OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Photo: cubahora

ANTIGUA AND BARBUDA: UNITED WE WILL CONTRIBUTE TO REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT

Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Gaston Browne, recalled the longstanding ties which unite Cuba and his country.

He noted that the Summit should serve to consolidate bilateral ties within the framework of fraternity which characterizes the ACS.

Browne noted that next month the organization will celebrate its 22nd anniversary, and recalled the founding principles of the ACS ratified during a Caribbean Community (Caricom) Summit.

He also emphasized progress made by ACS member states on issues of common interest and cooperation, but noted that much more remains to be done.

Browne highlighted the importance of the event, taking place at a time when several countries of the region are facing threats, specifically Venezuela and Haiti, where external forces are attempting to interfere in the internal affairs of these states.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda described the threat posed by powerful nations, intent on imposing their interests on Caribbean countries, and called on ACS member states to resist such colonial schemes.

He also highlighted the importance of the Summit, which provides opportunities to tackle regional challenges, calling on participants to promote exchanges, develop joint action, and increase solidarity, stressing the need to remain united and ensure stability.
Browne also emphasized the importance of focusing on achieving goals, and recalled that the ACS has come a long way. In this sense, he thanked outgoing Secretary General Alfonso Múnera for injecting the organization with energy and for his leadership.

Browne recalled the achievements and work of the ACS over the last 22 years, but stressed that major challenges still remain, for example, problems related to Caribbean development.

The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda commented on the need for a financial framework able to effectively address the problems of Small Island Developing States, such as those in the Caribbean. After reaffirming his country’s support for the Havana Declaration he highlighted collaborative efforts as vital to finding solutions to the region’s economic challenges.

Browne expressed Antigua and Barbuda’s support for Cepal initiatives, but also called for reforms in order to establish differential treatment for Caribbean nations.

He also urged participants to focus efforts on climate change mitigation, noting that actions continue to be insufficient. The Caribbean leader highlighted the continued rise in greenhouse gas emissions and the inexistence of a binding agreement to tackle the situation, which impacts investments in ACS countries.
Browne reiterated Antigua and Barbuda’s support for the proposal made by CELAC and other organizations to declare the region a Zone of Peace.

SAINT KITTS AND NEVIS: WORKING TOGETHER FOR A SUSTAINABLE CARIBBEAN

Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Timothy Harris, described the opportunity for his country participate in the meeting as a privilege, especially given the efforts of the outgoing ACS Secretary General to revitalize the work of the organization.

He also noted that the Association will continue to advance in this direction with the same energy and enthusiasm seen during the recent revival period.

Harris described the changing global economic and social situation, in the context of which the ACS must continue to operate as an important regional bloc, and play a vital role in human development and survival.

He noted that the organization must address challenges and vulnerabilities of the region, while highlighting the importance of the ACS’ commitment to support member countries achieve their human development goals.

Harris stated that cooperation has historically been an important factor in the Caribbean with results visible through regional integration and collaboration efforts across the spheres of transport, healthcare, trade, culture, education, and disaster preparedness, among others.

He noted that Caribbean cooperation does not represent an alternative measure, but is rather an indestructible custom rooted in the hearts and minds of the peoples of the region. As such Harris pointed out that the ACS has the potential to overcome any cultural barrier that might hinder the progress of the regional bloc.

The Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis called for the ACS to continue strengthening relations with national governments and sub-regional groups of the Caribbean.

Harris noted that climate change - a complicated issue which represents a serious challenge for the region, and is a global threat to humanity - must be tackled collectively and with urgency.

The Caribbean leader warned of the negative impact of climate change on advances seen in agriculture, and on the ability of countries in the region to combat hunger and achieve sustainable development.

Harris described the diverse challenges facing the Caribbean, which hinder development and undermine nations’ sovereignty, but stressed that these can be overcome through collective efforts.

He noted that by combining and sharing the Caribbean’s broad spectrum of resources, countries can work together for the good of all peoples of the region.
In regards to the Declaration of Havana, Harris described it as a symbol of the organization’s political principles, representing member nations’ commitment to ensuring the continuation of the ACS and its work.

The Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis reiterated his congratulations to Cuba and the outgoing ACS Secretary General for their efforts to ensure a successful Summit and agreed that Cuba’s kindness, hospitality and compassion are characteristics shared by all Caribbean nations.

JAMAICA: AN ACS WITH GREAT POTENTIAL

Prime Minister of Jamaica, Andrew Holness described the opportunity to participate in the Summit in Cuba - a county which maintains longstanding relations with Jamaica, characterized by friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation – as a privilege.
He likewise noted that Cuba was a fitting choice to host the event, given the admiration of ACS member states for its commitment to dialogue and cooperation between regional leaders. Holness added that the island must be recognized for its fulfillment of the organization’s objectives and support offered to small island nations.

The Jamaican Prime Minister described outgoing ACS Secretary General Alfonso Múnera as an adopted son of the island, and congratulated June Soomer on assuming the position, noting that her appointment will mark a new chapter for the Association.

Holness highlighted the importance of the ACS in tackling common challenges and supporting dialogue and development, noting that Caribbean countries must continue to combat the negative effects of climate change, threats to peace, poverty and the impact of natural disasters, among other issues.

The Caribbean leader expressed his confidence in the organization’s ability to make a positive impact in the region, noting that much remains to be done, while also stressing the importance of advancing together, as a region.

He expressed his desire to strengthen and consolidate cooperation in order to promote alternatives, and for the Caribbean to be regarded as a special area in the context of sustainable development.

