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Cuban President, Miguel Díaz-Canel, on Monday pledged his nation’s continued support to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG).

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines will always be able to count on Cuba, with the solidarity and affection of the Cuban people,” he said in English at the end of an address to the Vincentian Parliament delivered in Spanish.

“As Jose Marti said, ‘love can only be repaid with love’,”  toward the end of a three-day official visit which made him the first Cuban president to visit SVG.

Speaking through a translator, Díaz-Canel said that when he arrived at the airport, “I felt it was coming to visit family.”

He said this does not  diminish at all the political significance of the visit.

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“It is a great honour for me and my delegation to pay this first official state visit by a Cuban  President to the sister nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Thank you for having us.”

He noted that he was addressing the national assembly in the same hall in which lawmakers in 2016 paid tribute to Fidel Castro after his death in 2016.

“These have been days of intensive emotions in St Vincent and the Grenadines in which we have received sincere displays of respect for, and  solidarity with our people and our revolution,” Díaz-Canel said.

“We have discussed with local authorities about the status of our relations, the implementation of joint projects and the exploration of new opportunities for expanded relations, always in the benefit of our two peoples. We have also discussed the viewpoints of matters of regional and international interests, which pose common challenges.”

He noted that the visit coincides with the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between tCuba and SVG, a milestone that was commemorated by Parliament in June

“This is not just another commemoration,” Díaz-Canel said.

“Cuba will never forget that tough and challenging year 1992. The Socialist community was crumbling down and, in parallel, the opportunistic siege of our economy was growing. The doors that had traditionally been open to us were being shut all of a sudden. And with the onset of what we call the double blockade, we saw the ushering in of an economic period of complexities which was overshadowed by uncertainties.”

He said that in the face of all this, the New Democratic Party government established formal diplomatic relations with Cuba.

“Over the past three decades, peoples and governments have forged bonds of friendship that have given rise to a profound friendship that is based on solidarity and cooperation. These are links that go beyond and informality and which we recognise as bonds of profound brotherhood.”

He said the close and well-known friendship between Fidel Castro, the commander in chief of the Cuban Revolution and Gonsalves “left a special imprint in the rising development of these relationships”.

Díaz-Canel noted that Cuba recently recognised Gonsalves in Havana by according him Cuba’s highest award, the order Jose Marti “for his outstanding political record, both nationally and internationally and for his respect, and admiration for our dear Fidel, the Cuban people and our evolution”.

He said that 77 Cuban health care workers are currently deployed to SVG and nearly one dozen more are preparing to join them soon

“They are all part of the more than 300 Cuban healthcare professionals that render services to the population in this country since the arrival here of our first Medical Brigade

“We are proud to hear that all of them have had an active participation in the fight against COVID-19 and in the treatment of the victims from the eruption of volcano La Soufriere last April,” Díaz-Canel said. 

He said he believes these are some of the reasons why Gonsalves and his government 

supported the nomination of the Cuban Medical Brigades that are members of the Henry Reeves Contingent to be awarded the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize.

He said the government and people of Cuba appreciate this deeply and recognise it as “the best acknowledgment of this nation”.

The Cuban president, however, said that the  Cuban cooperation workers who are employed in SVG, are not only in the healthcare sector. 

“We also have engineers who work shoulder to shoulder with the Vincentian counterparts in the construction of the Argyle {Internatioonal] Airport, a project that for the past five years have been making contributions to the socio economic development of this country and the entire Caribbean.”

Díaz-Canel, however, said that over the past three years, Cuba, like the rest of the world, has suffered the serious effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on its socio-economic life. 

“We have also been impacted by natural disasters and accidents with various human damage, human losses, and property damage.

“In this specific case of Cuba, this adverse scenario has coincided with the unprecedented flare up of the economic, commercial and financial blockade that for more than 60 years has been imposed on us by our mighty neighbour with the stated purpose of causing our economy to collapse and cause a social upheaval, such in nature that will lead to the overthrow of the Cuban revolution in disregard for the cost that this may have for our people.” 

He said that “this virtual economic warfare is being accompanied by a brutal media campaign that is generating, by the minute, contents designed to show Cuba before the eyes of the world as a failed state that is unable to overcome the multiple crisis generated in this scenario”

Díaz-Canel continued:

“In spire of the siege and the attempts that are not concealed at all to isolate us, Cuba does not feel alone. Every day, we are receiving encouragement and support from peoples and governments who are our friends and are expressing to us solidarity. 

“And you are an example, a moving example of a small nation that continuously embraces us with gestures of altruism and generosity. For this reason, today before this respectable assembly, I want to profoundly thank the people and government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for their displays of solidarity and for the resources you have shared with you at critical times for my country.”

The Cuban leader expressed “eternal gratitude” particularly to Gonsalves “for your firm and active support for Cuba’s claim to see an end to the US blockade in our country, something that is manifested every year at the United Nations with the unwavering support for a resolution that condemns that core policy against us.”

Díaz-Canel noted that Dec. 8, will mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between Cuba and Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.

“This event has an extraordinary value and represents a great historic significance for our country and the sub region we share.

Díaz-Canel said that setting up diplomatic links with Cuba “was an act of sovereignty and bravery by the nascent Caribbean nations and that act also marked the beginning of the end of a policy of isolation that some were trying to impose against you and this hemisphere. 

“And that also opened up and paved the way for the rearrangement of relations by our country with its  near and close-by neighbours, with its Caribbean family that is small in dimension but is huge in dignity.”

He said that this milestone will be celebrated at the Eight CARICOM-Cuba Summit in Barbados on Tuesday. 

“Here, in addition to celebrating 50 years of brotherhood, we shall be working together in identifying new projects for the benefit of our peoples and the region.”

Díaz-Canel said Fidel Castro always charted for Cuba a road of solidarity with its sister nations in the Caribbean.

“Sister nations that we support in your just claims for historical reparations for the damage arising from colonialism and slavery. Cuba is calling for a fair, special and differential treatment for the small island nations and Cuba is also denouncing the serious effects of climate change that are impacting heavily on the development and wellbeing of our people. 

“We have only one option in order to address effectively and successfully the challenges in front of us. And that option is unity and integration amongst our peoples,” Díaz-Canel said.