May 11, 2021

OUR CARIBBEAN: Pope, Cuba, US and Caricom

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bloc-ourcaribbean-new2646-450x303By Rickey Singh, From Barbados Nation News

When the first Latin American pope holds his first meeting today at the White House with the first African-American president of sole superpower United States, the quartet of visionary leaders of the Caribbean Community who had collectively played a key role to help end Cuba’s international diplomatic isolation, could perhaps indulge in winks of approval – whatever their location in the “great beyond”.

Cuba names ambassador to US

But that then quartet – Barbados’ Errol Barrow, Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr Eric Williams, Jamaica’s Michael Manley and Guyana’s Forbes Burnham – could not have envisaged that a Latin American pope would show up in 2015 at The Vatican in the person of Argentine-born, very inspiring Francis to help craft a seminal diplomatic breakthrough to end the US’ 53 years, and counting, blockade against Cuba.

This is now a work very much in progress, and also involves earlier initiatives by the New York Times and Canada. It is moving towards a reported “final breakthrough” stage to end the American economic, trade and financial embargo.

The blockade was originally designed to crush the will of the millions of citizens of a comparatively small nation, dating back to wild, scare-mongering anti-Communist, anti-Soviet Union politics of the 1960s in the Caribbean/Latin America.

Pope Francis’ seminal involvement in helping to end more than half-century of this unprecedented hostile blockade against Cuba, was also a primary motivating factor for the personal face-to-face meeting with the legendary Cuban revolutionary at his private home in Havana last Sunday.

That was after the historic, first-time, open-air mass with thousands of worshippers at Revolutionary Square, known also for its inspirational image of the internationally renowned icon, Che Guevara.

In between collective diplomatic initiatives to crack the stranglehold of America’s trade, economic and political isolation of Cuba that was launched under then President Jack Kennedy, our small CARICOM bloc of states had maintained a militant profile in cooperation with nations of the much wider Latin American, African and Asian countries.

This international solidarity with Cuba was to prove quite embarrassing for the US as it failed to secure more than five votes, including its own, at any organised UN General Assembly session against Cuba.

Meanwhile, CARICOM governments and Havana’s had institutionalized as a triennial event the observance of Cuba/CARICOM Day on December 8 to coincide with their structured meetings in rotating regional capitals.

But the vicious anti-Cuba manifestations of terroristic bombings that wasted lives and destroyed properties inside Cuba and across the wider region, continued with the single most devastating bombing tragedy over Barbados’ air space in October 1976 that killed all 73 people aboard – all of them Cubans except for 11 Guyanese medical students.

On a personal note, I am delighted to observe that among the books the pope and Castro exchanged during their meeting was one from the Cuban revolutionary leader, titled Fidel And Religion (conversations with Frei Betto, which I had acquired back in 1986).

A product of Pathfinder Press, the book has been marketed as a “must-read” product of 23 hours of a remarkable, inspiring discussion between the Brazilian author (Bretto) and Fidel Castro.

Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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