By Conrad Luke, Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee (LTHMC) member, and former Deputy Leader of ACLM
As the people of Antigua and Barbuda should know, the Antigua Caribbean Liberation Movement (ACLM) and the Leonard Tim Hector Memorial Committee (LTHMC) have had special relations with the Government and people of Cuba going back five decades and more. In keeping with our One Caribbean philosophy, we saw Cuba and the Cuban people as part of the Caribbean family. With that, we showed solidarity with and support for the Cuban Revolution over the years. We called for the recognition of Cuba, and yes, we were delighted when in 1972, four Caribbean territories, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, took the bold step to recognise Cuba. It was a historical moment. It was a watershed moment considering the United States of America’s blockade of Cuba and the ‘big stick’ pressure of Western Powers to isolate and ostracise Cuba.
As a result of the principled position taken by ACLM with regards to Cuba, our relationship strengthened and blossomed. The leaders of our organisation travelled to Cuba in the early seventies. As a result of our discussions, Cuba in spite of its difficulties, offered the ACLM scholarships in a number of disciplines then, Medicine, Agronomy, Veterinary Science and Dentistry. We saw this as invaluable, but even more so, an incomparable humanitarian gesture. It was in keeping however, from the very inception of the Revolution, with their spirit of International Solidarity.
We, in the ACLM, held firmly to the view that if we in Antigua and Barbuda were to achieve any real development or level of Independence, we would have to improve and add to our human resource. Our capacity to manage our affairs in our own interest would be heightened. At that time, the Government of the day here, and those in the region, were vigorously opposed to the very acceptance of scholarships because of US foreign policy in the main, and the stigma promoted against Cuba. The bogey of Communism regrettably held our Governments and people in fee. The ill-founded fear was patent but we persevered against all odds.
Today, thousands of Caribbean sons and daughters, who would not have been able to pursue such studies, have graduated in every discipline conceivable. Antigua and Barbuda and the entire Caribbean are the better for it. But the Cuban Government and people did not stop there. Committed to the idea of Internationalism, they have provided trained personnel in normal and not-so-normal times. At this very moment with the COVID-19 crisis confronting us throughout the Caribbean and elsewhere we are calling on the Cuban Government and people for their help: send so many nurses; send so many doctors. Send the antiviral recombinant Interferon Alpha 2B (IFNRec), a leading Cuban biotechnology product, which is one of the drugs currently being used by China in the treatment of patients with COVID-19. And Cuba will respond and is already responding! This, the Cuban Government and people have done, not from exploiting any society or any country. They have done this not from any surplus, but from the little they have. That is the revolutionary culture and spirit of Internationalism that they have developed since overthrowing the rapacious Batista regime, which was backed by powerful external forces.
We in Antigua and Barbuda and the entire Caribbean owe a tremendous debt to the Government and people of Cuba. It is one that we can never pay back. We are duty bound and morally so as well to do all in our power as a Government and people to show respect and kindness to our brothers and sisters of Cuba. We should feel compelled to support the Government and people particularly now when economic genocide is being waged against them by America. We cannot sit idly by and allow the most powerful nation, ninety miles away, to peddle lies about Cuban medical brigades and others and stay mute. Where are the many hundreds who have benefited here from the blood, sweat and tears of the Cuban people? Don’t we tell ourselves that we should show gratitude and therefore ensure that Cubans throughout the region feel wanted and at home? Don’t we have a responsibility to ensure that they are properly taken care of? Should we not be trying to formulate policies and programs to assist Cuba and its people in its greatest hour of need?
Cuba is not asking for hand-outs, and we are not in the least suggesting anything like that. We are simply saying that there is something known as gratitude and with that we can reciprocate in some way.
We, today throughout the Caribbean, stand on the shoulders of the Cuban people. Let us as a people, as former students, as graduates, as doctors, as engineers, as professionals in various fields, come together and devise ways to support the indomitable people of Cuba and its Government. The time is now and going forward. “All are involved; All are consumed.”