Author: Leticia Martínez Hernández | firstname.lastname@example.org
april 12, 2015 10:04:08
PANAMA.— The activities of Saturday, April 11, of the 7th Summit of the Americas, which took place in Panama City, confirmed the historic significance of an event noteworthy, above all, due to Cuba’s participation, for the first time, in these encounters.
The speakers all welcomed the presence of President Raúl Castro at the Summit, as well as the willingness of the governments of Cuba and the United States to reestablish diplomatic relations. Rejection of the executive order issued by President Obama classifying Venezuela as a threat was also expressed.
The Army General was the sixth leader to speak, just after the U.S. president, and received a unanimous ovation from the plenary in recognition of the historic significance of the occasion. He stated that it was a joy to be present at the meeting and joked about the fact that Cuba was owed six Summits, which is why he requested that Juan Carlos Varela, president of the host country, allow him a few more minutes to speak.
Raúl was precise and emphatic in his speech. He praised Martí, Fidel and his heroic people. He recalled difficult and unforgettable moments of the island’s history which have left an indelible mark on the Cuban Revolution, the immense work for which he breaths passion every time he speaks of it.
To Obama, he reiterated Cuba’s willingness to engage in dialogue, based on respect and peaceful coexistence; and expressed gratitude for his intention to remove Cuba from the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Raúl called on the leaders of the region to continue supporting the struggle to end the blockade which remains in tact and constitutes the principle obstacle to the development of the Cuban economy.
As was expected, he reaffirmed Cuba’s full solidarity with Venezuela, a country struggling to carve out its own path, and which is suffering unjust unilateral sanctions and “is experiencing the same aggressions we suffered.”
He concluded, stating that thanks to Fidel and the Cuban people, we have come to this Summit, to fulfill the mandate of Martí with the freedom won by our own hands, “proud of our America, to serve and honor her...with the determination and capacity to help ensure that she is valued for her merits, and respected for her sacrifices.”
AN INTENSE BILATERAL AGENDA
In addition to the official sessions of the Summit, Raúl had an intense bilateral schedule, which began in the afternoon with a meeting with Barack Obama and concluded in the evening with Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson, confirming the importance of the Army General’s presence at the regional forum.
During a plenary session recess, Raúl and Obama met in a room prepared for the occasion in the ATLAPA Convention Center, one of the highlights of the Summit and long-awaited by the delegations and accredited press in the country.
The island’s ministry described the exchange as respectful and constructive, during which both leaders expressed their points of view regarding the process of reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two neighboring nations.
Raúl reiterated Cuba’s willingness to discuss any issue, on the basis of mutual respect. Meanwhile, Obama commented on the historic significance of the encounter and described as important the exchanges which currently exist between the governments and peoples of Cuba and the United States.
As part of his agenda the Army General also held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Canada, Stephen Harper, during which the good state of relations with the northern country were expressed and described as an example of mutually beneficial ties.
Specifically, in March, 2015, the 70th anniversary of uninterrupted diplomatic relations between the two nations was celebrated, and Canada is currently one of Cuba’s top five trading partners.
Also present during the bilateral meeting, which was also held in one of the ATLAPA Convention Center’s rooms, were DeputyChief of Staff, Howard Anglin; Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bob Nicholson; and Deputy Minister of Foreign Relations of Cuba, Rogelio Sierra Díaz.
Afterwards, Raúl met with Colombian President, Juan Manuel Santos, to discuss, among other topics, the country’s peace talks taking place in Havana. The Cuban president reiterated his country’s willingness to continue supporting, as it has done to date, this effort to achieve peace. Also participating in the conversation, during which issues on regional agenda were addressed, were Colombian Minister and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, María Ángela Holguín and Sierra Díaz, respectively.
Later, it was the turn of the Netherlands, represented by its Prime Minister, Mark Rutte. Also in attendance at the meeting with Raúl were the Prime Minister of Aruba, Mik Eman; Minister of Finance of Curazao, José Jardim; Director of the Americas Department of the Ministry of Foreign Relations,
Maryam Van Heuyel; as well as Jack Twiss, foreign affairs advisor.
There, the positive state of relations between the two countries and interest in promoting the presence of Dutch businesses on the island were expressed. Prime Minister Mark Rutte showed particular interest in Cuba’s history and the origins of the conflict between the U.S. and Cuba.
The Army General’s busy schedule ended with a meeting with the Prime Minister of Jamaica, Portia Simpson and the delegation accompanying her to the Summit, which became another space in which the close relations between the two islands were confirmed and a fitting moment to recall the historic decision of a group of Caribbean countries to reestablish relations with Cuba in 1972.
In all the meetings Raúl’s counterparts expressed interest in the progress of the process of negotiations for the reestablishment of diplomatic relations with the United States and supported Cuba’s petition to be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism, as well as the lifting of the blockade.