Statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba.

Statement by Felipe Pérez Roque, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, at the III Special Meeting of The Council of Ministers of The Association of Caribbean States.

Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegations:

I have instructions from my Government to speak at this Ministerial Meeting of the Association of Caribbean States, not about Cuba - which though blockaded and harassed will not be, however, subdued or forced to relinquish its dreams of justice and liberty - but about the situation in Haiti.

Cuba believes that the international community cannot leave Haiti alone. The social situation is worsening. The old problems derived from colonialism and exploitation are compounded by new, pressing difficulties relating to the unjust and excluding international economic order.

Cooperating with Haiti becomes a duty to all of us, its neighbors.

As we speak, Cuba has a medical brigade in Haiti composed of 525 cooperators, 332 of which are doctors. They are scattered in all of the country's departments and are responsible for 75% of the 8.3 million Haitians. In order to have an idea of the importance of their work, it must be known that Haiti relies on fewer than 2,000 physicians and almost 90% of them render their services in the capital of the country.

In the last five years, the Cuban doctors have seen nearly 5 million Haitians in medical appointments, assisted almost 45,000 deliveries and performed 59,000 surgeries.

In the areas covered by the Cuban doctors, the infant mortality rate in children under 1 year of age has dropped from 80 to 28 per 1,000 live births - and in children under 5 years of age, the rate has fallen from 159 to 39 per 1,000 live births. The maternal mortality rate dropped from 523 deaths to 259 per 100,000 live births.

However, to have an idea of how much work needs to be done, I must recall that in Cuba, for example, the infant mortality rate in children under 1 year of age is 6.3 per 1,000; in children under 5 years of age is 8 per 1,000 and the maternal mortality rate is 39 per 100,000.

In these years, over 370,000 people - 80% children - have been immunized.

It is estimated that nearly 86,000 human lives have been saved by the Cuban health workers in Haiti.

On the other hand, some 2,169 broken-down medical devices were repaired by the Cuban technicians.

A total of 247 Haitian youths are currently studying in the Medical School founded in such country by Cuban professors, while another 372 are enrolled on medical scholarships in Cuba.

In light of the current domestic tensions in that brotherly country - which are known to you and which caused the departure of a number of foreign residents - last Tuesday the 10th, our Government gave express instructions to our Embassy in Port-au-Prince to maintain in their positions, working on an ongoing basis, all the members of the Cuban medical brigade, anywhere in the country where these may be. Besides, given the obstacles that may arise in the availability of medications, on the 11th, Cuba sent a shipment of 525 special sets of nearly 80 medications so that each Cuban medical cooperator can guarantee the fulfillment of their tasks.

The Cuban medical personnel - that strictly abides by the principle of not interfering in the internal affairs of Haiti - is honorably complying with their noble mission of tending to the health of the Haitian people.

In addition to this, Cuban technical assistance was instrumental in the reconstruction of the sugar mill of Darbonne, currently in its fourth sugar harvest with the support of 30 Cuban specialists. The sugar mill generates employment and guarantees electricity supply during the harvest period for the population of the area, which lacked that service before.

On the other hand, 20 Cuban professors are providing advisory services for a radio-based literacy program that has been designed by our specialists. Some 110,000 Haitians have already become literate - and the program will continue to grow. Cuba also donated the teaching materials, including the handbooks in French and Creole.

Cuba is also providing its modest cooperation in other areas of Haiti. Thus, 20 Cuban veterinarians and technicians are putting in place a sanitary control program and training Haitian staff. Another 10 technicians are helping consolidate the national aquaculture program, for which Cuba has freely delivered 42 million larvae already planted in the country's dams. Specialized personnel has also been trained in this area.

Another 11 Cuban agricultural specialists are also working in Haiti as part of FAO's Food Security Program.

Our country is also cooperating in other areas, such as culture and road construction.

I can also state that the Cuban universities currently accommodate more than 3,000 Caribbean youths. I am not saying this with any sense of haughtiness. I do so with modesty, as an indication of what a small and blockaded country like Cuba can do for other brotherly countries.

The people of Cuba feel that they are doing their duty and also paying a debt of gratitude to the peoples of the Caribbean, that have been so steadfast in their unflinching friendship and solidarity towards Cuba.

Apart from its internal difficulties, let us help Haiti at this crucial moment of its history - and let us not forget that the struggle of our Caribbean and Latin American peoples for their freedom started right there 200 years ago!

Thank you very much.

Panama City, 12 February 2004

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