The National Assembly last Thursday paid tribute to the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Guyana, while voicing condemnation of the US-instituted trade embargo on the island and called for its removal. The passage of the motion was one of the rare recent occasions when there was unanimous agreement by government and opposition members.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett,
who presented the motion, spoke of the history between Cuba and Guyana and the pressure forced on Guyana to avoid becoming too close to the communist island nation.
“We fully supported the PNC in its establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba,” she said. “Guyana has consistently supported Cuba in the hemisphere and beyond,” she added, while noting that Guyana was supportive of Cuba with regards to the end of its Organisation of American States suspension. The minister said that Cuba has been a great help to Guyana in the medical field and in terms of education. She said that the country has demonstrated its resilience by continuing to help countries like Guyana in the face of oppression.
Speaking on behalf of main opposition APNU, Member of Parliament (MP) Dr. George Norton said that he supported the motion on behalf of the coalition. He called Cuba a very remarkable country. He spoke of the heroes from Cuba who fought for the country’s independence from Spain. Further, he said that it took courage in the height of the cold war for newly-independent Caribbean states to defy the wishes of the United States and establish ties with Cuba.
He said that Guyana must be prepared to take advantage of the eventual lifting of the trade embargo with Cuba, since it will be a ready market. Also speaking on the motion, Minister of Public Service Dr. Jennifer Westford said that the US embargo on Cuba is one of the most controversial actions of the US.
“We have over the last 40 years received hundreds of scholarships in many disciplines. The training [that Guyanese received from Cuba] has changed the human resource landscape and has had a positive impact on social services. We cannot say thank you enough to that nation,” she said.
Westford spoke of the bombing of the Cubana flight in 1976, during which 11 Guyanese perished while on their way to study in Cuba.
AFC MP Moses Nagamootoo said that the AFC supported the motion and made the point that the relationship between Guyana and Cuba predates the commencement of diplomatic relations in 1972, “dating back to the early days of the Cuban revolution.”
The motion called on the House to resolve that it, on behalf of the people of Guyana, convey to the government and people of Cuba its congratulations on the 40th anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. It resolved too that the House extend its gratitude to the government and people of Cuba for “the valuable assistance they have rendered to the people of Guyana while at the same time enduring great sacrifice.”The House resolved to continue the call for the removal “of the unjust economic and financial embargo against Cuba; and that this National Assembly reaffirms our commitment to strengthening and deepening relations between our two countries to realize the legitimate aspirations of our peoples.”