Holness noted that by addressing problems which affect Caribbean countries, member states can continue advancing the revitalization of the ACS, leading to positive outcomes such as the Havana Declaration and the Action Plan.

The Prime Minister of Jamaica also commented on the vulnerability of small island states as one of the main challenges on the sustainable development agenda. Thus, given the growth of the ACS over the last 22 years, he noted the importance of developing a collective strategy and new alliances in order to advance regional development.

He also praised the Cuban people who have developed initiatives to combat the effects of climate change in the region and other vulnerabilities, such as trafficking in drugs, arms and persons within the Caribbean Basin, factors which significantly impact peace and stability in the region.

Among the challenges facing Caribbean countries, Holness highlighted security and more efficient forms of cooperation. He described regional support expressed in the United Nations and other forums for the creation of a safer world, and reiterated the Jamaican people’s willingness to continue working in this direction.

Holness welcomed the normalization of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States and expressed his desire to see the economic, commercial and financial blockade lifted in the future.

THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: GENERATING REAL CHANGE

Danilo Medina Sánchez, President of the Dominican Republic, and president pro tempore of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), called on participants to strengthen the ACS, not only through political declarations, but through contributions by all members in accordance with their possibilities.

He noted that 2016 has been a positive year despite important challenges and major emergencies currently facing Latin America and the Caribbean.
For example, he highlighted the Paris Climate Change Agreement which was signed by over 170 nations, last April.
Sánchez emphasized the significance of the document for the Caribbean given the threat of climate change to the region’s survival.
In this sense, he pointed out that developed countries, the greatest contributors to this phenomenon, must offer assistance to more vulnerable nations.

According to Sánchez another reason to feel optimistic is the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda - a response to the major problems affecting humanity: hunger, poverty, inequality and social exclusion, among others.

The regional leader ratified the Dominican Republic’s commitment to efforts to consolidate cooperation within the Caribbean. “We have shown that when we are guided by the interests of our people, we are able to generate real change,” concluded Medina Sánchez.

GUYANA: WE CANNOT OVERLOOK THE CHALLENGES OF CLIMATE CHANGE

The President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana, David Granger, thanked outgoing Secretary General Alfonso Múnera for his efforts leading the organization, and congratulated newly appointed ACS Secretary General, June Soomer.

Granger highlighted that the meeting is taking place in Havana, the capital of a country which is a tireless defender of sovereignty, and continues to advance in its process of national development without succumbing to pressure.

He spoke at length about challenges for the region and the effects of climate change.

Granger also stated that challenges for the Caribbean cannot be addressed without bearing in mind the security problems these present for countries of the region.

The Guyanese President noted that the Caribbean Sea is part of the region’s heritage and as such must be protected and its resources used is a sustainable manner and for the benefit of all peoples.

He called on ACS member states to focus on effective resource management and increase efforts to combat climate change.

Granger emphasized that issues of security cannot be overlooked, as they are vital to sustainable development, and called on participants to work to preserve the region’s resources in the struggle against climate change.

HONDURAS: COMBINE EFFORTS TO SUPPORT REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
“Cuba has shown that cooperation is solidarity, especially given that things continue to be shared even when there is nothing left over,” stated the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández Alvarado.

He noted that Cuba has offered solidarity to his nation in very difficult moments, such as in the wake of Hurricane Mitch which hit Honduras in 1998 – the worst natural disaster the country had seen in 200 years.

“Cuba responded immediately, offering its internationally renowned medical assistance,” he emphasized.

Juan Orlando Hernández noted that the issues discussed in the Summit are vital to the future of the region's peoples, and noted that participants in the meeting include some of the most vulnerable countries in the world, due to the effects of climate change.

He noted that nations of the region are united by their geographical location - in one of the most severely affected areas on the planet, a situation for which the peoples of the area are not responsible, and as such, stressed the demand for greater assistance from developed countries.

Hernández Alvarado recalled that during the Paris Climate Change Summit in 2015, he mentioned Honduras’ vulnerability, especially during the period 1993-2013, when the country was affected by 69 adverse weather events, which caused losses amounting to 3.3% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Hernández also warned that Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic feature among the Latin American countries most affected by the negative impact of climate change, according to the global climate risk report, published in 2015.

Describing regional efforts to combat the phenomenon he highlighted initiatives to educate and develop social consciousnesses around the issue, and the correct, sustainable use of resources, specifically those linked to forests, soil and water, he noted.

The Honduran President reiterated his solidarity with Caribbean countries affected by climate change, most notably rising sea levels and land temperatures, given that “43% of the most vulnerable island states are from our region and represent 60% of members of this Association.”

Hernández highlighted the indiscriminate nature of climate change and urged ACS member nations to unite and search for effective solutions at a national, sub-regional, and organizational level. He added that developed countries have a lot of work to do, as they produce the majority of greenhouse gases which fuel global warming.

GRENADA: CUBA IS A LIGHT, AN IDEA

Prime Minister of Grenada, Keith Mitchell described Cuba as not only a country, but a light, an idea, an expression of what a proud, historic government can achieve.

Mitchell thanked Cuba for the hospitality with which he was received on all his visits to the island and noted that relations between the two nations transcend political and economic challenges and continue to unite both peoples.

The Caribbean leader expressed his profound gratitude for the generosity shown by the Cuban Revolution to the people of Grenada and all marginalized peoples of the world.

At the beginning of his speech he described his shock at the news of the death of Muhammad Ali, “one of the greatest boxers.”

He highlighted climate change, and the danger it represents to all, in particular small and low-lying island states, as one of the region’s top priorities.

