Speaking at the opening ceremony of the fourth CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad, the host prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, said the summit was proof that the vision of the founding fathers who went to Cuba in 1972 had been fulfilled.
Persad-Bissessar said it was the vision of a Caribbean civilisation encompassing Cuba that motivated the four leaders to lift Cuba from the “indignity of isolation”.
The prime minister alluded to the coming into being of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and saw in it an optimistic future for the region. Persad-Bissessar saw the new organisation as South-South co-operation at its best and not as a replacement for any other existing organisation.
She said “we owe it to ourselves” to build on the opportunities for renewed co-operation which CELAC presented in “this new world”.
When Cuban President Raul Castro spoke at the summit’s opening ceremony he said Cuba will never forget the brave step in 1972 by the then four independent member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to establish diplomatic relations with their fellow Caribbean state.
Castro said it was the action of President (Forbes) Burnham of Guyana and Prime Ministers (Errol) Barrow of Barbados, (Michael) Manley of Jamaica and (Eric) Williams of Trinidad and Tobago that opened the way for relations based on mutual respect.
He announced that one of Cuba’s biggest events, the International Book Fair, will be dedicated to the Caribbean people, their authors and their work to mark the 40th Anniversary in 2012 of the establishment of diplomatic relations. He said the celebration would take place in Havana and all of the capital cities of the other provinces in Cuba.
Castro also hailed as new and better integration the advent of CELAC, which was launched in Caracas, Venezuela, last weekend. He said that the Caribbean Community’s experience in building an integration movement would be very useful in assisting the “nascent organisation” — CELAC.
The topic of climate change was highlighted in Castro’s address and he pointed out that Cuban scientists had cited the issue of sea level rise as an urgent problem for his country. He said they had indicated that by 2050, 2.3 percent of Cuba’s landmass would be submerged by the sea and at least 79 coastal areas would be affected.
Castro expressed his concern that the areas affected in his country would be larger and urged that the United Nations Climate Change Conference taking place in Durban, South Africa find fair and balanced solutions to the problems caused by climate change.