CARICOM draws its line in the sand on Cuba and Venezuela
Campaign News | Tuesday, 26 June 2007
By Tameka Lundy, The Bahama Journal
Make not mistake about it. While CARICOM leaders were courting a mature relationship with the United States, they were determined to hold fast to their collective dignities and sovereignty, according to several Heads of Government who met with US President George Bush.
For instance, despite the US being on the other side of the fence on the matter of Cuba and Venezuela, Caribbean Community leaders said they made it quite clear at that recent meeting that they were not prepared to acquiesce to that nation’s subtleties on the issue.
Bahamas Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham was also in the meeting with President Bush last week in Washington DC.
"We made it clear to them that we are not anybody’s stooge," said Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerit.
"We are not bribed in any way by any government of the world and we are principled leaders representing the interest of principled citizens and we have our own national needs and demands and as such our relationship with the rest of the world is based, in large part, on the principled positions and the interest of the region as a whole."
It was CARICOM Chairman Dr. Ralph Gonsalves who explained that President Bush is concerned that Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is undermining democracy and is destroying his country. Mr. Bush also branded Cuba as an undemocratic country and is worried that there have been security issues in the post Fidel Castro-era.
Despite the tension that has marked relations between the US on the one hand and Cuba and Venezuela on the other, the two latter have extended the hand of cooperation to their Caribbean neighbours. Cuba has thrown open its educational and health care systems and Venezuela is cooperating with CARICOM on the Petrocaribe initiative designed to produce cheaper energy alternatives.
For instance, there are 200 students studying in Cuban universities in St. Vincent and the Grenadines and 30 of them are on scholarships in Venezuela.
The Bahamas has also benefited from Cuba’s largess with dozens of students having taken advantage of that country’s education system. Many Bahamians have also been recipients of the eye programme that affords them with more affordable, quality eye care in the communist country.
"President Bush is a practical man of affairs," said Prime Minister Gonsalves.
"He understands our position and he understands that it ought not be prudent to speak in terms of reprisals or reciprocity of treatment or anything of that kind, that we are a mature democracy.
"?We have functional relationships with Cuba, we have functional relationships with Venezuela in certain areas. Matters such as education; health; Petrocaribe - the area of the fuel; disaster preparedness and these are important areas for us in the same way that we are seeking to have other kinds of links on these questions with the United States of America."
Prime Minister Gonsalves made the point that neither of the two nations needs any member of CARICOM as its defender.
"We are building mature relationships with them," he said.
"Cuba and Venezuela have never asked for any country in the Caribbean to do anything for them. We have some sets of relationships with them which we find to be productive and we have some relationships with the United States of America which we find to productive.
"We are free and independent people and as I have said our voice in earlier times were uncertain as we stood amidst the alien corn. Now we are coming into our own and speaking with our own voice."
On Monday as US/Cuba relations continued to sour, Cuba President Fidel Castro accused US President George Bush of plotting his assassination. It was contained in a rambling essay published on the matter.
American law now prohibits the U.S. government from ordering the assassination of foreign leaders.
The Associated Press reported that Mr. Castro's essay noted that U.S. President Gerald Ford signed an order banning official assassinations, and said he didn't believe that Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton ever tried to have him killed.
But Mr. Castro apparently believes that Mr. Bush has other plans.
Now 80, the Cuban leader has not made a public appearance since he underwent surgery 11 months ago for intestinal problems. Cuba's provisional government is being led by his younger brother Raul while he recovers. In an essay he wrote on May 29, Castro accused Bush of renewing U.S. attempts to assassinate him.
"I'm not the first, nor will I be the last, whom Bush has ordered to be deprived of life," Castro wrote then.
His latest essay, signed Sunday afternoon and published Monday in state media, referred to that May 29 allegation.