Regarding the issue, he noted that the Association has the historic and unique opportunity to be a different kind of organization, whose impact goes beyond regional ties, and noted that the ACS must be defined by its unwavering commitment to developing concrete actions and an effective, achievable agenda.

PANAMA: STRENGTHENING INTER-REGIONAL AND GLOBAL RELATIONS

Juan Carlos Varela Rodríguez, President of Panama noted that despite common problems, relations between states are of vital importance and as such differences between two countries regarding a single issue must not be allowed to jeopardize relations between our nations.

During his comments at the Summit, Varela Rodríguez invited participants to attend the inauguration of the newly expanded Panama Canal, July 26, which according to the regional leader, will strengthen the wide range of financial services offered by the country, and thus contribute to the continued development of inter-regional and global relations.

As key challenges for the region, the Panamanian President highlighted organized crime, and insecurity – problems affecting many Caribbean nations and aggravated by inequality.

Among other priority issues he cited drug trafficking, which according to Varela can only be tackled through creating opportunities for young people at risk; as well as establishing international mechanisms to combat the problem.

He noted that his country supports the strengthening of connectivity within the Caribbean as a way to develop sustainable tourism, and improve the regional economy.

Varela emphasized that countries cannot remain indifferent to climate change, which not only causes human and economic losses but also represents a threat to nations of the region.

In this sense, he expressed his country’s support for the creation of a Regional Humanitarian Logistics Center, which would offer humanitarian aid services to victims of natural disasters.

He added that the region is experiencing a new era, in which every country must chart its own path, without losing sight of their commitment to transparency and accountability.

Varela also reiterated Panama’s solidarity with Venezuela and support for the Colombian peace process.
VENEZUELA: THE BOLIVARIAN REVOLUTION LOOKS TO STRENGTHEN REGIONAL STABILITY

The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) Summit is marking a new era for the region, noted the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro.

Maduro thanked outgoing Secretary General Alfonso Múnera for his work leading the organization and praised his efforts as rector of a bloc which has seen significant growth over recent years.

He stated that the Havana Declaration - which was approved later during the Summit - outlines major challenges facing the Caribbean, among them the economy, tourism and commercial transport.

Maduro noted that Venezuela’s participation in the Summit has resulted in the development of initiatives which reflect the principles and values of the nation, among which he highlighted Petrocaribe as the clearest example. “Petrocaribe is quite possibly the backbone of social development, stability and energy security in the region.”

Despite this, the Venezuelan President noted the challenge of energy diversification for the Caribbean.

“We have agreed on a formula of peace, understanding, fraternity, and mutual benefit; this is the spirit which must reign in our region,” stated the Caribbean leader who also emphasized that this objective was approved during the 2nd Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), held in Havana, during which the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace was ratified.

Maduro described regional stability as one of the Bolivarian Revolution’s key priorities, and denounced the crisis in the Middle East, the result of terrorism and foreign intervention.

In this sense he criticized biased reporting by right wing media which attack Venezuela but fail to address major humanitarian situations, such as the European migration crisis.

He noted that the ACS is characterized by its commitment to the creation of solid ties of cooperation and respect.

He recalled the words of the leader of the Cuban Revolution, Fidel Castro, when in 1992 at the ACS Summit in Río, he predicted the negative effects of climate change.

Maduro expressed his gratitude for the special communiqué approved in the 7th Summit reaffirming the organization’s support of the Venezuelan government’s offer to hold talks with opposition groups.

He criticized the domestic opposition for repeatedly violating democratic practices and constitutional rights in the country and promoting acts of violence and coups.

In this regard, Maduro highlighted the hypocrisy of opposition groups who attempt to use violence to defend themselves.

“In 2016, I approached a commission and called on them to join a peace initiative which would help victims of coups and violent events and address issues relating to the economic crisis, and they refused,” stated the Venezuelan leader.

He noted that the country’s opposition is neither interested in domestic projects or national development, but rather on destroying the Bolivarian government.

Maduro explained that the country has been the victim of a 17 year-long conspiracy by successive U.S. administrations to isolate Venezuela and intervene in its internal affairs, and reiterated that there exists a participatory and protagonist democracy in his country.

He described the Inter-American Democratic Charter which the Secretary General of the Association of American States (OAS) is attempting to invoke against Venezuela, as disgraceful.

Maduro recalled the legacy of the Charter, emphasizing its use to support various coups throughout the Americas.

He reiterated Venezuela’s right to sovereignty, to choose its own political system and warned that the region cannot yield to pressure from Washington against Venezuela.

Maduro called on Caribbean governments to maintain solidarity and cooperation efforts and not allow themselves to be subjugated.

“The pressures to isolate Venezuela are brutal, approving this instrument would be a disgrace for the continent. Venezuela will not be brought to her knees,” he added. “Venezuela will not accept…interventionism,” proclaimed Maduro.

The Venezuelan President also noted that the creation of organizations such as CELAC and Unasur are proof of how far the region has progressed in recent years, and noted that this process must continue to advance on the basis of respect, unity and diversity.

Finally, he stated that the legacy of Chávez lives on and has been transformed into regional solidarity and love.

He thanked President Raúl Castro and Cuba for their support and solidarity, and stated that Venezuela will overcome adversities with the support of Latin America and the Caribbean.

SURINAME: THIS SUMMIT IS IMPORTANT AND SIGNIFICANT

This 7th ACS Summit is taking place at a moment in which many of our countries are facing serious economic and social challenges, due to an unstable global economy, stated the President of Suriname, Desiré Delano Bouterse.

He recognized that for many years the ACS has worked on addressing internal and external challenges through collaboration across various spheres.

Bouterse described the Summit as important and significant, as it brings together countries of the region working to achieve sustainable development, combat climate change and in support of peace in the area.

