Xavier Llegorreta
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A very interesting speech

ADDRESS BY AMBASSADOR DAVID COMISSIONG at the CEREMONY held at PAYNE’S BAY, ST. JAMES, BARBADOS to COMMEMORATE the 43rd ANNIVERSARY of the CUBANA TRAGEDY of OCTOBER 6, 1976

Protocol having already been established, please permit me to simply say – good afternoon brothers and sisters!

We are here today to commemorate an horrendous, terroristic tragedy – a tragedy that brutally extinguished the lives of 57 Cubans (many of them young athletes), 11 Guyanese (six of them being young medical students), and 5 North Koreans.

It was an horrific event that traumatized the nation of Barbados, with our people having to carry out the sad duty of trying to retrieve the mangled bodies of the seventy-three victims from the waters of our territorial sea.

Indeed, as Adele Williams – the sister of Jacqueline Williams, one of the eleven deceased Guyanese medical students – has stated, it was our Caribbean 9/11, some 25 years before the events of September 11, 2001.

It should also be noted that the Cubana tragedy of 6th October 1976 is an event that forever brings together Cuba, Guyana, North Korea, Venezuela and Barbados. In some sense, we have become united by and in this painful unforgettable tragedy.

However, as horrific and precedent-setting as this event was, it must be noted that it is not a singular event! If we are to properly understand the significance and meaning of the Cubana tragedy of 6th October 1976 it must be placed within the context of the whole historical sweep of tragedies – of acts of terrorism – that the people of Cuba, Guyana, North Korea, Venezuela and Barbados have experienced.

Indeed, our whole history has been – on the ONE HAND – the imposition upon us of terrorism, victimization and suffering, and – on the OTHER HAND – our response to such terrorism, victimization and suffering with Resistance, Courage, Resilience, Creativity and the expression of our intrinsic Humanity.

Of course, what is done to us is important, but even more important is how we respond to what is done to us ! How we take what is intended to be defeat and degradation for us and turn it into victory and dignity! And this, indeed, has been the hallmark of our entire history—a history of victimization but also of resistance : a history, not of degradation, but of dignity won through resistance !
We therefore need to look upon the horrific and evil event of 6th October 1976 and see its connection with – the genocide inflicted on the indigenous people of Cuba, the burning to death in Cuba of the indigenous leader Hatuey, the terroristic slavery inflicted on blacks in Cuba and Barbados and Guyana and Venezuela – the thousands executed in the Bussa Rebellion of Barbados, the Carlota Rebellion of Cuba, the Cuffy Rebellion of Guyana, the Chirino Rebellion of Venezuela; the tens of thousands killed by the Batista dictatorship in Cuba; the 20 plus killed in the 1937 People’s Uprising in Barbados; the many who were martyred at Plantation Lenora in Guyana in 1939 and at Plantation Enmore in 1948; and the over two thousand killed in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela in the co-called “Caracazo” of 1989.

There are so many resonances – so many connections: – for example, of the 11 Guyanese who perished in the Cubana tragedy, six were Medical Students: and in the year 1871 the forces of Spanish imperialism in colonial Cuba executed 8 Cuban Medical Students. Can we see the connection?

Can we see that we have been, and continue to be, engaged in an epic battle between – on the ONE HAND – evil oligarchic forces that are intent on power, wealth and domination and that do not recognize the common humanity and rights of all human beings? And – on the OTHER HAND – the masses of our people who simply want to live in freedom and dignity; to raise their children in conditions of decency and security; and to freely express their cultural creativity and spirituality?

And in the specific case of Cuba, can we not see the connection between the evil terrorist act of 6th October 1976 and such phenomena as –

·   the blowing up of the “La Coubre” boat in Havana harbour in 1960 – killing 70 people;
·   the Bay of Pigs Invasion of 17th April 1961 – causing the deaths of 157 Cubans and wounding hundreds;
·   the imposition in 1962 by the Government of the USA of an economic, trade and financial blockade on Cuba;
·   the deliberate introduction into Cuba in 1981 of an epidemic of Haemorrhagic Dengue Fever;
·   the arson at the “Le Van Tam” day care centre in Havana in 1980 – with 570 children inside;
·   the blowing up of hotels in Cuba in 1998 in a campaign orchestrated by Luis Posada Carriles, one of the evil masterminds of the 1976 Cuban tragedy.

