Remarks by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saint Kitts and Nevis on the Commemoration of CARICOM-CUBA Day

The people and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis take great pleasure, in joining with other member states in the Caribbean Community, to celebrate CARICOM-CUBA day, today December 8th.
This year’s CARICOM-CUBA Day marks 43 years of strong ties of friendship and cooperation, after four Caribbean Community Countries – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, embarked on this unforgettable chapter.  By establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba, during the height of the Cold War, a historic and courageous stance was taken.  This momentous occasion was commemorated, on its Thirtieth (30th) Anniversary, with the signing of the Havana Declaration by the CARICOM heads of Government and their Cuban counterpart in December 2002, which also instituted CARICOM-Cuba Day.  The affirmative action of these States contributed immensely to Cuba now playing a fundamental role in the Caribbean region.
This valued relationship between CARICOM and Cuba has blossomed over the years and continues to mature with the strengthening of cooperation in multiple areas.  Cuba is now considered by far “the largest contributor” among CARICOM’s international partners, due to the number of scholarship programmes offered in several areas of study, training in health and medicine, sports, agriculture - trade.  
The success of the CUBA-CARICOM relationship, is evident in the number of invitations extended from Cuba to attend Forums and Workshops in the fields of Business Investments, Entrepreneurships, Agriculture, Natural Disasters, Disaster Preparedness and Management, Language Translation, Tourism Development, Culture and Heritage.
The Trade and Economic Cooperation articulates Cuba’s formulated request for preferential access into the CARICOM Market for 85 products.  CARICOM member States indicated its readiness of granting duty free access to Cuba in respect of forty (47) items listed and has given its commitment to continuous consultation and meetings with a view to determine further improvements to the remaining thirty-eight (38) list of Items.   
Cuba as a developing nation has experienced a number of challenges over the past years: suspension from the OAS by a Resolution of 1962 which marked a historic turning point between Cuba, Latin America and the Caribbean and with the long imposed US Embargo which today has wreaked untold hardships on the Cuban people.  CARICOM and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis continues to stand in solidarity with Cuba, in supporting the United Nations resolution presented annually at the United Nations General Assembly on the “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Embargo Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba”.  We are pleased to announce, that this year at the 70th session, for the first time a total of 191 countries voted in support of the resolution.  We the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis reiterate our firm support to the people and the Government of Cuba and we shall continue to advocate for the removal of the US embargo on Cuba which can result in desirable relief to the Government and people of the Republic of Cuba.
We interact with our Cuban counterparts in numerous fora and have worked well together in the Community of Latin and American States (CELAC), in particular.  This Grouping, still finding its niche in the international sphere, is focused on regional integration and has provided opportunities for regular interface with our regional partners, including Cuba to address issues of critical interest.
The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis as well as members of CARICOM are also pleased to witness the positive changes to Cuba’s policies on agriculture, the private sector and taxes.  Further, we applaud the recent rapprochement and enhanced relations between Cuba and the United States.  
On May 10th this year, St Kitts and Nevis and Cuba celebrated twenty (20) years of the establishment of diplomatic relations and fruitful relations.  The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis holds in highest regard its relationship with the people and the Government of the Republic of Cuba.  The relations between our countries boast a rewarding partnership with mutual benefits. St. Kitts and Nevis has not only benefitted through the multilateral CARICOM-CUBA arrangement, but also bilaterally.  We acknowledge with deep appreciation, the wide range of cooperation programmes offered by the Cuban Government which has yielded results for our people.  
Currently, twenty-one (21) students are presently pursuing studies in Cuba and to date a total of ninety (90) students have graduated from Cuban institutions and have embarked on careers that have positively impacted every facet of our society especially  in education, health, agriculture, and even the private sector.  The level of commitment of the Cuban side to our capacity building and human resource development was once again demonstrated this academic year thru the offer of nine (9) scholarships in the areas of Medicine, Linguistic Studies, Radiology, Nursing and Stomatology.
We are equally grateful for the invaluable service of the 14 Cuban medical practitioners who are currently deployed in our health institutions in the Federation.     
We are reminded that thousands of our nationals have benefitted from the Cuba/Caribbean Eye care project as well as Cuban Health care for cancer patients. Cuba’s advancement in the area of health is widely known.  In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that Cuba is the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and Syphilis from mother to baby.  Cuba has once again demonstrated its resilience and resourcefulness in the global arena as this is one of the greatest public health achievements in recent times, and an important step towards an AIDS free generation.   
Today December 8th, therefore is a day to celebrate fruitful relationships, strengthening of ties, and the importance of cordial and productive relations.  The Caribbean-Cuba relationship exemplifies the benefits of working towards fraternity, peace and prosperity and demonstrates true Caribbean unity.
On behalf of the citizens and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis, I would like to thank the Government and the people of the Republic of Cuba for its continued support and interaction, and wish all a happy and united CARICOM-Cuba day.

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