He highlighted the need to manage efforts as a region, in order to improve inter-regional trade, the quality of life of the peoples, and protect the environment.

In this sense, he praised ACS efforts to contribute to the development of the Caribbean as a sustainable zone and promote areas of common interest such as tourism and transport, among other spheres vital to the development of current and future generations.

The President of Suriname mentioned that global warming, and the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, have transformed the region into one of the most vulnerable in the world; thus highlighting the importance of addressing such issues, effectively implementing relevant agreements and promoting efforts to mitigate the environmental impact.

The Caribbean leader warned that “90% of our productive land is eroding and this impacts the tourist sector, which is why believe that within the framework of sustainable tourism, eco-tourism can contribute to the creation of a sustainable livelihood for our local communities.”

He noted that tourism contributes to the economic and social development of many of the countries in the region, but also stressed the importance of improving air and maritime connectivity in order to promote the growth of the sector.

Bouterse described the holding of the Summit in Cuba as significant and an example of what the country has achieved in regards to international relations, while at the same time welcoming the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between the island and the United States, which will contribute to improving peace, development and stability in the Americas, stated the Caribbean leader.

Bouterse also reiterated his support for the call made by the Association for the lifting of the U.S. blockade of Cuba, and the elimination of all financial restrictions imposed on the island, given Cuba’s historic willingness to collaborate with other countries.

He noted that collaboration between Suriname and Cuba has always been driven by ties of solidarity and friendship between the two peoples, noting that his country wishes to continue cooperation across all spheres through multi and bilateral agreements.

Meanwhile, the Caribbean leader called for financial mechanisms, air and maritime connectivity and cooperation across priority areas to be strengthened. In this sense, he noted that the Havana Declaration and the 2016-2018 Action Plan constitute a solid base on which to strengthen the ACS, highlighting that the implementation of these documents will contribute to the political, social and economic development of countries in the region.

ST. VINCENT & THE GRENADINES: HISTORY

Ralph Gonsalves, St. Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister recalled his previous visits to Cuba, the first almost 40 years ago, and the many during his 15 years as Prime Minister; noting the longstanding ties maintained between the people of Cuba and the Caribbean.

He said that the Association of Caribbean States is composed of member countries whose shores are bathed by the Caribbean Sea, and emphasized that this reality leads the nations to look outward, commenting that tension always exists between the external and internal points of view.

Gonsalves asserted that the group had come together to resolve this vision, and begin to do so in a regional fashion with regards to four issues: trade, tourism, transportation, and technology; to which have been added climate change and peaceful, sustainable development.

He noted that the region's countries have produced iconic figures like José Martí, Simon Bolívar, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez and others, stating that he hoped to be in Cuba for the celebration of Fidel's 90th birthday, this coming August 13.

Gonsalves emphasized that the region has faced colonialism, slavery, genocide and imperialism, but has achieved independence.

This organization, he said, is not an administrative body, but rather a political association, while noting that the particular historical moment brings to mind fundamental questions about adapting to an old order or creating a new one.

The contradictions which emerge from the world capitalist crisis such as unemployment, increasing inequality, climate change, war, and terrorism are not things which can be resolved by individual nations, but rather collectively, he said, emphasizing that it is time to strengthen regional integration to promote Caribbean interests and confront challenges together.

The Prime Minister emphasized the need to study history and preserve historical memory, noting that the region must be visionary and practical, that problems must not be viewed as brand new, since they are rooted in the past.

He condemned the situation the Venezuelan people are facing and the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed on Cuba by the United States, and concluded thanking Cuba, Venezuela, Trinidad and Tobago for their solidarity, as well as the organization's secretary general who is leaving the position. He welcomed June Soomer, chosen to assume the responsibility.

EL SALVADOR: PROGRESS FOR OUR PEOPLES IS ESSENTIAL

It is imperative that as countries seeking development we share experiences, said El Salvador's President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, expressing confidence that the Summit would contribute to progress in integration of a region intent upon achieving prosperity for its people, and to confronting problems jointly.

In his comments, the Salvadoran leader referred to challenges in different aspects of daily life resulting from climate change, which limit progress and even cause serious setbacks at times in areas where gains have been made.

Sánchez Cerén called for working to diversify energy sources, and promote renewable energy in the region, and emphasized the need to consolidate a framework to support the transformations member countries have proposed making in the coming years.

He likewise welcomed the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, while reiterating El Salvador's solidarity with Venezuela and support for the peace process in Colombia, insisting that difficulties can be overcome through dialogue.

TRINIDAD & TOBAGO: WE HAVE A COMMON DESTINY AS CARIBBEANS

Trinidad and Tobago's Prime Minister Keith Cristopher Rowley, attending his first Summit, emphasized his country's commitment to the Association of Caribbean States. He noted his agreement with positions expressed during the Summit and recognized the common destiny of Caribbean nations, which share many challenges, citing the meeting as an opportunity to identify these.

He said his country is committed to showing solidarity toward its neighbors and to the organization's fundamental principles, reaffirming the importance of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

He added that the time was right for the community to come together to confront common challenges and risks.

Rowley asserted that Trinidad and Tobago has maintained its vision of the Greater Caribbean, which was articulated by the country's founders.

He welcomed the process underway to normalize relations between Cuba and the United States, while calling for an immediate end to the blockade which has been imposed for more than 50 years, expressing the view that better relations between these two countries will undoubtedly contribute to development, peace and security throughout the Caribbean.

