EDITORIAL - Pursue ties with Cuba

EARLIER this month the United Nations (UN) passed a resolution calling on the United States to end its economic embargo on Cuba.

The embargo resolution was overwhelmingly approved in the 193-member General Assembly by a vote of 191-2. The United States and Israel were the only votes against the UN resolution.

Diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba were broken in 1961 after Fidel Castro took power and installed a communist government. Raul Castro, his brother, and US President Barack Obama officially restored relations in July 2016.

That resolution had come just weeks before the first anniversary of the death of Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, who for almost 60 years had defied the Americans which wanted to see the back of the late Cuban President.

At a recent function held at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Principal Professor Eudine Barriteau thought it significant to mark the first anniversary of the passing of Castro.

“We are seeking to ensure that we extract lessons of his life and legacy for our own development struggles that we continue to confront,” she told her audience at the ceremony.

Even though Cuba and Castro had been ostracised by the West, and mainly the United States since the early 1960s, Castro remained defiant up until the time he relinquished the leadership of the country and passed it on to his brother Raul. Apart from that, Cuba has forged ties with this region from early on, culminating with the move by four Caribbean leaders – Errol Barrow (of Barbados), Forbes Burnham (of Guyana), Michael Manley (of Jamaica) and Dr. Eric Williams (of Trinidad and Tobago). The cooperation was in the areas of education, health, agriculture, fisheries and tourism.

The move by the four Caribbean leaders was something unthinkable, given it was at the height of the Cold War between the USA and the Soviet Union, which was a strong ally of Cuba. At the time the Caribbean leaders initiated their bold gesture, only Mexico among the other Caribbean and Latin American countries had ties with Cuba. The action by these four leaders eventually led others in the hemisphere to follow suit, and it was not long afterwards that the communist Caribbean island was readmitted to the family of hemispheric states, although the United States maintained its stand on the island.

Relations between Cuba and the Caribbean have continued to grow, even though Cuba had to restructure its economy following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990. The Soviet Union was the main trading partner for Cuba whose economy since the revolution in 1959 had been dominated by sugar.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, Cuba has turned to tourism and is now one of the most sought after tourism destinations in the Caribbean. It has attracted sizeable investments in its hotel industry. Cuba has also become a potential market for goods and services from the other Caribbean islands, including Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados. While there are challenges in working this market because of the state-run structure, these countries have agreed to pursue it.

At a time therefore when the Caribbean continues to search for trading partners and to pursue investments and other commercial contacts, Cuba offers such opportunities.

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