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Office of the President (OP)
Khama returns Cuba State visit (Visit Wrap-up)

H.E. the President arrived back in Gaborone this morning (Sunday 13/6/10) from his successful State Visit to Cuba, an international tour which will also took him to the United States, for the annual Conservation International Board Meeting in Chicago, and the London, for a Raisa Gorbachev Foundation fundraising event to fight cancer.

While in Cuba, H.E. received and held talks with his counterpart Cuban President of the Council of Ministers and State Gen. Raul Castro Ruz, in which the two leaders pledged re-double their joint efforts in further enhancing the two countries longstanding bilateral cooperation.

The four day State Visit had culminated in the signing of a number of accords in the areas of healthcare, education, and sports. Officials from both sides also held three workshops on health, higher education and external relations.

In the area of health the Hon. Minister of Health, the Rev. Dr. John Seakgosing, who had accompanied the President, and his Cuban counterpart, the Hon. Jose Ramon Balaguer, signed a new MOU, which provides for the continued engagement of Cuban medical personnel.

Cuba has also offered to establish an eye clinic at Maun's Letsholathebe Hospital in a deal that is expected to be finalized at a November meeting of the two countries Joint Permanent Commission of Cooperation.

At its November meeting the Joint Commission will further consider Botswana's proposal on cooperation in the control of vectors that transmit diseases such as malaria, filarias and onchocercosis through the use of biolarvicides. Studies have indicated that such vector-spread diseases lower productivity through prolonged sicknesses.

While still in Havana, Minister Seakgosing had observed to reporters that Botswana was looking forward to Cuba's new offering in the treatment of diabetes through co-operation in providing medical care to its growing diabetic population.

In Education, the Minister of Education and Skills Development, the Hon. Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, who was also part of the President's delegation, told reporters that country has promised to provide teachers for the vocational training centre. She noted the Cuban lecturers will assist locals on the running of some programmes as well as empower them with the required skills. She further said the Cuban lecturers will be used in teacher training.

The Education Minister expressed her gratitude to the Cuban government for assisting in the areas of human resource development. Eight Batswana students have recently graduated from Cuban tertiary institutions, while thirteen are still studying sciences, accounts and sports.

During a meeting with the Batswana students studying in Cuba, the President had urged them to take full advantage of the "outstanding educational facilities" in Cuba so that they can be able to empower Batswana when they complete their studies.

He also advised the students to achieve more with less, observing that due to the recent global economic crisis, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the government to meet all their material needs. He said that Government will, nonetheless, do all in its power to provide them with study materials.

For their part, students suggested that they should be attached to some government institutions during their holidays as an empowerment initiative.

In the field of sports, Cuba has proposed to establish a high performance center for volleyball in Botswana, while cooperation in tourism is expected to include attachments to Cuban hotels, training in the management and development of museums, arts and crafts and performing arts.

On the diplomatic front, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, the Hon. Phadu Skelemani and the Cuban Deputy Foreign Minister Marcelino Medina also signed agreement on co-operation.

During the visit both president Khama and minister Skelemani reiterated Botswana's longstanding position that the US trade embargo against Cuba as unnecessary and unhelpful, further appealing for a revocation of the sanctions.

Earlier President Khama observed that Cuba's assistance to Botswana was enormous and decisive, adding in an interview:

"Sometimes in Africa we have received millions of dollars from wealthy nations, but in proportional terms, Cuba has given to us much more than anybody."

While in Cuba, President Khama also laid a wreath to the Cubans fallen in military missions in Africa, where he praised their participation in the continent's liberation struggles including their decisive contribution to ending the apartheid regime in South Africa.

The State Visit was Khama's second to Cuba, after he first visited the country in June 2007 as the then Vice President.

In 2009 Cuban Vice President, H.H. Mr Estaban Lazo Hernandez also visited Botswana at the invitation of H.H. the Vice President Lt. Gen. Mompati Merafhe.

Close Botswana ties with Cuba began in 1977 and have since been cemented through the operations of the Joint Permanent Commission.

In 1989 the two countries signed an agreement on economic, scientific and cultural cooperation. High level visits started in 2002 when then President, H.E. Festus Mogae toured the country (BGCIS w/onsite reporting from BOPA).

From: BGCIS w/additional onsite reports from BOPA

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