Saint Lucia and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations, on Wednesday, December 8, together observed the 49th Anniversary of one of the most historic acts of defiance and solidarity shown by Caribbean governments with the Cuban Revolution — and which permanently sealed Cuba and Fidel Castro’s everlasting appreciation for the friendship of its Caribbean neighbors.
It was on that day, December 8, in 1972 that the government of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago jointly announced they had together established diplomatic relations with Havana, in defiance of the strict US embargo against Cuba imposed by Washington in 1962.
The John F. Kennedy administration severed ties with Havana after US-backed mercenaries were defeated in the Playa Giron (Bay of Pigs) invasion of Cuba.
Ten years later, after most Latin American and Caribbean states had faithfully enabled the US blockade (except Mexico) – the surprise joint move by the four Caribbean leaders not only took Washington by surprise but signaled the start of the end of the US blockade in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The decision by Prime Ministers Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Dr. Eric Williams of Trinidad & Tobago was humbly welcomed by Castro and the Cuban government. The four small, English-speaking, neighboring, newly-independent Caribbean nations demonstrated their independence by establishing ties with Cuba, despite the US blockade.
Cuba-Caribbean ties developed firmly and without interruption in the nearly five decades since, with ten other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states quickly establishing diplomatic ties with Havana; Cuba, in turn, provided ongoing support in Education and Health through scholarships and annual medical brigades of doctors and nurses to each nation and the provision of medical care in Havana for needy cases.
Each CARICOM nation developed its own bilateral relations, but the united Caribbean spirit continued 30 years after the historic move by the four oldest CARICOM nations. In 2002 the first Cuba-CARICOM Summit was held in Havana, which Saint Lucia’s then prime Minister Dr. Kenny D. Anthony attended. The Cuba-CARICOM summit is held every two years; in 2022 the summit is scheduled to be held by a Caribbean country.
Meanwhile, ties between Cuba and Saint Lucia are expected to deepen and strengthen over the next five years under the new Philip J. Pierre administration, according to Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre and Home Affairs, Labour and Public Service Minister Dr. Virginia Albert-Poyotte.
Dr. Poyotte represented the Prime Minister at a November 27 event to jointly observe the 5th anniversary of Castro’s death, 42nd anniversary of formal Saint Lucia-Cuba ties and 16th anniversary of the Saint Lucia-Cuba Humanistic Solidarity Association (HSA). She thanked Cuba, “on behalf of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers” for its four decades of support and reiterated the new administration’s commitment to strengthen “People-to-People friendships.”
In addressing the commemorative activity at the government’s Finance and Administrative Complex at Pointe Seraphine in Castries, the minister said, “St. Lucia will remain eternally grateful for the tremendous support received from Cuba.”
She added, “St. Lucia, like many of its CARICOM neighbors, stands firm with Cubans as they continue to defend their rights and freedoms, as a sovereign state.”
Minister Albert-Poyotte also welcomed the new Cuban Ambassador to St. Lucia, Bernardo Toscano Sardinas, who attended the event.
Dr. Poyotte assured the ambassador he “will enjoy the hospitality of the St. Lucia people” and “will also have a very successful term here.”
The minister also pledged “the continued cooperation, friendship and commitment” of the governments and people of St. Lucia and Cuba, “as we strengthen the relationship between our two nations.”
Ambassador Toscano also reassured those attending the hybrid online and face-to-face event that Cuba remains committed to its friendship and cooperation with Saint Lucia and other CARICOM nations.
He also reiterated that Havana will maintain fraternal ties with its Caribbean neighbors despite the strengthened US blockade, embargo and other punitive sanctions undertaken by the USA, especially in these new COVID times.
Ambassador Toscano also delivered “fraternal greetings” from the Cuban government and President Miguel Diaz Canel; and reiterated Havana’s continuing support for Saint Lucia’s fight against the COVID-19 virus, which has featured presence here (since 2020) of a detachment of the Henry Reeve Medical Brigade, through which thousands of Cuban doctors, nurses and technicians are sent to nations and territories across the Caribbean and on all continents, to help fight and win the global war against the pandemic.
The meeting also heard a call for Saint Lucia and CARICOM Governments to take necessary early measures to be among the first nations in line to purchase and distribute Cuba’s Abdala Vaccine and other COVID-19 medications when approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Clinical trials have revealed Abdala has a 92% efficacy rate and, pending expected approval, thousands of CARICOM citizens in each member-state are quietly but patiently and hopefully awaiting the Cuban vaccines, which include one for children and a nasal spray for persons unwilling to take injections.
There have also been calls since the November solidarity event – and especially since the tracing of the new Omicron ‘Variant of Concern’ in the Caribbean — for Saint Lucia’s health authorities to expand the nation’s vaccine choices.
Those agitating for expanding the island’s vaccine choices also want the government to assure citizens that Abdala will be sourced when available, especially as the nation’s vaccination rate has slowed down and the population is restricted only to the American Pfizer and Britain’s Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.