COSTA RICA: THERE WILL BE NO PROSPERITY WITHOUT JOINT ACTION

"The Greater Caribbean basin is a geopolitical and cultural space in which countries can virtually extend their national territory, and this vision of the Caribbean which extends us is the vision we have of the ACS, as a point of encounter, where the sea unites us, draws us close, in which we find a part of our history, our passions, and the future," said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera.

He noted the relationship of issues being addressed at the Summit to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Objectives, while stating that the problems of facilitating trade and transportation connections have conspired against the region's unity.

Solís highlighted the importance of generating employment, developing technology, exchanging best practices, the use of renewable energy, increasing educational levels, and tourism, critical to Caribbean economies.

He raised the issue of discrimination against women in the region, noting that, as is the case in other parts of the world, women make up 50% of the workforce and require adequate conditions if their efforts are to be strengthened, emphasizing the need for special programs to support women, girls and youth, who face discrimination in the workplace, in society and the political arena, so that they may receive equal pay for equal work and undertake university studies.

The Costa Rican President addressed security and peace, the struggle against organized crime, drug dealing and trafficking in persons, as well as the issue of health, highlighting the importance of treating diseases which can spread and become pandemics.

Nor did he ignore migration, identifying the issue as one which required a more humanitarian perspective, since the living conditions and transit of migrants must be guaranteed by all states, in his opinion. He acknowledged that efforts had been made, but that such initiatives must show more solidarity and consciousness.

He went on to note that economic development and peace can only be meaningful if climate change is addressed as a challenge which threatens member countries' very existence.

He pointed to the importance of national efforts within a spirit of unity to prioritize prevention, research and innovation in construction methods, as well as in agriculture and ranching.

Solís said there is little justification for lack of unity in the Caribbean, noting that beyond political will, the ACS has a timely action plan that should allow for better coordination of efforts. He concluded his remarks reaffirming that there will be no prosperity without collective action.

GUATEMALA: OUR REGION WILL CONTINUE ALONG A PEACEFUL PATH

Joining forces to create the conditions for sustainable development with the goal of creating more just, inclusive, and lawful societies, was emphasized by Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales.

The issues which concern us, he said, are unity to confront the challenge of sustainable development, climate change, and peace, toward which no one should be indifferent.

He stated that work done by the ACS is increasingly important to Guatemala and recognized the efforts the outgoing secretary general, while noting his satisfaction with the choice of a woman to assume this critical responsibility.

Morales emphasized that the region is especially vulnerable to the impact of climate change, noting that member countries lie along the routes normally followed by hurricanes and within an area affected by weather phenomena like

el Niño and la Niña, with severe consequences for agriculture. He welcomed Cuba's proposals on sandy coastlines and coral reefs, calling for support to implement the projects.

Regarding documents presented to participating dignitaries for approval, Morales stated that the action plan reflects the arduous work which lies ahead, while noting that if proposals are completed, a measurable impact will be felt.

Our region, he said, is continuing along a peaceful path, as demonstrated by the willingness of Colombia to struggle for an end to conflict there. He expressed the Guatemalan people and government's support to their Colombian brothers and sisters.

THE NETHERLANDS: WORKING TOGETHER FOR PROGRESS

The Netherlands and the Caribbean are united historically, politically and culturally, and we know that collective work is valuable since we have the same concerns, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

Our message today is simple, he continued, we want to maintain common ties and responsibility with nations present here, and reiterate that our support is fully available.

Rutte also announced his country's candidacy to join the United Nations' Security Council through 2018, saying that it is time to increase the number of permanent and non-permanent members of the body, to improve representation.

He likewise emphasized that the world in which we live requires working together, in an effort to create strong, sustainable economies, as well as security and wellbeing for peoples.

NICARAGUA: PEACEFUL COMMUNITY LIVING AND SELF-DETERMINATION ARE ESSENTIAL PRINCIPLES

"Nicaragua and its government firmly believe in this Association as a mechanism of dialogue, joint action, cooperation, integration, and development of our peoples, and our commitment is to strengthen it, consolidate it, and continue growing," said Nicaraguan Vice President Moisés Omar Halleslevens Acevedo.

He recalled that dialogue, peaceful coexistence, tolerance and self-determination are unrenounceable principles which must be maintained, respected and defended from those who undermine or ignore them.

Halleslevens took advantage of the Summit to "salute the process of dialogue between Cuba and the United States, and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, which should lead to the immediate lifting of the inhumane economic, commercial, financial blockade, as well as the return of territory occupied by the Guantánmao Naval Base to its legitimate owner: the heroic and dignified people of Cuba."

He expressed Nicaragua's support to the Colombian peace talks in Havana, and the beginning of dialogue with the National Liberation Army, while reiterating his country's condemnation of the impeachment process underway to unseat the constitutional President of Brazil, Dilma Rousseff, and rejected ongoing aggression and harassment of the Venezuelan people and government.

He emphasized that it is important to protect ourselves in a dangerous world, that the increasing aggression of global capitalism, particularly in the Middle East, has produced wars, fanaticism, and terrorism, sowing insecurity and destruction, provoking crises of all types with grave consequences.

The Nicaraguan Vice President affirmed that this situation will continue to deteriorate if action is not taken to deal with the causes of all this barbarity. And to do so, he said, respect, peace, sovereignty, justice and solidarity among human beings must be promoted.

The environmental crisis, he noted, has the same basis: capitalist greed. Climate change, he said, can only be confronted by exercising the right to demand indemnization for losses and damages caused by industrialized nations.

Halleslevens also referred to the words of Fidel expressed during the 7th Party Congress, "Who is going to feed the thirsty people of Africa, without technology within their reach, or rain, reservoirs, or aquifers covered by sand? Let us see what the governments who in their majority have signed climate agreements say."

