Thursday, February 22, 2018

40 years of cooperation

FOLLOWING is a message from Humberto Rivero Rosario, Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Cuba. It has been abridged.

December 8 is a significant and important day in the Caribbean. It marks 40 years since Trinidad Tobago and Cuba established diplomatic relations.

On that day, Trinidad and Tobago conjointly with Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica signed into effect the diplomatic relations.

In an unmistakable sign of solidarity, the bold decision of these four countries was a decisive step towards breaking the diplomatic and trade blockade against Cuba in the region, and thwarting the isolation imposed on Cuba through the OAS under an extreme pressure from the US administration.

On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations on December 8, 2002, Fidel Castro spoke the following words: "They were charting the course for what would later become the foreign policy of the Caribbean community, characterised until today by three main features: independence, courage and concerted action."

During the course of these four decades, our countries have shared much with each other and have learned from each other. The spectrum of our interaction and involvement over the past 40 years spans trade relations, education opportunities, health exchanges, agriculture, cultural exchanges and everything else in between.

From 1972 to this present day, the relations between Cuba and Trinidad and Tobago have developed and strengthened. Today we say with pride that our two countries enjoy excellent bilateral relations. Confirmation of this was evident by the successful State visit paid by the president of the councils of state and ministers of the Republic of Cuba, Army General Raul Castro Ruz in December 2011.

At the bilateral level, both countries have exchanged delegations at the highest level. Bilateral trade is expanding and today, Trinidad and Tobago is the major trade partner within the Caricom.

Cultural exchange has played an integral part in the development of our relations. The Cuban people have been able to experience and enjoy a taste of the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival. In July 2011, Cuba dedicated its 31st Annual Fiesta del Fuego to the culture of Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. We enjoyed the infectious music of the steel pan and tassa and danced to the sweet sounds of soca, chutney and calypso. We marvelled at the fascinating and intriguing Carnival characters such as the moko jumbies, blue devils, fancy Indians, sailors and Jab jabs, and were awestruck by the compelling beauty of the intricate Carnival costumes.

Trinidad and Tobago culture is alive and thriving in Cuba with presence of two Cuban steelband orchestras, whose success has been made possible through the support and generosity of the Government as well as many people of this beautiful island. In a historic development at the Caribbean Music Festival dedicated to Trinidad and Tobago, the opportunity was taken to twin the Valley Harps Steel Orchestra of Petit Valley with the El Cobre Steel Orchestra in Santiago de Cuba. In a gesture of friendship and goodwill, the Valley Harps donated a six bass set to the El Cobre band. The quality and calibre of the orchestra was further improved by the twinning exercise in March 2012. Representatives of the El Cobre Steel Orchestra participated in a training workshop hosted by the Valley Harps Steel Orchestra, and received another donation of three steel pans from the Ministry Arts and Multiculturalism.

The people of Trinidad and Tobago have also had the opportunity to be captivated by Cuban culture and history through our films such as the poignant "Viva Cuba" and the dramatic "El Ojo del Canario". Our painters José Fuster, Alberto Sautua, Alicia Leal, Carlos Guzman and Bonachea have shared their works with an admiring local audience and the work of Cuban muralist "Choco" graces the walls of the University of the West Indies in St Augustine. Abel Acosta, Deputy Minister of Culture of Cuba, has visited along with the all-female bata drum group, Obini Bata.

Despite the limitations imposed on Cuba by the brutal economic, commercial and financial blockade for over 50 years and maintained by 11 US administrations, Cuba has offered, not what is left over, but has shared the little that we have, which is our valuable human capital and the experiences that we have gained.

Thus Cuba has been able to make a significant contribution to the development of human capital through the training offered by our scholarship programme. Sixty-four students from Trinidad and Tobago have graduated to date from our universities. Presently there are thirteen students pursuing their university education primarily in medicine, as well as in sport and engineering.

Since 2003, Cuban doctors and nurses have been working throughout Trinidad and Tobago contributing their knowledge, experience and human ethics to improve level of the health care available to the wonderful people of this country. The IV Cuban Medical Brigade currently comprises a total of 170 members, including 59 doctors and 111 nurses, with additional members to join in the near future.

In 2000, cooperation began in the area of Sports. Cuba rejoiced with Trinidad and Tobago at the historic and momentous Olympic gold medal javelin victory of Keshorn Walcott in August 2012. We were especially proud because it was the fruit of the dedicated and committed work of Cuban coach Ismael López Mastrapa. Mastrapa worked tirelessly for than three years with Keshorn and was part of the first batch of Cuban coaches that came to Trinidad and Tobago in 2000. There are currently nine Cuban coaches are working with Trinidadian athletes.

In the area of agriculture, Cuba has offered our experience in a pilot project with five specialists to span a project for two years. There have been initial discussions which indicate that bilateral cooperation in other areas may be expanded, such as culture, works and prevention and mitigation of natural disasters.

The question may be asked: Are we satisfied with the work done so far for the benefit of our people? The answer is no. Surely both parties will agree that much more can be done as we work intensively to develop the bilateral cooperation in those areas where each country has the proven experience and success in order to improve the social and economic development of our people.

In commemoration of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations, Cuba honours the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago, who along with Barbados, Jamaica and Guyana gave an unmistakable message of solidarity to Cuba and to the world on December 8, 1972 when firmly and boldly declared that Cuba is an integral part of the Caribbean family!