Tribute to Fidel Castro at Revolution Square

H. E Raul Castro, President of the Republic of Cuba
Heads of State and Government
Excellencies
Ladies and Gentlemen
The Great Cuban People

The pages of history record that in every century, there has emerged at least one larger-than-life personality who captures the attention of the world if only for their unique boldness in pursuing the extraordinary and for the shockwaves they generate in confronting oppression and the established order.

Fidel Castro, the acknowledged leader of the Cuban revolution, was one such person. I feel privileged to have been able to call him a friend and mentor.

Inspired by the great Cuban independence hero José Martí, who had the vision of a Cuba free of U.S interference, a Cuba “for all Cubans and the good of all Cubans”; he liberated Cubans from the brutal Batista dictatorship, leading his country along the socialist path of self-determination.

For over fifty years, and with the support of friends, the Cuban revolution survived a harsh, western engineered economic and trade embargo that cost you, the Cuban people, billions of dollars. The Caribbean Community, CARICOM, recalls with pride that it was four of our Member States who rallied together in 1972 to break the diplomatic isolation of Cuba in this hemisphere.

Under the indomitable leadership of Fidel, Cuba did not only survive, but went on to develop a public health care system second to none, an education system that left no one behind, a capacity for scientific research and for innovation in the pharmaceutical industry that has placed Cuba among global leaders, and an athletics and sports infrastructure renowned for producing world champions.

Comrade Fidel’s zeal to untangle the grip of colonisation and oppression went beyond the shores of his beloved Cuba.

His interventions in Mozambique and the Angolan War changed the course of history in these two former Portuguese colonies and played a defining role in the struggle to free South Africa and the continent from the scourge of apartheid.

He was a true friend, reaching out to newly independent countries across Latin America and the Caribbean to assist in areas where Cuba was relatively strong. This was especially evident in the training of medical doctors and other health care workers and the granting of scholarships in other disciplines.

CARICOM will be forever grateful to Fidel and to you, the Cuban people for the great sacrifices you have made, against great adversity, in annually sustaining the training of our professionals for decades on both a bilateral and multilateral basis.

It is difficult to identify a sector in any of our economies that Cuba and Comrade Fidel have not impacted for the better. I can say, without fear of being contradicted, that our health services would be the poorer, but for the generous hand of Fidel at critical times in our development. We have recognised that contribution, by awarding him our highest honour, the Order of the Caribbean Community, in 2008, the only non-CARICOM citizen to whom it has been accorded.

Comrade Fidel was undoubtedly, one of the iconic political giants of the second half of the twentieth century. He joins a distinguished brotherhood of freedom fighters such as Yasser Arafat and Nelson Mandela, whose resilience and determination were a source of strength for their people.

Cuba now mourns the loss of a great leader, teacher and father; we share the pain and emptiness that you feel, for we have lost a faithful and valued friend.

His memory lives on in our mission to provide for our people and to build a world in which justice, fairness and peace prevail.

Fidel Castro was a man of his time and used the tools available to deal with the realities faced by Cuba, in the fight against injustice and oppression.

As for me, I have lost a friend and a great teacher. A man who had a genuine interest in the peculiar challenges besetting small island states and who readily assisted, not only in thought and talk, but in deed.

The Commonwealth of Dominica shall, at the appropriate time, act decisively to ensure that his contribution to our island and region, and indeed to humanity, is memorialized, for the enlightenment of future generations.

Rest, My Brother, Rest Peacefully.