The Vice President repeated that the issue of responsibility for climate change and indemnization must be raised to confront the consequences, to ensure future generations’ right to life.

BELIZE: THE ACS IS OUR NEIGHBORHOOD

With greetings to President Raúl Castro Ruz, and recognition of the warm welcome offered by the Cuban people and government to Summit participants, Margarito Gaspar Vega, deputy prime minister of Belize began his remarks. He is also the country's minister of Fishing, Forestry, Environment and Sustainable Development.

Gaspar congratulated departing ACS General Secretary Alfonso Múnera for the work he conducted with great cordiality which has put the organization in a better position for the future.

He said that Belize applauds the election of Ambassador June Soomer to assume responsibility as secretary general, adding that she will undoubtedly continue the tradition of excellency established by the current secretary, and put her valuable experience in Caricom to good use to strengthen the ACS.

The people of Belize believe in the ACS because they are conscious that small nations can become strong and win a place among their neighbors in these types of forums, he said, as partners and brothers.

He added that Belize also believes in the ACS because it is a constant reminder that states and friendships in this part of the world are valuable.

He noted that economic issues such as financing - which directly affects development plans - climate change, security, and health risks like Zika remind Caribbean nations that stability and prosperity in the region are of concern to all.

The ACS is our neighborhood, he emphasized, and at the Summit nations are sitting at the family table, where there will always be differences, but bloodlines, history, common interests, and the shared desire to improve our people's lives make the consolidation of this organization important.

Gaspar Vega insisted on coexistence and the peaceful resolution of disagreements, mentioning specifically the territorial conflict between his country and neighboring Guatemala.

He said that Belize will always be grateful for the support it has received when it was most needed.

HAITI: A NEW REGIONAL PARADIGM WITH SOLIDARITY AS THE CENTRAL AXIS

All Haitians are filled with a profound sentiment when they are in Cuba; the ties shared are strong and unbreakable; Cuba is a country where Haitians feel at home, were among the comments made by Jocelerme Privert, provisional President of Haiti, as, in the name of his people, he saluted Raúl, the Cuban people and government for the welcome offered participants. (Haiti hosted the previous Summit.)

The ACS, he said, was founded on the basis of the firm will to overcome history and establish a new regional paradigm with solidarity as its central axis.

Issues being addressed - challenges to sustainable development, climate change, and peace in the Caribbean - are precisely the new threats to be faced, which demand new changes and innovation, he said.

Privert likewise welcomed proposals regarding agreements reached on tourism and transportation, expressing his satisfaction with projects introduced by the Cuban government, as well as France and Panama, to address the region's challenges.

He emphasized the unstable situation which has existed in Haiti for the last 30 years, and its vulnerability to climate change, which should serve as a stimulus to efforts to confront the impact of this phenomenon.

The Republic of Haiti, he insisted, is moving toward a resolution to the crisis. The government has the duty to turn the country around, he said, emphasizing that the nation's dreams require political stability.

THE BAHAMAS: WE HOLD OUR NATIONS' DESTINIES IN OUR OWN HANDS

Picewell Forbes, leading the Bahamian Commonwealth delgation to the Summit, commented that this is an important moment for Caribbean states, since a new agenda for development has been introduced, putting our nations on the front lines and prioritizing stability, peace, and democracy.

He emphasized that the destiny of our countries lies in our own hands, and problems must be confronted with urgency, making the broadening of joint work an imperative, extending it throughout the region in order to meet common objectives.

In regards to climate change, Forbes highlighted the Bahamas' commitment to the Paris accords, stating that the country is immersed in the development of various programs and strategies to address mitigation and adaptation to the phenomenon, adding that the government is conscious that measures must be adopted to create an appropriate environment to carry out these projects.

He noted that the intellectual resouces of Caribbean countries' are fundamental to sustainable development, and that promoting alliances to provide training for youth is a major responsibility.

On another note, he said that efforts continue to combat crime, violence and drug traficking, and that collective action is needed to establish peace, security and resepct for the law in the region.

Other ills to be faced, he noted, include different forms of discrimination, in addition to illegal traficking in persons and weapons, which make the struggle against organizad crime imperative, adding that the latest technology must be put to work in these efforts.

He concluded by saying that Caribbean countries have a difficult role to play, but that success lies in collaboration.

MEXICO: WELLBEING AND PROSPERITY FOR OUR PEOPLES

Mexico is a Caribbean country, asserted Foreign Minister Claudia Ruiz, noting that the country's place in this sea, this land, is cultural, and represents what Mexicans consider a third border, which extends along some 730 kilometers of coastline.

She noted that the country's Caribbean coast holds much natural and material wealth, which must be preserved and developed, while highlighting the area's extensive beaches which have allowed for the growth of tourism, as well as the fishing industry and commerce, although the challenge is now to promote a sustainable perspective.

Mexico is an integral part of the region, Ruiz stated, where the world's second largest coral reef is located, as well as important archeological and historically signficant sites, many recognized as World Heritage Sites, she noted.

Among the 25 ACS-AEC member nations, she outlined, we represent 55% of the total population of Latin America and the Caribbean; 58.46% of commerce; 28.5% of direct foreign investment; 86% of the regional tourist market; and more than a million square kilometers of protected lands.

Mexico's objective, she explained, is and will continue to be the consolidation of the country's presence in the Caribbean, to be a purposeful, conciliatrory, and constructive actor with the goal of contributing to the wellbeing and prosperity of our peoples.

