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President Castro Calls Greater Unity

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President of the Republic of Cuba, Raul Castro, has called for a greater spirit of unity among Latin American and Caribbean States, in an effort to further eradicate the developmental challenges of poverty, illiteracy and inequality.

The President was speaking at the inaugural session of the Second Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), being held at the PABEXPO building in Havana, Cuba, from January 28 to 29.

Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, who is attending the Summit, is expected to address the first plenary session later Tuesday evening.

President Castro said in spite of the region’s diversity and many differences, a spirit of cooperation is necessary to increase wealth among its nations.

“The people of the Caribbean need better wealth and income distribution, universal and free access to quality education, better salaries, decent housing and fresh water,” he said.

He pointed out that this idea of regional inclusion, unity and development is the basis on which CELAC was established in 2011.

“We know that there are different ideas and even differences among us, but CELAC has been built upon a heritage of two hundred years of struggle for independence and is based on a profound commonality of goals,” the President said.

He argued that the organisation, therefore, is not a succession of mere meetings or pragmatic coincidences, but a common vision for a greater and more productive Latin American and Caribbean homeland.

“We all have what it takes to reverse our current situation. With slightly more than 15 per cent of the earth’s surface and 8.5 per cent of the world’s population, our region possesses a substantial percentage of the most important non-renewable mineral reserves; one third of the fresh water reserves; 12 per cent of the arable land; and the world’s biggest potential for foodstuff production,” he informed.

The President noted that the challenge the region faces is to use this natural capital to strengthen human capital and economic infrastructure, in a way that decisively contributes to a true development process.

He further said one of the main priorities of CELAC, therefore, must be the creation of a common political space, “where we can assert our undeniable principles of self-determination, sovereignty and equality of all states.”

The Cuban leader also called on members of CELAC and the international community to continue to support the development of Haiti, through actions of fraternal cooperation, based on their specific needs and national priority.

He said special attention must also be given to the unique problems of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, pointing out that these challenges have worsened due to the effects of the global economic crises and climate change.

The CELAC Summit is the largest political event to be hosted by Cuba in decades, attracting Heads of State and Government from all 33 member nations.

The forum is being held under the theme: ‘The struggle against hunger, poverty and the inequalities in Latin America and the Caribbean’.

CELAC is considered the most important institutional event in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker

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