Diplomatic Relations between Cuba and Guyana3560 03 Jan, 2013
Mr. Chand: Cde. Deputy Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to this motion we are considering at this time. Looking back, one can indeed conclude that the establishment of state to state relations between the Cooperative Republic of Guyana and the Republic of Cuba constitutes a landmark in our history. It was a wise decision and one, as the motion indicates, that has proven beneficial to Guyana. Indeed I would say mutually beneficial.
When in 1972, four Caribbean countries, Guyana being one of them established relations with socialist Cuba, a taboo was overcome. In the context of the times, by any yardstick, this was a courageous move. We should recall that the victorious Cuban revolution in 1959 headed by the indomitable Fidel Castro and the 26th of July Movement triggered the wrath and fury of the United States imperialism.
The march of history in Cuba and of our continent had to be stopped and reversed. To this end we saw a number of reactionary developments in Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean. Not only revolutionary Cuba and its leaders were targeted, but as we know other countries and progressive leaders of these regions were also.
To the ruling circles of the United States and its allies, Cuba had to be isolated for fear that its example would be infectious. Thus, relations of any kind state, party to party, trade union or youth did not sit well with those forces that felt that Latin America and the Caribbean was their backyard, through state to state relations. Those state to state relations came about after twelve years following the triumph of the Cuban revolution and six years after the granting of political independence in our country and at a juncture when the Cold War was still fiercely conducted. We are award of some of the horrendous manifestations of that war in Guyana, Latin America and elsewhere. Given this context, state relations with Cuba was a bold move, which at once made another breach in the policy of insulation of that sister Caribbean country.
It should be pointed out that diplomatic relations between Cuban and Guyana took place under a PNC Government. I should also point out that the PPP readily commended and supported that act. For us, years of advocacy for such relations finally bore fruit; for us this was an act, a tangible demonstration of solidarity for a government and people which had embarked on the novel path of genuine independence, self determination and social progress.
For us in Guyana, state relations with Cuba saw us taking a united stand in 1972 and as we mark its 40th Anniversary, I look forward that again relations with Cuba will see us taking a united position in our National Assembly this afternoon.
It would be amiss of me if I do not recall that 1972 was not really the beginning of relations with Cuba’s revolutionary leaders, government and people, our relations in fact, begun in the years of the victorious revolution, when the newborn Cuba was still struggling to get on its feet. Cheddie Jagan defied the odds, forging strong links with the new Cuba. He may have paid a heavy price for his audacity then, but those links were clearly based on principles, commitment and foresight.
Time – the achievements of Cuba and its’ people and the benefits occurring to Guyana based on our relations; indicate that our early links had a solid foundation. In the forty years that have gone by since the opening of state relations, various speakers have identified the positive and invaluable assistance coming from Cuba. Like other countries and people from Latin America and the Caribbean, from Africa and Asia, we express our gratitude. At the same time let us recognise that the assistance rendered were in a prolonged period, still ongoing, afformadable challenges to that country, such a realisation adds greater value to that assistance. We know the Economic Trade and Financial embargo exists for over half of a century now and is maintained by eleven US Presidents.
The indomitable Fidel Castro, according to some views has survived literally hundreds of assassination attempts. Socialist Cuba defeated a US sponsored invasion at the Bay of Pigs. The country and people suffered from terrorist and sabotage acts including the Cuban Airline disaster of Barbados in October 1976, resulting in the deaths of seventy eight persons, including eleven Guyanese. It is country that hurricanes in that region hardly ever miss, but that nation, undaunted, remains true to its people oriented vision, it stands out as a beacon to people who yearn for freedom, for the poor and powerless who dream of a future of social justice and dignity; of a world of piece and of a new type of democracy, a genuine people’s democracy.
Cde. Deputy Speaker, I was amused by an irony of our day when I saw the tally of the United Nations votes condemning the embargo on Cuba. I think it was the 21st such resolution in that assembly and once more, for the 21st time the representative of humanity roundly condemned that criminal record-breaking embargo of a small Caribbean country. Only three countries voted for the continuation of the economic embargo – the United States of America, Israel and the tiny island nation of Palau, situated in the Western Pacific Ocean. The irony is that it is not Cuba that is isolated but clearly the mega power that sought Cuba’s isolation which faces insulation.
These four Caribbean countries which first established diplomatic relations with Cuba in our corner of the world should take a bow. Today they are joined by the peoples of the world.
The years following 1972 have seen steady development in the relations between our two countries. If today you can find hundreds of Guyanese in schools in Cuba similarly you will encounter invariably in our institutions Cubans and the Cuban trained. In many ways ties have been strengthened, exchanges at the political, government and several social organisations are frequent. We are generally on the same side in solidarity activities whether such relate to just causes at the global level or natural calamities faced by nations and, significantly, we participated in several new fora which have emerged in recent times in Latin America and the Caribbean as the consequence of changing circumstances and the appearance of new political realities; Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CLACS), to identify two.
As a country at the helm of selfless committed and revolutionary leadership, Cuba has chosen a path with a development model that is an inspiration to many from all walks of life. With an economic crisis that has swallowed up the developed capitalist world and now entering its sixth year the relevance of Cuba’s model, especially for developing countries, needs to be reassessed and not be dismissed or disparaged as some do unthinking and, I might add, distressingly. Cuba has not come out of the woods as yet. The enemy still stalks it. So many developing countries can tell their painful stories of destabilisation, of plunder, of exploitation, of poverty and hunger, of disease and deprivation but apart from its exemplary nationalism another thing stands out in respect of Cuba and that is steadfastness to defend its lofty ideals and sovereignty with dignity even as it strives to raise higher the levels of health, education, care and security for the aged; cultural and economic progress for its people. We in Guyana have such goals too, thus Cuba’s experience and successes, I believe, can be guideposts for us and the people of the developing countries today as well as tomorrow.
This 40th Anniversary since the start of relations between our two states, Guyana and Cuba, is one to celebrate. For us who had an opportunity to visit Cuba, our experience has been enlightening. We were able to see a new society taking shape, albeit with trial and errors but a society where its people are at the center of politics and development. We still have much to learn from that country as we grapple here with our stubborn, at times, daunting difficulties and continuing our efforts to reestablish and deepen democratic norms. I hold the view that the celebration of the 40th Anniversary should serve to bring out two countries even closer and usher in a new era of expanded relations; after all we both belong to the Caribbean.
As a concrete expression of our friendship and our appreciation for Cuba and in the cause of deepening our relationship I urge that all parties consider and seek, in their chosen way, the release of the five Cuban nationals unjustly languishing in US prison.
The future holds great promise for all-round relations of our two countries and peoples. Those prominent political leaders who started this journey 40 years ago and indeed before, set us a correct path. This has shown over and over again there is every reason to continue it.
With pleasure I give my support to this motion. Viva Cuba! Thank you. [Applause]
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