Spain wants Jamaica to make Spanish a second language

Senior staff reporter

Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Spain's Secretary for International Cooperation, Fernando Garcia Casas, thinks bilateral cooperation between his country and Jamaic a could be greatly increased by encouraging greater use of the Spanish language here.

“We would like to see Spanish made a second language in Jamaica: More use of the Spanish language. I believe this is an important factor in tourism, because you are surrounded by Spanish- speaking countries”,” he stated.

Casas was speaking with the Jamaica Observer when he stopped off in Kingston earlier this month, as part of a visit to five selected Caricom states, following the 47th regular session of the general assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Mexico which focused on the political situation in Venezuela.

He said that Spain would be willing to cooperate with Jamaica in training local Spanish teachers.

“It is a good trade-off for our countries, and this is the responsibility of our governments,” he said.

“The relationship between Jamaica and Spain has always been good, and we want to celebrate the history of this relationship,” Casas said.

During his visit, he held talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness, Finance and Public Service Minister Audley Shaw, Minister of Tourism, Edmund Bartlett and the permanent secretary in the Ministry Science, Energy and Technology, Hillary Alexander.

Casas came to Jamaica with instructions from his government to seek ways to foster the relationship between Spain and Jamaica, which celebrated 50 years in 2016.

In an interview with Sunday Finance, he noted that Jamaica was among several Caribbean states he visited, including Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.

He said that he visited the Caricom states because they were among the countries suggested to him by Spain's representatives in the region.

“And we find that there are better prospects for co-operation (with these countries), given that there is an embassy here in Kingston, and in Guyana, where the headquarters of CARICOM is situated, as well as Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia with which Spain also has bilateral agreements.

He noted that a number of Caribbean and other regional leaders have visited Spain since May, 2002 when their discussions with Spain's political leaders in Madrid led to further talks and resulted in the joint Madrid Declaration which led to a summit in Trinidad and Tobago in 1999.

He said that during this recent trip to the region he had discussions on the fringes of the OAS meeting with a number of Caricom leaders attending the session, and was impressed with “the intensity of the relationships between them”.

He said that they explored Spain's interest in increasing economic cooperation with the region, in areas like tourism, and specifically in the availability of airline flights between Spain and the Caribbean noting that he had travelled to Jamaica with Bartlett who was on the same inaugural flight.

“We are interested in being in the region and being partners here,” he said, noting that Spain is second only to the United States, in terms of investments in Jamaica in recent years.

Casas noted that Spain has invested over US$1.5 billion in Jamaica's tourist industry, creating 7,500 new rooms with 1,000 more rooms being built. He said that this means that Spain's investments now covers 25 per cent of the Jamaican tourism market.

Casas said that he was very interested in the discussions with the Ministry of Science, Energy and Technology on cooperation in the development of renewable energy.

“Spain is a global leader in renewable energy, and we discussed with the ministry areas in which we could be of help with some of the developments in Jamaica,” he explained.

He said that he was particularly interested in discussions on thermal energy.

Interestingly, Casas confirmed that he was not terribly concerned about crime in Jamaica.

“No. I mean crime is a problem in many Latin American countries. But, I would say that it is something that has to be dealt with through social intervention and social policy,” he stated.

He said that Spanish police has had a hand in training police forces in states like El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, with a focus protecting the human rights of the civilians.

However, he said that there was a difference in bilateral cooperation on crime as well, because they are Spanish-speaking compared with Jamaica which is English-speaking.

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