Activities have been held on the island to mark the 35th anniversary of bilateral relations with Grenada and Cuba.
A local group known as “Friends of Cuba” along with the resident Cuban Ambassador to Grenada, Maria Caridad Balaguer Labrada was behind the planning of two major events to raise awareness about the special relationship existing between the two Caribbean states.
Grenada was once considered as Cuba’s close ally in the English-speaking Caribbean when late leftist Prime Minister Maurice Bishop came to power on March 13, 1979 when his New Jewel Movement (NJM) seized power in a coup d’etat against the elected Eric Gairy government.
The ties went on the downturn when Bishop was executed on October 19, 1983 when a radical faction within the NJM took control of the Grenada Revolution.
The coup leaders including General Hudson Austin, ex-Deputy Prime Minister Bernard Coard, former Mobilisation Minister Selwyn Strachan, and army chiefs Ewart Layne, Liam James and Leon Cornwall were ousted from power on October 25, 1983 by U.S and Caribbean forces – six days after the killing of Bishop and three Cabinet colleagues.
The then Governor-General, Sir Paul Scoon expelled from Grenada all Cuban diplomats and others from communist bloc countries like the Soviet Union.
Cuba refused to recognize the new rulers in St. George’s for several years until it was forced to broker a deal with the island in order to seek admittance to the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) during the 1990-95 rule of the Nicholas Brathwaite-led Congress government.
A member of the Friends of Cuba grouping, Arthur Hosten has been looking back at the relationship existing between the two states.
According to Hosten, Grenada now has a pool of professionals who received training from Cuban educational institutions.
“…Our majority pool of professionals were trained in Cuba, we have seen the support given to our health, we have seen the support in particular to persons who had eye problems, in the Miracle Eye programme and the construction of the Maurice Bishop International Airport”, he said.
The two activities held to commemorate the Cuba/Grenada friendship were a Solidarity meeting at the GBSS auditorium and a Cuba/Grenada cultural event at the Grenada Trade Centre where food from the two countries were put on sale.
Hosten said the proceeds of the Cultural activity would go towards the Maurice Bishop School in Cuba.
“As you know or may not know there is a school for special education in Cuba named after Maurice Bishop and so we thought it fit that we should give some support to the school,” he told reporters.
Friends of Cuba member, former diplomat Vyra McQueen noted that the 35 years of friendship is a long time but she would like to see more effort placed on creating “a more binding relationship” between St. George’s and Havana.
“I look forward to seeing the relationship at the people’s level, by that I mean we have schools here, there are schools in Cuba and I would like to see we have a sort of twining system where our students will benefit from the cultural educational experience in Cuba and vice versa…”, she said.
“…I also look (forward to the day) when the people who have experience living in Cuba forming themselves and organising themselves to visit Cuba and encourage this interchange,” she added.