Remarks By The Most Hon. Andrew Holness at the Special Luncheon in Honour of His Excellency, Miguel Diaz Canel, President of the Republic of Cuba
REMARKS PREPARED FOR THE CHAIRMAN OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY, THE PRIME MINISTER OF JAMAICA, THE MOST HONOURABLE ANDREW HOLNESS, MP
ON THE OCCASION OF THE SPECIAL LUNCHEON HELD IN HONOUR OF HIS EXCELLENCY MR. MIGUEL DIAZ CANEL-BERMUDEZ, PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCILS OF STATE AND MINISTERS OF THE REPUBLIC OF CUBA
ON THE MARGINS OF THE
THIRTY-NINTH REGULAR MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY (CARICOM)
5TH JULY 2018
MONTEGO BAY, JAMAICA
Our collective presence at this Thirty-Ninth Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM reaffirms the spirit of unity and solidarity which binds us together as a region. It is in keeping with this spirit of oneness that I extend a special welcome to His Excellency Mr. Miguel Diaz Canel-Bermudez, President of the Councils of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, in whose honour I am pleased to host this luncheon.
On behalf of my colleague Heads, I am pleased not only to welcome you to Jamaica, but also to receive you into the region’s fraternity of leaders. We note that since your recent election and appointment to office, this will have been your first official engagement with all the Heads of State and Government of this Community. This is therefore a historic moment in our regional cooperation, and is cause for some celebration.
As you are aware, CARICOM and the Republic of Cuba have enjoyed meaningful and mutually beneficial bonds of friendship, since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972,built on mutual respect, shared interests, extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and a common regional destiny.
Since then, Cuba has consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the development of a sustained technical and functional cooperation programme with CARICOM inseveral areas, allowing us to forge anda dynamic and mutually beneficial bipartisan partnership.
This valued cooperation is one which covers a wide range of areas of strategic regional importance. These include support for the health sector through Nurse Training and the Eye Care Programme (Operation Miracle), culture, disaster management, security and human resource development – to name but a few. Under Cuba’s programme of technical cooperation, over 1,500 Cuban nationals serve in all CARICOM countries. Approximately 1,300 of these persons work in the health sector. The remaining persons serve in the education, construction, sport and agricultural fields.
In the critical area of education, the granting of scholarships by the Government of Cuba remains a significant feature of Cuba’s cooperation programme with the Community. To date, approximately 5,432 CARICOM nationals have graduated from Cuban tertiary institutions and over 800 CARICOM nationals are currently enrolled.
I recall that in 2016, Cuba and Guyana established the Regional Training Centre in Guyana, for young people with disabilities. Jamaica and Cuba are also in the process of finalising plans for a Regional School of Arts, which is envisioned to be a primer “Pre- University level” regional school for the classic and performing arts. This facility will allow our students to transition more easily into undergraduate studies in the Arts.
Cuba has also provided invaluable support to the region in the area of Disaster Risk Reduction and Management, despite also being vulnerable to the ravages of natural disasters themselves.
Undoubtedly, Cuba’s involvement with the region has redounded positively not just for the region’s social, environmental and economic development, buthas deepenedand cemented the ties of friendship which binds us. For this reason, the Community has continued to be a strong advocate for Cuba’s full involvement in hemispheric affairs, and particularly for the elimination of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against the country.
At the 6th CARICOM – Cuba Summit held in Antigua and Barbuda last December, Heads engaged in discussions on issues of economic concerns with Cuban senior officials, towards strengthening our trade and functional cooperation framework.
Indeed, we have noted an increase in trade relations, and a growing interest among Caribbean entrepreneurs to develop business and commercial relations with Cuba.This,is testament to the potential fordeepening our collaboration and mutual engagement with Cuba towards enhanced economic prosperity for all our peoples. The culmination of that Meeting with the signature of the Declaration of St. Mary’s, reaffirms this shared commitment.
In closing, allow me to reiterate, Excellency, on behalf of all my colleagues, a warm welcome to this regional engagement process and best wishes for a prosperous term in office. We very much look forward to working closely with you for the shared benefit of all our peoples.
It is now my honour Excellency, to invite you to address the Community of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community.