Prime Minister Gaston Browne says it was a “bitter-sweet”, moment, while Foreign Minister E.P Chet Greene said it was with ‘heavy hearts’ that the people of Antigua and Barbuda bid farewell to the outgoing Cuban Ambassador, Maria Esther Fiffe Cabreja, who has ended her tour of duty in St. John’s.
Prime Minister Browne credited Ambassador Fiffe Cabreja for taking the good relations between Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda to new levels.
“Let me thank you for your contributions, as you have certainly elevated the bilateral relations between our two countries during which we have recorded a number of significant achievements. Generally speaking, the cooperation was taken to new levels and we saw that especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when you were able to utilize your good offices to get us, additional nurses to deal with this debilitating disease,” he recalled.
The prime minister noted that at that time, there was a scarcity of nurses, yet, Antigua and Barbuda was able to get the additional health personnel because of the efforts of the ambassador.
He added that Cuba has always stood with the people of Antigua and Barbuda, even immediately after the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in 2017 when Cuba was one of the first countries to respond positively with aid.
“One of the things I like about Cuba is that they give from the little that they have, which makes it very impressive. It’s not that Cuba has excesses to share, but through true solidarity, with their Caribbean brothers and sisters they have assisted,” he remarked.
He also thanked Cuba for generally helping with the health delivery system of Antigua and Barbuda, as a cursory glance would show the significant numbers of nurses and or Cuban-trained doctors helping to make the healthcare delivery system effective.
At a separate farewell call on Foreign Minister E.P Chet Greene, he told the diplomat that she has left an indelible mark on the relations between Cuba and Antigua and Barbuda.
“Yours has been a tour of duty that is punctuated by a string of successes. What readily comes to mind is the role you played at the height of the pandemic when through your efforts, Cuba was called upon and it responded by sending dozens of healthcare workers,” he stated.
Both Prime Minister Browne and Foreign Minister Greene pledged the Antigua and Barbuda government’s unwavering support for the government and people of Cuba in the face of the economic and financial embargo imposed by the United States.
Ambassador Fiffe Cabreja was quite emotional in her response and she thanked profusely the top government officials for their cooperation during her assignment in Antigua and Barbuda that lasted four and a half years.
She pointed out that the efforts of Prime Minister Gaston Browne and Foreign Minister Greeene have been tremendous in galvanizing solidarity among Caribbean leaders in support of Cuba. She stated that Cuba is extremely appreciative of these efforts and will continue to support Antigua and Barbuda.
Ambassador Fiffe Cabreja’s departure comes a week before the departure of a fourteen Antiguan and Barbudan students to Cuba to commence specializing and medical studies. Five doctors will travel to Cuba to specialize in Orthopedics and Traumatology, Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Dermatology and Otolaryngology. Nine students will commence their studies in medicine and dentistry.
On the 6th day of April in 1994, the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and the Republic of Cuba formally established diplomatic relations with a view to cooperate on a wide range of mutual interests. Antigua and Barbuda continuously reaffirms its commitment to the cordial and harmonious relations that exist with the Republic of Cuba since the establishment of bilateral relations.