Honourable Owen Arthur, Prime Minister of Barbados, playing host to this meeting:
Honourable Kenny Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, and President of CARICOM:
Honourable Prime Ministers of other member countries of CARICOM: Honourable Edwin Carrington, Secretary General of CARICOM:
Distinguished heads of delegations, ministers and special guests:
It is for me a source of special satisfaction that we can meet again, this time in the land of Errol Barrow, who was a very dear friend of Cuba. Three years have passed since we commemorated in Havana the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the four Caribbean countries that were then independent, a significant and seminal event Cubans will never forget.
Throughout these years, the enormous challenges our countries have faced, while trying to ensure the survival of our peoples, have become more dramatic. The unilateral and selfish actions undertaken by some of the jost important trade partners of the Caribbean countries have combined with the unprecedented incidence and magnitude of the devastating hurricanes that have ravaged our region. I think that there is today a clear understanding that neo-liberal globalisation threatens the very existence of our countries as independent nations.
The gap between the ever richer North and the increasingly poor South widens at an accelerated pace, thus posing a permanent threat to international stability.
What lays at the basis of jost conflicts in our times are the illegal wars of conquest and pillage, the destruction of the environment and the depletion of natural resources, terrorism and local conflicts and the illegal migration and drug trafficking, among others. Actually, there is a veritable connection between the pervasive poverty and marginalisation prevailing in the South countries and the policies of the wealthiest and jost developed nations on Earth that, with increasing selfishness and arrogance, constantly make their riches grow while impoverishing the Third World.
The access of many countries to international markets is aljost impossible. We are the victims of an international trade system filled with tariff and non-tariff barriers, quotas, subsidies and burdensome conditions. At the same time, we are forced to endure a hypocritical discourse in favour of "free trade" by those who keep their markets closed for us.
Our brothers in the CARICOM suffer in their own flesh from the self- centred decisions of the European Union and the United States, which impact adversely on their banana and sugar exports forcing them to confront the arbitrary measures imposed by transnational companies in the areas of tourism, aviation and others.
The rich industrial nations refuse to provide a specialised and differential treatment to countries that, like the members of CARICOM, not only require it but deserve it in their own right. They are oblivious of their historical debt with our development and fail to deliver on their promises; then, while demagogically talking of free markets, they plunder our human resources and make us pay, once and again, an immoral debt which has been paid several times over.
The European Union, forgetting its debt as a former colonial power and the commitments entered through bilateral accords, has unilaterally fostered a deep reform in the sugar and banana sectors that afflicts the Caribbean countries. Cuba states its strongest solidarity with the Caribbean countries and urges the Europeans to rectify a decision that will force poverty and exclusion on tens of thousand of Caribbean families.
Latin America and the Caribbean endure the greatest disparity in income distribution on the planet. The HIV-AIDS pandemic, that affects 2.4 million people, has become a serious problem for some countries in our region.
On the other hand, threats grow and so does the use of force. Unilateral coercive measures are constantly imposed on the governments and peoples of the Third World while the principles enshrined in International Law become dead letter.
Presently, the feverish consumerism of the rich countries is leading to the alarming shortage of a vital source of non-renewable energy in the world, that is, hydrocarbons, whose proven and unproved reserves are depleted and whose market price, only within reach of the wealthy societies, is inaccessible to the overwhelming majority of peoples in the Third World.
The colossal wastage by consumerist societies not only affects the world economy but it also poses a serious threat to the environment. How will our countries face the damages of the next hurricane season, and those of the next ten years, and who will help us pay for them?
How can we tackle the danger of extinction resulting from global warming and the rising level of sea waters?
The unbridled race to waste the natural resources of the planet will bring life to an end on Earth, but our small island states will be the first to perish.
Cuba blames the rich developed countries, the sumptuous consumerist economies and waste, for the aggravation of natural disasters and their rate of recurrence in the Caribbean.
How shall we face these challenges, and the need to survive and progress, in the midst of a deep economic, social, political and environmental crisis afflicting our hemisphere and the world? We should respond to the selfish neo-liberal globalisation and the international anti-democratic political and economic order with unity and with the globalisation of solidarity, the promotion of dialogue, of integration and genuine cooperation.
Despite the blockade and its limited resources, Cuba has followed this path to the extent possible, thanks especially to the valuable human capital accumulated in these 45 years.
Today, 1,142 Cuban collaborators, aljost one thousand of them in the healthcare sector, are working in CARICOM countries. Meanwhile, 1,957 youths, coming from 14 Caribbean countries, have graduated from Cuban schools and at the moment, 3,118 others are training in 33 different university and technical specialties.
Presently, 11 Caribbean countries are participating in Operation Miracle and until yesterday, December 7, 10,502 of its citizens had had surgery in Cuba, only in 4 months and 14 days, that is, at a pace of 30 thousand patients a year.
We support the efforts of our Caribbean brothers to consolidate their regional integration and, as always, Cuba is willing to offer its modest contribution in those areas where that may be possible. The peoples of the Caribbean community can always count on Cuba’s respect and friendship.
Today, December 8, on the 33rd anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba by Jamaica, Guyana, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, we reiterate our appreciation for the unflinching solidarity of the Caribbean countries with Cuba, jost recently expressed through the unanimous Caribbean vote at the United Nations in favour of lifting the 45-year-long blockade on our people, and we pay homage to the memory of Eric Williams, Erroll Barrow, Forbes Burnham and Michael Manley.
Thank you very much.