That is why Mexico supported the creation of this Association more than 20 years ago, the Foreign Minsiter said, and why we proposed a broad agenda of cooperation two years ago during the Mérida Summit, to promote the wellbeing and prosperity of our citizens. She added that, today, Mexico again applauds the focus on strengthening cooperation, to which the meeting was devoted.

She emphasized that Mexico aspires to participate in constructing a more influential, prosperous, integrated and resilient region, with more oportunities for all, while noting that strengthening joint work focused on identified issues is needed.

BARBADOS: A COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY IN THE REGION

Maxine McClean, minister of Foreign Relations and Trade of Barbados, thanked Raúl Castro, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, the Cuban people and government, for the country's productive presidency of the ACS. She recognized the contribution of departing Secretary General Alfonso Múnera and thanked him for his commitment to strengthening the organization's admnistration and redirecting resources to fulfill agreed upon objectives.

She noted that he will be remembered for his focus and ability to involve all members in ACS tasks, thanking him for his initiative and personal effort to articulate the issues and challenges the Caribbean faces, as well as his recomendations, which, she said, should be considered.

Minister McClean highlighted the importance of the development of small island states like Barbados, and added that, given their small size, vulnerability, and limited resources, such nations must be afforded special consideration in efforts to confront the impact of climate change, although all countries, large and small, are affected.

She expressed her satisfaction welcoming the new secretary general, June Soomer, the first woman to assume this position, who has shown her leadership ability directing academic circles within Caricom. McClean expressed her confidence that Soomer would bring the same energy to the ACS, and made a commitment to personally support the new secreatry general, and that of Barbados to ensure a successful term in office.

Given the reduced resources available to the ACS, she said, the organization needs renewed focus, noting that concerns have always existed about the duplication of efforts, and attention must be paid to using regional and hemispheric bodies appropriately, she noted.

McClean insisted that ACS must maintain its focus on a sustainable Caribbean, noting that this was stressed in the Cuban President's inaugural remarks, when he said that sustainable development was the "highest priority."

She emphasized the ongoing commitment of Barbados to the ACS, to face the challenges of development, climate change, and peace in the region, noting that issues linked to sutainable development are proirities in Barbados.

She added that the Association's vision is contained in four central themes her country emphasizes: the struggle for a viable, solid economy, with social equilibrium, characterized by good government.

With resepct to the challenges facing Barbados, she expressed confidence that they can be resolved by identifying opportunities within the country, and within the context of cooperation with ACS member nations, and therefore emphasized her commitment to assuring that the organization's vision for the region and hemisphere is sustainable

COLOMBIA: FACING CLIMATE CHANGE AND PRESERVING THE PEACE

Colombia's Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín commented that, over the years, it has been possible to broaden the ACS regional agenda to include issues of great interest such as education, the protection of tangible and intangible world heritage, and disaster risk mangement.

She cited efforts undertaken to promote transportation connections in the region, to support trade and tourism, while emphasizing the struggle against international organized crime, especially in terms of the global problem of drugs, which constitutes a common problem for countries in the region, and can only be resolved by joint action, she said.

The Minister noted that ACS member countries share the goal of expanding trade as a way to promote greater development, strengthen economic ties, and move forward with initiatives to eliminate obstacles to trade in the Caribbean which takes into consideration the different levels of development existing in different countries.

The environmental agenda and the UN Sustainable Development Objectives are important to all of us, she said, since we are very vulnerable to climate change. That is why we must continue working to ensure that all countries reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and fulfill agreements reached in Paris, Holguín noted, adding that the implementation of policies to reduce risks, and help vulnerable communities adapt, is essential.

She emphasized that confronting climate change and perserving the peace constitute the region's greatest challenges.

The Colombian Foreign Minister agreed that the UN 2030 agenda for sustainable development can serve as a tool to strengthen the Greater Caribbean, since it includes attention to central issues like trade, transportation, and sustainable tourism, among others.

She reiterated her support to Venezuela, and expressed her agreement that Venezuelans are the ones who must find ways to resolve their problems and recover the country's economic, political and social stability.

Finally, Holguín offered special thanks to the Cuban government for its contribution to peace in Colombia, to Venezuela for their accompaniment of the peace process, and all those present who alluded to the issue.

ST. LUCIA THANKS ALFONSO MÚNERA FOR HIS WORK LEADING THE ACS-AEC

Vaughn Lewis, foreign relations advisor to St. Lucia's Prime Minister, thanked departing ACS General Secretary Alfonso Múnera for his efforts and welcomed Ambassador June Soomer, as she assumes the important position.

ARUBA: SOCIO-ECONOMIC MODELS THAT LEAD TO GREATER PROPSERITY FOR CITIZENS NEEDED

Michiel Godfried Eman, Aruba's Prime Minister, noted that island countries are facing great challenges, given the per capita income of our nations, threatened by hurricanes and the closing of economic sectors.

Addressing the role of unity in confronting these challenges, he said that the Summit provided an opportunity for leaders to meet face to face, with the understanding that joint work can make us stronger.

The Prime Minister emphasized that the future can be changed, if nations of the region join hands, citing his country as an example of the prosperity, economic development and income that can be reached.

He insisted that the region's countries must work on socio-economic models that can lead to greater prosperity for citizens, better schools for children, better homes for the elderly, adding that the ACS offers an opportunity to share common experiences from different points of view. In this context, Eman called for making the ACS a platform for the exchange of positive experiences in the areas of education, medical care and social security.

CURAÇAO: FOR OUR PEOPLE'S PROSPERITY AND SECURITY

This is the region which has contributed the least to climate change, but suffers the most serious consequences, said Prime Minsiter Bernard Whiteman, from Curaçao.

