mbassador of the Republic of Cuba to Barbados.- The Hon. Sir Marston Gibson, Chief Justice of Barbados, members of Cabinet of Barbados, Your Excellency Dr. Francisco Fernández Peña, Ambassador of the Republic of Cuba in Barbados and Mrs. Ana Labaut de Dios, Ambassadors, Heads of Mission, the Dean and other Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, members of the Cuban Community in Barbados, distinguished guests, good afternoon all.- Ambassador Fernández, it is my great pleasure to be here today and to be joining with this wide cross-section of the Barbadian community for the sole purpose of bidding you and your very supportive wife Ana a fond farewell, as you end your assignment in Barbados. Over the past four years, we have all become your friends. So, for us, it is an occasion of pleasure but with a tinge of sadness to see you go. I believe the same is true for you.
Ambassador, since you presented credentials in 2014, you have demonstrated incredible dedication and passion in pursuing and enhancing various activities that are a component, of the excellent co-operation and friendship which Barbados and Cuba have enjoyed for over forty years. The implementation of these bilateral initiatives has been to our mutual benefit and have served to propel the advancement of our peoples.
Barbados showed great bravery when we established diplomatic relations with Cuba, in December 1972. We did not let the negative elements of the Cold War period, actual or possible, deter us from making that important step. As a result, in October 1976 we grieved with the Cuban people after that dastardly act of terrorism, brought down the Cubana airline, just off the west of our island. It was a harrowing time for both countries but the friendship between our two countries remained. Barbados has also consistently respected the ideological stance and sovereignty of Cuba and we have not been afraid of letting the world know. As our first Prime Minister and national Hero, The Right Excellent Errol Barrow said, and I quote “We will be friends of all and satellites of none”. That assertion has remained the pillar of our foreign policy from 1966 until now.
When Cuba established its resident Embassy in Barbados in May of 1994, the move represented a further step in our bilateral relations. Barbados reciprocated some years later when in February 2010 we established our own resident Mission in Cuba. Our constructive engagement was accordingly strengthened.
Within recent weeks, The Honourable Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados and His Excellency Mr. Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, President of Cuba, had the opportunity to discuss the strength of the relationship between our countries during a bilateral meeting held within the margins of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. The two leaders reconfirmed and recommitted their respective countries to all the bilateral manifestations that represent our co-operative relationship. These include, but are not limited to, the areas of Tourism, Health, Creative Economy, Culture and Sports, Renewable Energy, Maritime Affairs and Education.
Ambassador, there is no denying that you have accomplished a great deal during your tenure here in Barbados. As you know, there remains considerable scope for cooperation in the many areas of common interest. One such area of on-going cooperation is that of Education.
When the Ministry of Education, Technological and Vocational Training finalises a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Cuban Ministry of Higher Education, greater opportunities would exist to strengthen cooperation and exchanges in educational tourism, language training, agriculture, special needs education, the culinary, visual and performing arts.
In addition, I am happy to say, that the positive achievements of our Barbadian swimming teams at recent regional championships is verification of the commitment and dedication of your coaches to improving the abilities of our young people in various sporting activities. As at present, Cuban coaches provide instruction in eight sporting disciplines.
Similarly, I am happy to say that another area of common interest which Barbados is eager to pursue, is in the area of Multi-destination Tourism. Our countries are currently engaging in the possibilities of bilateral cooperation within the framework of a Memorandum of Understanding that could explore the feasibility of creating strategic air links and routes; a very exciting proposition,
Ambassador, as we reflect on the bilateral relationship between our countries during your tenure, I must mention and again thank the Cuban Government for its past assistance, through “Operación Milagro”; which allowed several Barbadians to have cataract surgery in Cuba. I am pleased that there is ongoing engagement in health care and I know that there are initiatives such as the Cuban Alzheimer’s care programme, the diabetic biotech product Heberprot-P and other select Cuban pharmaceuticals which are under active consideration for possible use in Barbados.
Ambassador I believe that Cuba’s recent request to be an associate member of the Caribbean Centre of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREE), which is headquartered in Barbados, will in the not too distant future create opportunities for us to work in the area of renewable energy.
Sir, it would be remiss of me, if I didn’t take this opportunity to commend the Cuban Government for its support of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the useful training opportunities provided to Barbados in preparation for and the management of natural disasters.
The depth and the strength of our bilateral relations, notwithstanding, our focus today is on our friends, Ambassador Fernández and his wife, Ana. You have been a friend and a strong support to all of us here. We can never forget you. So, it is with great pleasure and thanks that I convey to you the gratitude and appreciation of the Government and people of Barbados for all you have done for us during your tenure here.
We wish you well in all your future endeavours and we believe that wherever you are, we have a reliable friend. Please also be assured of our support of you in whatever you may undertake from here. May you find favour and prosperity in both your personal and professional lives. I thank you.