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Posted December 19, 2003 by publisher in Cuban History

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by RICKEY SINGH | [url=http://www.NationNews.com]http://www.NationNews.com[/url]

LAST MONDAY marked a significant political anniversary in the post-independence history of the English-speaking Caribbean when four states, of what now exists as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), took an unprecedented initiative in jointly establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba at the height of the Cold War.

That initiative on December 8, 1972, by the then Prime Ministers of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, resulted last year in a decision by the Heads of Government of the now 15-member Community for December 8 of every year to be appropriately observed as “CARICOM-Cuba Day” across the Community and in Cuba.

Except for a statement on behalf of CARICOM by its current chairman, Prime Minister P.J. Patterson of Jamaica, at the weekend to coincide with the first official observance of ‘CARICOM-Cuba Day’, activities within the Community were comparatively low-keyed. In contrast, that is, to the variety of media focus, cultural and other events to mark the occasion in Cuba, including involvement of CARICOM diplomatic personnel in Havana as well as Caribbean nationals studying in Cuba. But this initial lapse is to be corrected by CARICOM governments and institutions in time for the second anniversary of ‘CARICOM-Cuba Day’ on December 8, 2004.

Appropriate ways of celebrating the now 31 years of sustained friendship between Cuba and CARICOM, has been referred to the Council on Foreign and Community Relations (COFOR) to come up with recommendations to mark the occasion other than official statements at the national/regional level.

While they are at it, perhaps COFOR could also consider how to inspire more Caribbean consciousness, with relevant activities and events, to mark CARICOM Day itself.

Reason? The Community’s governments and Secretariat have been doing a poor job over the years to generate region-wide interest in celebrating that memorable day of July 4, 1973, when CARICOM was inaugurated, 30 years ago, as the world’s smallest economic integration movement that today stands with all of its real and imagined weaknesses as a very encouraging example of what we are capable of doing better, together as we place new emphasis on celebrating our diversity.

It may not be necessary to have CARICOM Day a national holiday, as currently is the case in Guyana and St Vincent and the Grenadines. But the governments, institutions and organisations of the Community could do much more to make of CARICOM Day an occasion to better inspire public consciousness and support for the objectives we seek, and aspirations we share, as one people of one Caribbean’ especially with the coming on stream of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).

Once this is imaginatively done every July 4 then, logically, should flow appropriate ideas to also mark the new calendar event of significance to us and Cuba, CARICOM-Cuba Day on December 8..

Cuba has provided thousands of scholarships, in wide-ranging fields, for nationals of CARICOM over the years. Its doctors, nurses and specialists in various areas, are today in the service of a number of CARICOM states, while some 2 000 Caribbean students, among them about 110 from Barbados, are being educated at Cuban universities and schools.

However, the ties go well beyond Cuban scholarships and doctors. The “Havana Declaration’ of December 8, 2002, that authorised the celebration of “CARICOM-Cuba Day”, is rooted in the historic initiative exercised by the four Caribbean leaders all now deceased Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Eric Williams. The Declaration constitutes, as Prime Minister Patterson noted, “an affirmation that Cuba is an integral part of the Caribbean family”. Uncle Sam’ would have also taken note.

 Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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