[www.inewsguyana.com] – President Donald Ramotar and four Ministers of Government were among other Guyanese recognised by the Guyana-Cuba Friendship Association for fostering relations between the two countries, at the Guyana-Cuba Friendship Association’s launch this evening at the Cuban Embassy on High Street.
President Ramotar, who attended the function in the company of First Lady Deolatchmee Ramotar received a token of appreciation. Minister of Home Affairs and General Secretary of the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) Clement Rohee, Minister of Health Dr. Bheri Ramsaran (who was absent) and Minister of Public Service Dr. Jennifer Westford were also presented tokens.
During the ceremony, President Ramotar recalled that it was the People’s Progressive Party (PPP) that first established relations with Cuba, when the country was seen as an outcast, years before diplomatic relationship was established between Guyana and Cuba in 1972.
The President said that when no one wanted to touch Cuba, he noted that it was the PPP which under the guise of a trade team had a Cuban in Guyana establishing representation.
“At that time the cold war was at its height and countries in the region were fearful of antagonising the United States and forming relations with Cuba. In 1959, the US issued an embargo forbidding trade against Cuba for aligning itself with the Soviet Union.
“We (the PPP) were the first one to in this whole western hemisphere, to break the blockade for Cuba and we were still a colony,” President Ramotar.
President Ramotar recalled that the then Government sold rice, slippers and timber to Cuba, the latter so they could construct their railways.
“When we came under enormous pressure (to remove the PPP government from office in the 60s,) when there was horrible destabilisation of our countries, when racial riots were instigated and the anti-communist reached its height, it was via Cuba that we got oil from the Soviet Union,” he stated.
“…every time a Cuban ship came here to collect rice or to bring fuel… that used to be the scene of tremendous battles between the PPP supporters and between the PNC and the United Force supporters who were creating hysteria against the Cuba revolution,” the President said.
He further recalled that the first thing that the coalition Government did when it removed the PPP from office in 1974 was to “kick out” Cuba’s representative that the PPP had welcomed into the country.
He said that the coalition government only later established relations with Cuba for practical reasons. He said that the then Prime Minister Forbes Burnham was on his way to the Non-Aligned Conference and perhaps did not want to go, having no relationship with any socialist country and therefore en-route to the conference, Burnham stopped in London and met the Soviet Ambassador and it was announced there that the coalition Government was opening diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union on a non-resident basis.
President Ramotar said that fuelled the PPP to demand Cuba’s inclusion and recognition for the reason that Cuba was in Guyana’s hemisphere and more so was leading the hemisphere’s fight against colonialism and imperialism.
“And those are the things that are not spoken about enough,” the President said. “All we hear is that we had diplomatic relations with Cuba since 1972, but those came about because of struggles and because of the international solidarity of the PPP in particular fighting to have Cuba recognised,” he said.
It was the PPP that was instrumental in forming the Guyana-Cuba Friendship Society to popularise and decriminalise the mentality that people had of Guyana. The Friendship Society which in later years floundered was two years ago replaced by the Guyana-Cuba Friendship Association. [GINA]