Elio Delgado Legon
HAVANA TIMES — As the president pro tempore of the Council of Ministers at the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Cuba managed to bring together the majority of the 25 Caribbean member states’ heads of state, foreign ministers and their highest-ranking government officials to Havana in order to celebrate the 7th Summit of the ACS, which took place on June 2-4.
There was a high turn-out, as is always the case when Cuba organizes a summit, because of its great power to summon, which comes from its moral strength and its example of resistance against attempts to go backwards in history taking us back to the days of neoliberal capitalism, which has only failed time and time again.
Among the key issues covered at the ACS Summit was the phenomenon of climate change and how to tackle natural disasters, as well as the challenges these countries face in the tourism and transport sectors as well as in trading between them.
On the first day, in a meeting, top officials drew up the main documents: the Havana Declaration and the Action Plan 2016-2018. They also passed a special resolution which recognized Alfonso Munera, currently the ACS’ secretary general, for his great efforts to revitalize the organization.
On Friday 3rd June, the foreign ministers carried out the difficult task of finalizing the aforementioned documents, which had to be agreed on by all of those present. They were then signed by all of the heads of State present or their representatives on Saturday 4th June.
In his opening speech at the Summit, Cuban President Raul Castro reinforced the importance of unity between all of the Caribbean countries. He also confirmed the commitment the States have to obstain from intervening, directly or indirectly, in the domestic affairs of other nations and to exercise tolerance and peaceful cohabitation.
Furthermore, he called for all of the States to duly respect the inalienable right for each to choose their own political system, which is critical for upholding peace, harmony and integration within the region.
The Summit, Heads of State or government thanked Cuba for its solidarity and the cooperative efforts it has provided, especially in the health and education sectors. For example, with the arrival of its medical brigade in the Bahamas in February 2016, Cuba has a presence in all of the CARICOM countries with medical services within their national programs, which is a much respected and appreciated contribution.
I’ll give you just two examples of how they expressed their gratitude towards Cuba: Keith Claudius Mitchell, Grenada’s prime minister, highlighted the strong historic ties his country has with the Cuban people, a country he considers to be a light, an ideal and an example of what a great government can achieve in the face of today’s challenges. Andrew Michael Holness, Jamaica’s prime minister, expressed how Cuba had to be the host of the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States because it has always cooperated with its member states.
Alfonso Munera, Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States, highlighted the fact that, out of all the summits held since the first one in 1995, this one in Havana had the greatest participation by heads of state within the region as 22 out of 25 attended, with all of the organization represented.
“This conference comes at a favorable time to corroborate our firm will to continue to cooperate and share our humble achievements with our Caribbean brothers,” President Raul Castro said in his opening speech.
In the Summit’s closing ceremony, Raul Castro stated, amongst other things, the following: “We have reinforced the importance of applying the clauses in the “Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace”, which was signed by heads of state in January 2014, which is vital for our relationships with other countries and other counterparts and partners.
“Peace and stability, defending our countries’ interests while exercising self-government and self-determination, without external intervention, are essential for us to advance towards our goals of integrating and cooperating as we have outlined.”
These are the two key ideas to bear in mind if we want to improve the wellbeing of nations within the Caribbean. And Cuba has expressed its solidarity and will to cooperate in any way they can, even with the economic difficulties it faces as a result of the global economic crisis and the devastating effects of the economic and financial embargo, which the US government has implemented against Cuba for over 50 years.