean Community’s relationship with its sister Caribbean state of Cuba, a relationship which is now in its 47th year. Caricom prizes highly the links it has built with Cuba over the years through technical cooperation at bilateral and regional levels, trade and economic ties, the mutuality of interests and concerns in regional, hemispheric and international fora, and the fraternal spirit that comes to the fore in times of disaster.
Colleagues, we are meeting at a time of challenge and some turbulence in our wider region and hemisphere. This meeting, though part of the institutional arrangements that frame our relationship, is therefore taking place at a most opportune moment.
Caricom and Cuba celebrate each other’s accomplishments. We also share each other’s travails and pain. In this latter regard, we denounce the imposition of unilateral, coercive measures and the application of new more onerous ones under Title III of the Helms-Burton Act whose extra-territorial measures violate international law. We condemn in the strongest terms this tightening of the unjust US economic, financial and commercial embargo against Cuba. These actions run counter to the strongly-held view that economic development and stability contribute to international peace and security in the Caribbean region just as it does in other regions of the world.
These developments in our region have the potential to affect our continuous efforts at sustained development of our countries. Our meeting today therefore gives us an opportunity for dialogue and to exchange views on ways and means to maintain a course that would lead to a better future for our countries.
Foreign Minister Rodriguez, the strong and meaningful bonds that our countries have forged over time, stem from and build on the courageous and symbolic act by Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago when on 8 December 1972, in the midst of the dark days of the Cold War, these countries established diplomatic relations with their Caribbean sister nation Cuba.
The institutionalisation of our relationship following the first Summit in 2002 has transformed the manner in which Caricom and Cuba conduct their affairs. The Triennial Summit process at as well our regular Meetings as Foreign Ministers have provided us the institutional framework to advance our political interactions. In this regard Excellency, my colleagues and I are looking forward to discussing with you some of the commitments undertaken in the St Mary’s Declaration and other agreements signed by our respective leaders during the Sixth Caricom-Cuba Summit held in Antigua and Barbuda in December 2017.
The history of our co-operation has been marked by Cuba’s generosity towards our Region which has resulted in the boosting of our human capital in many areas and technical assistance to enhance our social, economic, cultural and sporting sectors. This relationship is a fine example of South-South Co-operation.
It is my expectation that the same vitality that pervades the above mentioned areas will be transferred to our trading arrangements where there is scope for much improvement.
I can assure you, Minister that the Caribbean Community will continue its tradition of diplomatic support to Cuba in international fora as we work together to ensure a more equitable and just global environment.
Co-Chair, colleagues Ministers, the Draft agenda before us this morning is a substantive one. It is designed to bolster the strong commitment and the great value that both Caricom and Cuba attach to this important relationship. We will have the opportunity to discuss how best we can benefit from existing mechanisms of cooperation between the Community and Cuba. In addition, we will review the issues of paramount importance and common concern to our people and our Governments.
I look forward to a successful meeting which will pave the path for Caricom and Cuba to walk together towards the sustainable development of our countries to improve the lives of our people.