By Tom Tavares-Finson
Editor’s note: On the occasion of the 61st anniversary of the Cuban revolution, President of Jamaica’s Senate Tom Tavares-Finson spoke at the Cuban ambassador’s residence about the close relationship between Cuba and Jamaica.
Below is his full address:
We have gathered as friends this evening to celebrate with our Cuban brothers and sisters, the 61st anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution. We continue to be inspired by the resilience, courage and strength of our Cuban brothers and sisters, in the pursuit of our own development efforts.
The special bonds of friendship that Jamaica and Cuba have enjoyed since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, are a testament to the bond of friendship between our countries. Our partnership has been built on mutual respect and extensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation. Both countries have consistently demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the development of a sustained technical and functional cooperation programme, which has allowed us to forge and to maintain this dynamic partnership.
On 8th December 2019, during the commemorative events of Caricom-Cuba Day, staged by the Foreign Ministry in collaboration with the Embassy of the Republic of Cuba, we were proud to highlight 47 years of Jamaican-Cuban collaboration. Through our bilateral cooperation agreements and initiatives, the government of Cuba has provided invaluable support to Jamaica, particularly in the areas of health and education.
One of the most well-known successful cooperation initiatives in our history is the opening of the Jamaica-Cuba Eye Care Centre at the Joseph’s Hospital in 2010. To date, over 30,000 Jamaicans have benefitted from the programme with the surgeries conducted in Jamaica and post-operative care and emergency medical care available at the National Chest Hospital and the Kingston Public Hospital.
In the area of education, hundreds of Jamaican students have been beneficiaries of Cuba’s generosity in advancing their tertiary education in several fields – most notably in the field of medicine. The Jamaica/Cuba Bilateral Medical Scholarship Programme continues to finance the dreams of many of our ambitious students who aspire to serve their homeland, Jamaica as doctors. Eight students were awarded scholarships in 2019 to pursue studies in Cuba.
Understanding the critical role that education plays in development, Cuba has also made significant contributions to Jamaica’s education landscape locally. The Government of Cuba has gifted us with four educational institutions: The Jose Marti Technical High School, The Garvey Maceo High School, The GC Foster College of Physical Education and The Montpelier School, recently renamed The Fidel Castro Campus of the Anchovy High School.
On the 10th of January 2020, The Jose Marti High School celebrated 43 years of existence. A special commemorative ceremony was held at the institution last month in commemoration of the 167th birthday of Cuban National hero, Jose Marti. Additionally, over 500 Cuban teachers have been assigned to work in all regions of Jamaica over the past twenty years, contributing to Jamaica’s socio-economic development in a very real and practical way.
Jamaica and Cuba share bilateral co-operation agreements in other areas of mutual and strategic importance such as culture, security, agriculture and human resource development. Ambassador Fors, be assured, Jamaica looks forward to the further strengthening of these mutually beneficial collaborative efforts in the coming years.
Within a regional context, the Caribbean community has enjoyed excellent relations with Cuba since 1972. Cuba continues to provide invaluable support to the region through wide-ranging programmes of cooperation in several areas, including education, health and disaster risk reduction and management.
In addition, within the framework of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Cuba has proposed and overseen the implementation of various climate change mitigation and transportation-based projects, from which member states including Jamaica, have benefited tremendously.
Cuba has extended two generous offers to the region: first, for the establishment of a regional training centre in Guyana for youth with disabilities and secondly a regional school of arts in Jamaica. The two countries are currently in the process of finalising the initial arrangements for the school of arts which will allow our students to transition more easily into undergraduate studies in the arts.
At the United Nations, Jamaica and the rest of Caricom stand resolute and continue to support UN General Assembly Resolutions calling for the elimination of the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed on Cuba. This embargo continues to have a severe impact on the country’s growth and development and the well-being of its people. We are pleased therefore, with the overwhelming solidarity displayed by United Nations Member States during the tabling of the Resolution in November 2019.
I take the opportunity to reiterate that Jamaica shares a special bond with our close neighbour and sister island, Cuba. We will continue to work collaboratively to address common challenges, as we advance our efforts towards sustainable growth and development for our respective countries and peoples.