Kenny attends Cuba-Caricom meeting

With just over one week in office, Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony once again has left the island. In seeking an interview with the prime minister on Wednesday this week, this reporter was informed by Dr Anthony himself that he will be out of state just moments from his departure. His office forwarded a press release that he would be attending the Fourth Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Republic of Cuba to be held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.
The new PM will be there along with other Caricom heads of state who were scheduled to meet with the Cuban President, Raul Castro.
New Guyana President Donald Ramotar whose party won elections last week, did not confirm his attendance at the two day Caricom-Cuba summit which started in Port-of-Spain Tuesday. However, sources inside the Summit indicated that the new St Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony’s confirmation was sent a day before attending and even while his Cabinet was being sworn in. St Lucia’s elections took place on the same day Guyana’s did last week. The summit which was scheduled to take place at the Hilton Trinidad Conference Centre from Tuesday through Thursday will also be the first visit to Trinidad and Tobago for Cuba President Raul Castro. But the STAR has learnt of a late change in the venue brought on by the hotel’s general manager Ali Khan who read a statement from Hilton Worldwide, indicating that it is subject to US law, which restricts certain activities as a result of the trade embargo with Cuba.
“The US/Cuban assets control regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) at the US Department of the Treasury generally prohibits US-based companies from providing any services that benefit the Cuban government unless specifically licensed. Violations are subject to significant civil and criminal penalties. While we have worked with the appropriate governmental agencies in the US and Trinidad and Tobago to secure a license, we have been informed that one will not be granted,” the statement read.
Acting public affairs officer Alexander McLaren at the US embassy told the local media in T&T that to his understanding, the license is pending and the only reason the Hilton did not get it is because they applied late.
Caricom chairman Dr Denzil Douglas called on the United States Government to immediately end the trade embargo imposed against Cuba. Douglas, also the St Kitts Prime Minister, was speaking at the Summit’s opening ceremony which was eventually held at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port of Spain.
“It is in keeping with these principles that Caricom has remained resolute in its camaraderie with Cuba and in its firm stance of calling for an end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo of the Republic of Cuba,” said Douglas. He stressed on the positives of the Caricom-Cuba relationship which he said have remained robust and survived an ever changing hemispheric and international geopolitical environment.
The host Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said the Summit was proof that the vision of the founding fathers who went to Cuba in 1972 had been fulfilled. The T&T PM alluded to the coming into being of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and saw in it an optimistic future for the Region. Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar saw the new organisation as South-South Co-operation at its best and not as a replacement for any other existing organisation.
Caricom, she said, was resolute in its support of Cuba’s candidature for membership of the United Nations Human Rights Council at the first elections in 2006, and again for re-election in 2009 despite vigorous attempts by others to frustrate the candidature.
Persad-Bissessar noted that all Caricom members have voted consistently in favour of the annual UN General Assembly Resolution which calls for an end to the trade embargo and blockade of Cuba. She said this was no different in October this year when 186 States voted in support of the resolution with two against, and three abstentions.
The event in T&T was the fourth Caricom/Cuba summit bringing together regional leaders with Cuba to discuss issues of mutual concern and co-operation.

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