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Cuba is a friend of ours

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I was fortunate enough to be among a very appreciative crowd which packed the Peace Memorial Hall last Friday, January 12th, to join with the Ambassador of Cuba, Her Excellency Olga Chamorro Trias and her Cuban colleagues in the celebration of Cuba’s National Day and the 48th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. It turned out to be an evening well-spent, listening to the touching congratulatory messages from friends of Cuba, including graduates of their excellent university system, hearing of the achievements of the Cuban Revolution from the Ambassador and above all being touched by a moving documentary on the historic “VISION NOW” programme.{{more}}

The activity marked yet another milestone in the history of Cuba/SVG Friendship and the excellent turn-out was a slap in the face of those who persist in using the media and the rumour-mill to peddle lies and slander about Cuba and its people. What is sad is that some of this defamation is emanating from certain partisan political quarters. Yet Cuba/SVG friendship has crossed and gone beyond our narrow political divide. It was the NDP government under its retired leader Sir James Mitchell which took the courageous step of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba. Mitchell himself visited that sister Caribbean country, receiving Cuba’s highest honour, the Jose Marti award, from none other than President Fidel Castro himself. Mitchell is no communist, no socialist, but pragmatic and broad minded enough to realize that you do not have to necessarily see eye-to -eye with others to engage in friendly relations.

It is therefore sad that elements in the leadership of the NDP and some of their supporters and spokespersons seem to be giving succour to a hostile anti-Cuba campaign. Only recently I listened painfully as some of its supporters repeated the vile calumny about how much raping Cubans were doing in Grenada under Bishop, how much arms they were storing to attack neighboring countries, how the Pointe Salines airport was to be a military base and so on and so forth. Nearly a quarter of a century after the collapse of the Grenada Revolution, people are still dabbling in lying propaganda. The leadership of the NDP has a responsibility to lift its supporters, to enlighten them and not to give the impression, in the 21st century that it supports such backwardness and nonsense. Regrettably, not a single prominent member of the Opposition was at the Peace Memorial Hall to indicate solidarity. It as if they are turning their backs on the more enlightened acts of Sir James.

On the other hand, not only was the ULP well represented as expected, but the leadership of the Green Party was present and actively indicated appreciation and solidarity. Their presence and the NDP’s absence, speaks volumes about how forward-looking is the content of their foreign policy. Again, one does not have to agree with every act of Fidel Castro or his government to engage in government-to-government or people-to-people relations. I am highly critical of most foreign policy acts of the Bush administration in the USA, but I am a firm advocate of diplomatic, political, economic, cultural and social ties with our giant neighbour. And the same Bush administration, anti-communist as it professes to be in the case of Cuba, enjoys close relation with communist China and Vietnam!

Fortunately the ULP government has engaged on a progressive and open foreign policy path, forging closer links with Cuba but strengthening ties with Taiwan, not the People’s Republic of China, engaging Venezuela while cultivating closer relations with Mexico. This is what a truly non-aligned foreign policy is all about. Cuba shares with the rest of the Caribbean a history of colonialism, slavery, racism and plantation oppression. It is that background which forced the Cuban people under Fidel Castro’s leadership to take up arms in 1956, just as the American people under the leadership of Washington, Jefferson and Adams took the path of armed revolution against what they considered to be tyrannical British rule, 180 years before that.

To take the retrogressive step of not just turning one’s back on Cuba because the US government frowns on friendly relations with that country, is to sacrifice principle and sovereignty in favour of subservience. The people who can now see because of VISION NOW, the hundreds who have obtained quality tertiary education because of the Cuban scholarship programme, those who have benefitted from Cuban medical attention, here and abroad, can attest to the value of Cuban friendship. We must not allow these who are themselves in need of a political VISION NOW to lead us astray. Cuba and its people are friends of ours and as Nelson Mandela said, we will stand by the side of our proven friends.

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