Photo: captura de la televisión

Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, President of Cuba's Councils of State and Ministers, this morning inaugurated the high level session of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS-AEC) Summit, which began June 2 in Havana and will conclude today with the approval of Declaration and the organization's 2016-2018 Action Plan.

Raúl noted that today's meeting is the seventh such gathering of dignitaries from ACS-AEC member countries to discuss joint efforts to face the challenges of sustainable development, climate change, and the strengthening of the regional organization, on the basis of its fundamental principles, recalling that the group aspires to include all Caribbean nations, including Puerto Rico, as an independent, sovereign country.

He recalled the organization's emergence when 25 heads of state and government of independent nations, and other territories, met in Cartagena de Indias, in July of 1994, and the CARICOM proposal to establish the ACS-AEC was welcomed, to defend the identity, culture, and common interests of the region's peoples, and promote sustainable development and integration.

He added that despite significant accomplishments, "the challenges to be overcome are enormous," as was reaffirmed in the 2014 Declaration of Mérida, approved during the group's last Summit in this Mexican city.

Among other challenges, Raúl cited the problem of inter-region air and maritime transport, which creates obstacle to trade between Caribbean countries, while emphasizing that solutions must include differentiated treatment for small island nations.

Other areas of strategic importance mentioned by the Cuban President included the diversification of the region's tourist market, improving quality of services provided and training of qualified personnel, noting that Cuba is interested in expanding cooperation in this area, as is the case with climate change related issues. These include rising sea levels, hurricanes, both heavy rainfall and drought, as well as soil erosion.

He stated that cooperation in the area of risk management and preparedness for extreme weather should be prioritized in the organization's 20016-2018 Action Plan.

Raúl likewise asserted that no country in the Caribbean can remain indifferent to political turbulence promoted in the area, including efforts undertaken by imperialism and local oligarchies to destabilize countries with progressive governments, as is the case in Brazil and Venezuela.

The situation requires, he said, that the principles of the Proclamation of Latin America as a Zone of Peace, approved by the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) 2nd Summit, be reaffirmed.

We must demand that sovereignty, equality of rights, and self-determination be respected; promote friendly relations, practice tolerance, and live in peace, he said.

Raúl reiterated the need for solidarity with the Venezuelan people and their legitimate government led by Nicolás Maduro which is facing a serious economic war and destabilization campaign.

He highlighted the unacceptable attempt by the Organization of American States (OAS) to impose the Inter-American Democratic Charter on Venezuela, citing the Cuban government's position announced in a recent statement.
He reiterated that since its founding, the OAS has been, is, and will continue to be an instrument of imperialist domination, which no reform can change.

Raúl thanked all governments represented at the Summit which have supported Cuba's resolutions in the United Nations to end the U.S. blockade and denounced the United States' continued occupation of territory in Guantánamo. He highlighted the work of Alfonso Múnera, who has served as ACS-AEC secretary general for four years, and expressed his satisfaction with the election of June Soomer from Saint Lucia to the position, the first woman to assume this responsibility.