(Trinidad Express) Cuban President Raul Castro yesterday lashed out at developed countries, saying they have been of no help to Cuba and small islands in terms of dealing with climate change and the global economic meltdown.
He added that to date there has been no move by US President Barack Obama to lift the trade embargo against Cuba.
Castro called on Caricom and Latin America to continue forging stronger ties and partnerships ahead in dealing with problems. He said that Cuba needs help because parts of that country, according to scientific studies, will be submerged by water in the future because of the effects of climate change.
Castro, who is visiting this country for the first time, was speaking at the IV Caricom-Cuba summit at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain.
On the trade embargo, Castro said, “that remains essentially unchanged, the measures publicised by the current President of the United States have not gone beyond a partial relaxation of the restrictions limiting remittances and travel to the island of Cuban citizens living in the Untied States”.
He also said that the Fifth Summit of the Americas which was hosted by the former Patrick Manning led government had failed Cuba.
“We see the expectations of the so called 2009 Summit of the Americas have failed to rise above the rhetoric,” he said.
During that Summit, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chávez used his first meeting with Obama to argue in favour of lifting the US-led embargo of Cuba as did leaders of Caricom nations.
This world, said Castro, is a place where “major powers violate international law and exercise their domination though the use of force assaulting sovereign nations under various pretext and manipulations.
“In this sense we need to focus on the viability of small island developing states and we see the developed nations selfishness and lack of political will has not even given a decisive decision so that we can stop the growing deterioration of the environment and grant our nations the preferable treatment that these island nations require,” he continued.
“…Our people in developing nations, we are the main victims of the exhaustion of the prevailing model and the plundering of natural resources,” he added.
Castro said climate change is a “global menace” which needs urgent attention.
He pointed out that there is a failure to attain any concrete progress with respect to climate change because of the “irresponsible attitude of those profiting from waste, catastrophes and warfare”.
Castro noted that the 17th conference on climate change is closing in South Africa and this shows that the “legitimate and indispensable needs of underdeveloped countries will not be met, particularly those of the small island developing states”.
The Cuban President spoke in detail of the threat facing Cuba because of climate change.
Recent studies, he said, conducted by Cuban scientists over the past five years on the vulnerability of the coastal regions warned of the rising sea level between the years 2050 and 2100.
“This means there would be severe geographical, demographical and economic consequences for our island states,” he said.
The study, he said, estimates that by 2050, 2.3 per cent of the national land mass of Cuba will be permanently submerged.
“That means that if the appropriate measures to adjust are not taken, then 79 coastal settlements will be affected and 15 of these will disappear completely and this is not the complete number of these that will be affected,” he said.
He said Cuba also has to battle with hurricanes, storms and tsunamis and he noted that in 2008, hurricane Gustav badly affected the country, so much so that it resembled a “nuclear disaster”.
Castro said the Caricom-Cuba ties must be strengthened to address this problem that would affect the region.
“When we look at our cooperation initiatives we as Caribbean countries need to focus on this to mitigate the effects of these disasters and preserve human life,” said Castro.
He added that the establishment of the Caribbean Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) shows that the region was on the right track.
Castro also pleaded for nations to continue helping Haiti in efforts of reconstruction and seeing to the needs of that nation’s people.