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09.05.2009 Politics

VEEP Launches 50th Anniversary Of Diplomatic Relations With Ghana

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Vice President John Dramani Mahama on Thursday appealed to the US to consider lifting the decades-long economic embargo it has imposed on Cuba.  Speaking at a programme to mark 50 years of diplomatic ties between Ghana and Cuba in Accra, the Vice President appealed to the US to allow for a thawing in the relations between the two on the basis that 'all nations great or small have the right to determine their own destiny.'

The US in 1959 imposed an economic blockade on the island nation of Cuba and despite worldwide opposition the sanctions have remained in place, stifling the health of the Cuban economy. US President Barrack Obama recently announced an easing in the travel restrictions imposed on the island. However, the cardinal principle of the blockade, isolating Cuba economically from the Western world remains intact.

Vice President Mahama re-echoed the stance taken by the bulk of the membership of the United Nations that calls for the lifting of the blockade, describing it as 'suffocating'. 'Ghana joins the vast majority of member states of the United Nations in calling upon the United States to lift the suffocating economic blockade it has imposed on Cuba,' Vice President Mahama said. Cuba continues to be a major player in the global geo-political arena, granting military and economic assistance to many developing nations.

The country has achieved some important development milestones which have led to the elimination of illiteracy and a doctor-patient ratio of 1 to 100, leading to an estimated life expectancy of 77 years. Cuba is also cited as being among the forces that hastened the demise of apartheid in South Africa.

Vice President Mahama said 'racism has been substantially shattered in Africa partly due to the intervention of Cuba'.  With regard to ties with Ghana the Vice President said Cuba continued to send high level professionals to fill the dearth in manpower in the health sector, approving the development as 'the most outstanding contributions of Cuba to Ghana's development efforts'.

 'The heroism of some of these health workers has been striking. Last year as conflict broke out in Bawku and even Ghanaians were fleeing from the mayhem, Cuban doctors stayed on to look after the sick and the wounded just as they had done in Wenchi a couple of years earlier,' he added.

Dr Benjamin Kumbour, Deputy Minister of Health, said Cuba had since 2000 provided the ministry with a constant pool of 200 medical doctors and other auxiliary health staff working as professors in the medical schools, cardiologists, pediatricians and physician specialists among others.

Collectively, these professionals attended to 1.7 million cases and performed nearly 18,000 surgeries in 2008 alone.
Mr Miguel Perez Cruz, Cuban Ambassador, said more than 1,000 Ghanaians have benefited from scholarship facilities from Cuba.

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