Therefore, he insisted, our governments must work together with the goal of protecting the beautiful seas we share, as well as communities situated in low-lying coastal areas, since we risk leaving future generations an irreversible catastrophe, if we do not confront these events audaciously.

We did not come here to celebrate progress, he said, because much remains to be done, since no country can confront this challenge alone, regardless of its size or financial situation, he emphasized.

Whiteman noted that the effects of climate change generate hunger and conflict, which threaten the prosperity and security of peoples.

Nevertheless, he said, we have advanced in a gradual but consistent manner in the creation of stronger mechanisms which help to prevent large countries from imposing their will on smaller ones, while insisting that positive statistics serve no good if they do not translate into better quality of life for our citizens, especially the less privileged, he stressed.

We are the world's best example of integration, he asserted, calling on participants to remain loyal to the principles established when Latin America and the Caribbean were declared a Zone of Peace.

SINT MAARTEN: THE TRANSNATIONAL NATURE OF CHALLENGES

This Summit is taking place at an important time in the region's economic and political history, said William Marlin, Prime Minister of Sint Marteen.

He cited the transnational character of todays' challenges and added that cooperation is fundamental to the region's socio-economical development. One of the areas of central importance is tourism, he said, the region's only sui generis economic pillar. Marlin added that Sint Maarten has seen this industry evolve over time, and called for greater attention to multi-destination tourism.

On another note, he recalled that slavery is an undeniable component of the region's economic roots, and that we have learned to pay tribute to those who struggled against it, and those who have sacrificed themselves since then.

The Prime Minister stressed that a greater variety of tourist products can be created based on the Caribbean's natural richness and biological diversity, while noting that addressing the issue of natural disasters required joint action.

He concluded saying that he was pleased to witness the socio-economic changes taking place in Cuba, and expressed his support for lifting the U.S. "embargo."

ST. MARTIN: GUARANTEEING SUSTAINABILITY IN THE REGION

The President of the Collectivity of St. Martín, Aline Hanson, noted in her remarks that the membership of this French overseas collectivity was the result of a long process.

Our ancestrors came to Cuba to cut sugarcane and feed their families, she said, and I am very pleased to be able to walk through the Palace of the Revolution as President François Hollande did, while noting that the French government had facilitated the island's adhesion to ACS as an associate member with its own status.

She reiterated her most profound gratitude to the ACS for its support and said that St Martin's participation would not have been possible without the efforts of Secretary General Alfonso Múnera, who personally visited the island to evaluate interest in joining the organization, in its own name as an associate.

Hanson noted that St. Martin's membership in the ACS is now a reality, reflecting the human, geographic, and economic characteristics which make it part of the Caribbean basin.

She said that governing a small country, which is at once a Caribbean island, a French collectivity, and a European area, is not easy, noting that since the 15th century, St. Martin has been considered a crossing, a convergence where different histories, several cultures, and realities are interlaced with strong ties.

The context is complicated and we must guarantee the sustainability of our territory and the collectivity to which we belong, Hanson said, while adding that changes of any nature affect the traditional equilibrium of countries in the basin, no longer permitting the use of customs or practices of yesteryear to resolve today's problems.

The representative from St. Martin commented that, as a new member, this first step is fundamental to the future, and reaffirmed her willingness to work from now on, since this is a new start for her homeland, which hopes to participate in joint action to promote political and economic integration of the region.

MARTINICA: UNITY AND PEACE

Unity is not achieved by decree, but is rather constructed little by little, said Alfred Marie Jean, president of the Martinica Regional Council, noting that doing nothing amounts to retreating.

He continued emphasizing that unity means sharing principles, values, and precise objectives, and demands commitment to achieve concrete results. In the heart of the Caribbean, he said, we have examples of commitment that have allowed for real change.

Marie Jean cited the example of Cuba, which despite the blockade of more than 50 years, he said, has always worked to strengthen healthcare, sports, research and culture in several of our territories.

Our unity is based on mutual understanding of the real challenges of sustainable development and the impact of climate change on island countries in particular, he said, noting that cooperation and shared points of view regarding actions to take to eliminate the vestiges of exploitation of our territories must be a central priority.

Alfred Marie Jean, called for the development of a new model based on the Caribbean's history, a model based on the values key to our identity and which conforms to the demands of our economies. Innovation, research - basic and applied - must guide this model to stop the brain drain, and a model which prioritizes ongoing dialogue to achieve lasting peace and eliminate foreign interference.

Strengthening the region's early warning systems and reaffirming initiatives related to natural disasters and epidemics are essential, he said, noting that no matter how well we prepare, risks cannot be avoided

The representative from Martinica additionally denounced "all plotting against Venezuela."

GUADALUPE: READY TO PARTICIPATE IN EFFORTS TO ACHIEVE COMMON OBJECTIVES

In addition to thanking the Cuban government, Maria Luce Penchard, vice president of Guadalupe's Regional Council addressed her island's situation as a French territory in the Caribbean.

She said that Guadalupe's status as an associate ACS member is recognition of the territory's will to achieve economic development within the regional environment, with its Caribbean partners, emphasizing that her government wants to put the territory's membership into action, after so many years of negotiations with France, taking into account French legislation and law, to be part of the Caribbean community, which is key to our identity and cultural heritage, she said.

Penchard added that Caribbeans are united by common challenges and want to build and strengthen ties.

We belong to France, she said, but we have always insisted that we different because a part of our history is here, and we assert the right to this difference, because we do not belive the Republic's unity means uniformity, she emphasized.

She noted that Guadalupe's economy is growing and there is interest in renewable energy, and reiterated the territory's desire to participate in efforts to achieve shared objectives and strengthen the Association.