By Gustavo A. Maranges – Dec 6, 2022
Usually, when we talk about international summits, the only thing we think about is G-7, G-20, NATO, BRICS, ASEAN, and some others—but we seldom think about the ones led by small states. These are maybe the most transparent, the most honest, and even the most productive for the states of the Global South.
A clear example is the 8th Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM)-Cuba Summit, which ended just a few hours ago. Unlike the big summits—which usually remain at the diplomatic level, the photo, the grandiloquent statements—this is a family meeting, where the coldness of protocol gives way to the warmth and brotherhood of the Caribbean peoples. It identifies us beyond language, economic, or geographic differences.
The 8th Summit took place this year in Barbados, its main objective to agree on a common position to face the region’s most urgent challenges. Issues like medical and educational cooperation, coordinated responses to natural disasters, confronting climate change, and the current economic crisis were at the top of the agenda.
CARICOM is made up of the island nations of the Caribbean including, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haití, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
The discussion of environmental matters had a special place in this summit, since all the attendees were small island states—these are among the most affected by climate change, and some could even be in danger of disappearing if urgent measures are not taken. Together they advocated for further strengthening cooperation in environmental matters and the fight against natural disasters, which has been outstanding so far.
Cuba has contributed a great deal in terms of technical assistance and capacity building, as well as materially, despite the great limitations it faces in unilateral sanctions by the US. One only has to look at all the regional efforts spearheaded by Cuba after Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Dominica in 2017.
Although these summits began in 2002, the relationship between Cuba and its Caribbean neighbors dates back to 1972, when CARICOM’s four founding members—Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago—won independence. Amid the Cold War, Cuba was under total economic and diplomatic siege by the United States. However, these four countries, which were only a year old at the time, broke this siege and established diplomatic ties with Cuba.
Fifty years have passed since then, which has served to foster a true integration that transcends governments, parties or ideological affiliations. During this time, Cuba has trained over 6,000 professionals from these countries and sent over 2,000 collaborators from all sectors to contribute to its neighbors’ development. Currently, 851 CARICOM university students are studying in Cuba, mainly in the health sector, which is further proof of how much progress has been made in South-South cooperation.
CARICOM members give their unconditional support to Cuba in its struggle to maintain its sovereignty, perhaps because they understand better than anyone else how valuable such support truly is. Year after year, they condemn the US blockade at the United Nations, just as they took a dignified stance of protest against Cuba’s exclusion from the Summit of the Americas that took place last June in Los Angeles.
On this occasion, the attending leaders ratified both positions and thanked Cuba for all its help during these two difficult years of the pandemic. Meanwhile, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel thanked the Caribbean for its support of Cuba’s demands, and all the help and expressions of affection and solidarity in the face of the many years it has been subjected to the unilateral US blockade and the recent accidents and natural disasters affecting the island.
President Díaz-Canel also called for increased economic cooperation and trade ties among members. This was perhaps the weakest point of the integration mechanism, but the Cuban president affirmed there are a lot of sectors that should be developed, which was something that could serve to alleviate some of the effects of the current economic crisis.
Integration continues to be the only alternative for the small states of the South to face the challenges of an unjust and neoliberal international economic order. Hence, it is imperative to turn economic ties to be as strong as their political ones. This is perhaps the greatest challenge ahead, and this eighth meeting could be an important first step after several countries signed new cooperation agreements with Cuba.
Gustavo A. Maranges
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