The Guardian 9 March, 2005

Uruguay and Cuba exchange

Heriberto Rosabal and Ismael Francisco

MONTEVIDEO: Felipe Pérez Roque and Reinaldo Gargano, the foreign ministers of Cuba and Uruguay respectively, signed a statement last week in which the two countries have committed themselves making an agreement in which the South American country will provide the island with agricultural products and services in return for pharmaceutical and biotechnological products, medical equipment and a transference of technology.

Following talks between Pérez Roque, Gargano and the Uruguayan head of state in the Council of Ministers hall at government headquarters, the two ministers signed the accord before the press and outlined the content of the document and other aspects of bilateral relations.

Gargano reiterated that the new government of the of Uruguay feels honoured to have re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba on the same day that it assumed the mandate, describing it as an act of national dignity.

Cuba belongs to Latin America, he added. Its national hero José Martí was the consul for Uruguay in the United States and represented Uruguay at the International Monetary Conference that took place during his era in the North American country itself. Besides this, "he has been a spiritual guide for us in terms of his conception of freedom and independence of the peoples."

Gargano explained that their intention is to exchange items which are mutually necessary and advantageous for the two nations; an auspicious beginning that will afford Cuba the products that nature and its harmful seasons, current economic circumstances and the US blockade deprive them of.

For Uruguay, it is of extraordinary importance to be able to purchase from Cuba items that are needed to improve the healthcare system and that meet the needs of the country's Social Emergency Plan, Gargano said.

He concluded by saying that the renewal of relations and the signing of the document would contribute not only to a better and mutually beneficial relationship with Cuba, but also to consolidating integration amongst Latin Americans.

Pérez Roque expressed his satisfaction at the signing of the statement, and affirmed that broad possibilities exist for further collaboration and development in the economic sphere between Cuba and Uruguay.

Current bilateral trade is modest, he explained; however, an agreement via which Cuba would receive agricultural products and export medical-pharmaceutical, biotechnological and other goods, would open up positive possibilities for both countries.

He reported that during the talks, it was agreed to rapidly advance toward the adoption of an agreement to recognise university degrees and so regularise the situation of those who study in Cuba.

Felipe said that he had delivered a message from President Fidel Castro to President Vázquez that was cordial, friendly and expressed solidarity with Uruguay and the new government, and also included an invitation to visit Cuba; it also expressed satisfaction and emotion at the infinite friendship and sense of brotherhood and solidarity toward Cuba on the part of Uruguayans.


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