The government of Prime Minister Gaston Browne in Antigua and Barbuda says it is “happy” to commemorate the 24th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Cuba.
“Marked by a common desire to promote cooperative and friendly ties, on this very same day, 24 years ago, the governments of Antigua and Barbuda and the Republic of Cuba signed a joint communiqué establishing diplomatic relations,” said the Antigua and Barbuda government in a statement on Friday.
The government said diplomatic relations between Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba were established on April 6, 1994, “under the visionary leadership of the former Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Lester Bird, and the late former President of the Republic of Cuba, Fidel Castro.”
The signing took place at a formal ceremony in New York, the statement said, adding that then United Nations Ambassador Lionel Hurst signed the agreement on behalf of the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
“This agreement was the first step in the strengthening of bonds of friendship on a formal basis,” the statement said.
The Antigua and Barbuda government said much has been achieved together since both countries first established diplomatic relations.
“Over the years, the two countries have intensified their bilateral cooperation,” the statement said.
It said Cuba has helped Antigua and Barbuda “to resolve many of the nation’s healthcare obstacles by strengthening healthcare delivery systems, and improving access to quality and affordable medical services.”
Last year, Antigua and Barbuda said it benefited from the assistance of about 50 Cuban health professionals, including doctors, nurses and lab technicians, which form the Cuban Medical Brigade.
In addition, Antigua and Barbuda said Cuba has “invested” in its future, and has provided hundreds of scholarships to young Antiguans and Barbudans, “building capacity at the local level and contributing to skills development and economic growth.
Antigua and Barbuda said it has also received support from Cuban engineers and technical experts, who have assisted with public works projects.
Following the passage of Hurricane Irma, Antigua and Barbuda said it received “kind-hearted assistance from the government and people of Cuba.”
It said Cuba sent two cargo ships to Barbuda, with 200 tons of relief supplies, and deployed 12 electricians and 25 construction workers to assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts in Barbuda.
Four members of the Medical Brigade were deployed to the Hanna Thomas Hospital in Barbuda, while other members of the brigade worked at Antiguan shelters, the Antigua and Barbuda government statement said.
Over the years, it said both sides have pursued common interests as members of the United Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), the Bolivarian Aliince for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TCP), and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
Furthermore, the statement said joint endeavors between the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Cuba have achieved “many milestones.”
In December 2017, Antigua and Barbuda hosted the Sixth Caribbean Community (CARICOM)-Cuba Summit.
“The government of Antigua and Barbuda felt honored to host such a significant event, which saw the presence of President Raul Castro in Antigua and Barbuda for the very first time,” the statement said.
“Along with other CARICOM member-states, Antigua and Barbuda continues to condemn the long standing economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba,” it added. “The government of Antigua and Barbuda admires the resilience and solidarity of the Cuban people, who despite the blockade, have overcome severe obstacles and have attained extraordinary achievements with minimal resources.
“Today, we celebrate almost two and a half decades of friendship that is deeply rooted in mutual understanding, solidarity and trust,” the statement continued. “The government of Antigua and Barbuda looks forward to further fruitful cooperation with Cuba in the years to come.”