Antigua-Barbuda and Cuba mark 21st anniversary of diplomatic relations

St John’s, Antigua — The government of Antigua and Barbuda has joined the government of Cuba in observing 21 years of strong socio-political relations between these two Caribbean neighbours.

On April 6, 1994, the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba formally established diplomatic relations with a view to cooperate on a wide range of mutual interests. This week, Antigua and Barbuda reaffirmed its commitment to the cordial and harmonious relations that exist with Cuba since the establishment of bilateral relations.

The heads of state and government of both countries have allowed for the development of strong cordial relations over the years. Sir Lester Bird, former prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, had forged strong relations with the then president of Cuba, Fidel Castro. The former prime minister also demonstrated his support for the removal of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba. The current administration, led by Prime Minister Gaston Browne, supports advancements towards the ultimate removal of the embargo.

Additionally, Antigua and Barbuda was represented at a Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which convened in Havana in 2014, thereby demonstrating the country’s support for Raul Castro, president of the Council of State and Ministers of Cuba, and then president pro tempore of CELAC.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda commended the work of the foreign ministries of both countries. Gratitude was also expressed for the work of important ambassadors, including Lionel Hurst, who signed the original agreement that initiated relations with Cuba on behalf of the government of Antigua and Barbuda, Colin Murdoch and Bruce Goodwin, and Cuban ambassadors, Lazaro Cabezas Gonzalez, José Alvarez, Marcelino Farjado and José Manuel Inclán. Current ambassador, Gustavo Veliz Olivares continues a strong tradition of instrumental and productive representation from Cuba.

Cooperation between Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda extends beyond the normal processes of diplomacy into areas of mutual cultural support, health, education, sports, human development, and the development and management of local infrastructure. Presently there are hundreds of nationals of Antigua and Barbuda pursuing studies at various universities in Cuba under the Antigua and Barbuda/Cuba Scholarship Program in various fields. Two hundred graduates have repatriated back to Antigua and Barbuda and have been using their skills and knowledge to the benefit of the twin-island state. Cuba has decided to increase the number of medical scholarships offered to Antigua and Barbuda for the period 2015-2017.

In the area of medical cooperation, presently there are 45 Cuban nationals serving as medical doctors, dentists, nurses, pharmacists, and lab technicians within the Mount Saint John’s Medical Centre and the various district clinics in Antigua and Barbuda. Cuba has offered further medical assistance to over 1,200 nationals of Antigua and Barbuda through the Milagro Eye Care Program. In addition to providing their expertise to the public health system, these medical professionals are maximizing on the opportunity to hone their expertise in their areas of specialization. They also benefit from the opportunity to immerse themselves in the use of the English language.

Antigua and Barbuda expressed its appreciation for the work of Dr Norma Doblado, the outgoing chief of the Cuban Medical Brigade, for the service she has provided to the country. The government welcomed the incoming chief, Dr Day Marelys Ortega Rodriguez, who will continue the important work of the Medical Brigade.

In addition, the government of Antigua and Barbuda expressed appreciation for the invaluable contribution made by the Cuban technicians in the ministry of public works, led by Reynol Ulloa.

Annually, Antigua and Barbuda joins its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterparts in recognising CARICOM-Cuba Day, celebrated on December 8. Furthermore, Prime Minister Browne led a delegation from Antigua and Barbuda to the fifth Cuba-CARICOM Summit, which convened in Havana in December 2014, whilst completing his first official visit to that country.

The government of Antigua and Barbuda congratulated the Government of the Republic of Cuba on the success of the relations between the two countries. The government said it is confident in the future of its relations with Cuba and seeks to advance these excellent relations to a higher level, particularly through the work of the embassy of Cuba in St John’s and the Embassy of Antigua and Barbuda in Havana, which is to be managed by ambassador-designate Peter Benjamin.

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