HAVANA, CUBA – Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell joined leaders from across the Caribbean and the rest of Latin America for a two day summit that ended this week in Havana, Cuba.
It was Prime Minister Mitchell’s first meeting of the Community of Caribbean and Latin American States (CELAC).
The Grenadian leader arrived late Monday in Havana, greeted by Cuban foreign affairs officials and a military fanfare.
In brief remarks at the Jose Marti International Airport, Prime Minister Mitchell praised his Cuban hosts for the continued strong ties between Havana and St George’s.
“The Cuban government and people and its leadership have continually demonstrated its support in many ways to the government and people of Grenada. We have received serious benefits in the areas of education, healthcare, agriculture and other major services,” Prime Minister Mitchell said.
“Cuba has been a genuine friend to Grenada,” he declared.
During the 1979-83 Grenada Revolution, the then ruling People’s Revolutionary Government (PRG) of late marxist leader, Maurice Bishop was considered as Cuba’s closest ally in the English-speaking Caribbean.
The death of Bishop on October 19, 1983 in a palace coup staged by opponents within his then ruling New Jewel Movement (NJM) paved the way for U.S and Caribbean troops to storm the island on October 25, 1983 and put down the coup leaders such as General Hudson Austin and ex-deputy Prime Minister, Bernard Coard.
An interim government was set up by late Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon who also expelled all diplomats from Cuba and communist bloc nations.
Relations between St. George’s and Havana were only restored during the 1990-95 rule of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) administration of Sir Nicholas Brathwaite when Cuba agreed to recognise the government in St. George’s as part of a brokered deal for the communist island to gain entry into the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO).
According to a GIS release, Prime Minister Mitchell was quoted as saying in Havana that the CELAC meeting was being held “at a very special time in the history of the world community.”
He described the meeting as an opportunity to address the challenges facing small states in particular.
“This meeting at this time bringing together all the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean must be seen as a historic one. We believe therefore the more we pull our resources together and unite our forces together, using the available tools that are there before us, we will be able to meet those challenges successfully and satisfy the wishes of our people,” he said.
The summit – which excludes leaders from the US, Canada, and overseas European territories – is the first since the death of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez, who led efforts to organise an alternative to the Organisation of American States (OAS) regional bloc, long seen by leaders in the hemisphere as being disproportionately responsive to US interests.
At the top of the agenda at the Havana meeting was poverty, inequality, trade and migration.
Minister of Economic Development and Trade, Oliver Joseph also accompanied the Prime Minister at the summit.
Former Foreign Affairs Minister in the Congress government of 2008-2013, Peter David was also part of the delegation, serving as an adviser on the issue of Latin American affairs.
Grenada’s Ambassador in Cuba, Claris Charles also played a key role by attending the lead-up meetings to the summit in the days leading up to the summit.