A cocktail reception at the State House conference center on Wednesday 18 May 2016 marked twenty years of diplomatic relations between the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Republic of Cuba.
President Charles Savarin and First Lady Clara Savarin; Former President Eluid Williams and Mrs Williams; Minister for Foreign & CARICOM Affairs, Francine Baron; Minister for Education and Human Resource Development, Petter Saint Jean who represented Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit; Minister for Tourism and Urban Renewal, Robert Tonge; Minister for Health and the Environment, Dr Kenneth Darroux; Cuban Ambassador to Dominica, Juan Carlos Formeta de la Rosa; Chinese Ambassador to Dominica, Li Jiangning; Opposition Leader, Lennox Linton and Member of Parliament for the Roseau North Constituency, Daniel Lugay were among special guests who celebrated the milestone.
“Today, exactly twenty years ago, the government of the Commonwealth of Dominica and the Republic of Cuba established diplomatic relations, however long before relations were established between our people,” Cuban Ambassador to Dominica, Juan Carlos Formeta de la Rosa said.
Before the official creation of diplomatic relations in 1996, a group of Dominican students went to Cuba to study in 1979.
“Certainly after established diplomatic ties, relations and brotherhood between our countries increased substantially,” the Ambassador said.
He said after the passage of Tropical Storm Erika in August 2015, a group of twenty-one people including doctors, nurses and engineers came to Dominica with three tons of medical supplies a few hours later.
“That will always be the spirit of our friendship; we work with the idea of extending the collaboration which is friendship and commitment to the people and government of Dominica.”
Ambassador Formeta de la Rosa said solidarity has not only been from Cuba to Dominica but from Dominica to Cuba.
“I would like to spread our deep gratitude for traditional and strong support from Dominica to Cuba in the United Nations for the elimination of unjust economic and financial US blockade against our country”.
The ambassador reinforced his country’s commitment for continued diplomatic relations and friendship with Dominica.
“Dominica, tell me how we can help you and Cuba will do it,” he added.
Moreover, Minister for Foreign Affairs and CARICOM Affairs Francine Baron called the twenty years of diplomatic relationships as a “significant milestone”.
She said, “Prior to 1996 and as early as 1979, the government of Cuba granted scholarships to several Dominicans to pursue studies at universities across Cuba. These early pioneers of the Cuba/Dominica relationship were shepherded by the late Roosie Douglas and Pierre Charles of blessed memory.”
Since 2000, the Dominica Labour Party administration she continued, has expanded and deepened the friendship and solidarity between the two countries increasing cooperation of engagement.
“The fraternal bonds between Cuba and Dominica therefore go beyond the establishment of formal diplomatic relations,” the minister said adding, “We consider Cuba as a sister Caribbean island with a similar history and culture.”
This is the reason why Dominica has stood steadfastly with the Cuban people against actions that have negatively affected them Minister Baron explained.
“The support of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and his Dominica Labour Party administration has been manifested by our unwavering solidarity and support for Cuba in the international arena and in particular the United Nations.”
In 2002, the governments of Cuba and Dominica concluded an agreement that abolished visa requirement for entry into both states for a specific period of twenty-eight consecutive days Minister Baron said.
“This has greatly facilitated the movement of our nationals between our two countries.”
Dominica and Cuba will continue to “nurture the fruitful and warm relations which we have enjoyed since the formalizing of relations” she said.
Despite the financial and economic constraints, Cuba has maintained keen interest in the development and well-being of Dominica and the wider Caribbean region.
“As the geo-political landscape changes, we look forward to our continued friendship and cooperation in the next twenty years and beyond,” she said.