And I could go on and on with examples of this continuous assault on the people and nation of Cuba!

Indeed, just last week, at the United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley addressed this unholy Crusade against the people and nation of CUBA, and clearly and forcefully articulated the position of the Government and people of Barbados as follows:-

Mr. President, I speak plainly and without fear because from Independence Barbados’ foreign policy has been premised on the simple principle of ‘Friends of All: Satellites of None’.

Barbados therefore has remained and will always remain proud to have Cuba as a treasured friend.

We may be small but we are principled!
Our relationship with Cuba is based on an historical foundation rooted in solidarity, cooperation, complementarity – on a common Caribbean Civilization.

And we say that the longstanding embargo on Cuba continues to be a cause of serious concern!

I reaffirm Barbados’ strong opposition to this unilateral action, and more so to the recent application of Article 3 of the “Helms Burton Law” that imposes new restrictions and further exacerbates the situation.

And I ask you here – “To what end?” “To what end?”

The continued attempt to stop the people of Cuba from living with basic human dignity is unacceptable!”

It is therefore my duty as a representative of the Government of Barbados here this afternoon to emphasize Barbados’ strong denunciation of the reversal by the Trump Administration of President Obama’s policy of reaching out to Cuba and gradually dismantling the blockade. It is also my duty to denounce the activation of Article 3 of the Helms Burton Act and the recent systematic efforts of the Trump Administration to starve Cuba of petroleum supplies.

“To What End, Mr. Trump?”

The Caribbean people and Governments have long accepted Cuba as a valued and precious member of our family of Caribbean nations!

Furthermore, the peoples of the world – with the establishment of the United Nations Charter in 1945 – have long since accepted that the fundamental principles of International law and International Relations are based on:-

·   Respect for national sovereignty and territorial integrity;
·   Non-Interference in the legitimate internal affairs of nations;
·   Prohibition of the use of force in solving international disputes; and
·   Respect for the right of self determination, inclusive of the right of every state to choose its own political, economic, social and cultural system.

So why, Trump Administration, are you still fighting “false battles” around issues that have been resolved decades ago? And to what end?

Finally, I would like to remind the audience here today that three years ago – back in 2016 – when we commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Cubana tragedy, a diverse group of important personalities from all over the world travelled to Barbados for the commemorative activities and determined that an effort would be made to have the United Nations declare 6th October as the United Nations International Day Against Terrorism.

The group of representatives included Mr. Fernando Gonzalez, one of the “Cuban Five” national heroes of Cuba; a Cuba-based representative of the families of the victims of the Cubana tragedy; Mr. Danny Glover, outstanding actor and human rights advocate; as well as representatives of the people of Guyana, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, Martinique, Guadeloupe, the USA, St. Lucia, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Back then, in October 2016 – I was not an Ambassador of the Government of Barbados. Rather, I was the Coordinator of the Caribbean chapter of the International Network in Defense of Humanity, and I therefore undertook the responsibility to place before our Caribbean governments the proposal to have 6th October designated United Nations International Day Against Terrorism.

And I can tell you that the proposal was immediately accepted and endorsed by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and that it was accepted “in principle” by then Barbados Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Maxine McClean.

Unfortunately, the proposal has not been pushed over the last three years, but I think the time has come to revisit the proposal and to see whether there is sufficient support among our Caribbean governments to take it forward and have it implemented.

Needless to say, if we were to achieve this, we would be taking action to ensure that something positive and constructive emerges out of this tragic event.

We would also be ensuring that the 73 victims of the Cubana tragedy are not doubly victimized by being forgotten by the world. Never should we permit the innocent victims of any crime to be forgotten!

DAVID COMISSIONG
Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM

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