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Cuba Tightens Ties As Suva's Standing Diminishes

Fiji: Cuba Tightens Ties As Suva's International Standing Diminishes

By Andreas von Warburg - For More, See... The Gstaad Project

The Cuban government is tightening its ties with the Pacific Rim. After establishing closer diplomatic relations with the Solomon Islands earlier last month, Cuba has now offered to assist Fiji in developing new programs in the area of social health; a similar venture was initiated by Cuba in Nauru in 2006.

"We are willing to further strengthen our bilateral relations through provision of medical scholarships and provision of expert trainers in boxing and other sports, including special programs for agriculture and sugar," commented Ambassador Rodrigo Malmeirca Diaz, Cuban Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with accreditation to Fiji.

While the Fijian government has not yet accepted the offer, Interim Minister for Public Service Poseci Bune has publicly showed appreciation for the offer and said he will discuss a possible partnership with Cuba in a Cabinet meeting in the next couple of months, hoping a follow-up mission could start by the end of the year.

"This could happen together with a special trade and development mission to Venezuela and other South American countries." Bune said.

Since the last coup in Fiji, Cuba has been very active in the Pacific Rim region, both on site and at the United Nations. The offered made to the post-coup Fijian government follows great tensions between Suva and the international community. New Zealand and Australia have been lobbying at the UN in New York to ban Fiji troops from peacekeeping missions, while the European Union – a major aid provider to the island – has been voicing its concerns after the interim government said it would not immediately lift the state of emergency powers.

Since the military coup on December 5 last year, Fiji's international standing has been suffering. Earlier this month the International Parliamentary Organization, the oldest international entity in existence today, has suspended Fiji's membership – the country's Parliament was dissolved right after the coup. A similar decision was taken earlier by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association; in addition, Fiji has not been invited to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Uganda this coming November.

"It means that we are isolated. It means that we do not participate in Commonwealth discussions where all the parliaments of the world are a part of," Mary Chapman, ousted Fiji Parliament secretary-general commented after IPU's decision.

Fiji has been under observation also by the United Nations. While the Security Council has not acted yet – Fiji is not one of the issues included in the May program of work -, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is waiting for the report of a fact-finding mission to the island. The mission ended its work later last month and it's now drafting its recommendations.

Yesterday, another UN fact-finding mission on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the rights of peoples to self-determination was deployed to Fiji, at the invitation of the interim Government. The mission will be examining the country's situation until May 18.


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