Jamaica and Cuba pledge to deepen relations
KINGSTON - Prime Minister Andrew Holness says Jamaica and Cuba have pledged to identify ways to deepen collaboration and exchanges in the areas of trade, tourism, climate change and disaster mitigation as well as culture and education.
“We have affirmed the commitment to examine the possibilities at the bilateral level to improve the current state of economic relations and methods for expansion, especially in light of the new dynamics in United States/Cuba relations,” Holness said.
He added that among the possible areas identified for action are a stronger mechanism for cooperation in culture, music and the creative industries.
“Recently, we signed a multi-destination agreement because it appears the plank of the new relationship between the US and Cuba is on tourism, and we want to market the Caribbean as a product,” Holness said.
The prime minister was speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, where he led tributes to late former president of Cuba, Fidel Castro.
Fidel Castro, who died on Friday, November 25, led the island nation for almost 50 years. He had retired from active politics in 2008 due to illness.
In his tribute, Holness said Fidel Castro has been a significant leader on the world stage.
He described the late former leader as the embodiment of resistance, revolution and self-reliance, and while he was criticised for his totalitarian approach to government and record on human rights, admirers saw him as a visionary and a nation builder.
“Notwithstanding where one falls on the spectrum, there is worldwide consensus on his charisma and on the conviction of his beliefs,” he said.
Holness noted the long-standing friendly relations between the countries, with Jamaica receiving assistance in the areas of education, health and sports.
He cited the José Martí Technical High School and the G.C. Foster College of Physical Education and Sport, which were built by the Cuban government. The Fidel Castro Campus of the Anchovy High School in Montpelier, St James, was opened in 2015.
Jamaica has benefited from the services of Cuban doctors and nurses, and hundreds of persons with eye diseases have been treated under the Cuban eye care programme.
The prime minister said that Cuba is an important part of the Caribbean community and represents a strong potential for trade and investments in the region.
“We are unwavering in our commitment and hope to see the economic embargo against Cuba lifted,” Holness said.
For her part, leader of the opposition, Portia Simpson Miller said Fidel Castro was the consummate leader and a great friend of Jamaica.
“His legacy will live on well beyond the 90 years of his life. Fidel Castro, despite being born into material comfort, dedicated his education, training and, indeed, his own life to the struggle for Cuba’s social and economic revolution,” she noted.
Fidel Castro first visited Jamaica in 1977, where he toured community projects in Kingston, St Catherine, Trelawny, and St James. He again travelled to Kingston in May 1997 for the funeral of late former prime minister, Michael Manley.
His last visit was in September 2005 for the PetroCaribe Summit in Montego Bay.
Cuba has welcomed Jamaican prime ministers over the years, including Michael Manley; P.J. Patterson; Bruce Golding; and Simpson Miller.
Holness visited Havana in June for the seventh Association of Caribbean States summit.
By Latonya Linton