The crisis in Venezuela will dominate U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s seventh visit to Latin America and the Caribbean, a region of “crucial importance” for the government of Donald Trump.
A round table meeting set for Tuesday in Kingston, is expected to include the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and Pompeo’s main ally in the region, Jamaica.
But the CARICOM head is not happy with the composition of the meeting: “We don’t look to pick fights. I don’t look to pick fights, but I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything. “As chairman of CARICOM, it is impossible for me to agree that my foreign minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” Mottley said.
Addressing a gala to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late Barbados prime minister and regional integrationist, Errol W. Barrow, on Saturday night, Mottley revealed that her decision to reject the invitation to dispatch her foreign minister to the meeting in Kingston on Tuesday was based purely on principle.
“I am conscious that when Errol Barrow stood and remarked that 'we shall be friends of all and satellites of none', little did he know that that statement would be embraced by every single prime minister of governments that succeeded him. It is as valid today, perhaps even more so than it was at the time of its initial delivery.
“And I say so, conscious that principles only mean something when it is inconvenient to stand by them. Conscious that this region must always check itself to ensure that we not become the pawns of others, the satellites of others, but that we keep every most and uppermost in our minds what we must do for our people without simply becoming pawns on a chessboard for others to be able to benefit from,” Mottley stated.
Jamaica’s Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Kamina Johnson Smith, said last week that Pompeo’s two-day working visit, January 21-22, was a symbol of Washington’s engagement with the Caribbean.
“We welcome the visit of Secretary Pompeo as a demonstration of the commitment of the United States of America to once more strengthen its engagement with Jamaica and the wider Caribbean. We truly look forward to this opportunity to engage and reinforce our longstanding ties,” she said.
However, Opposition spokesman on Foreign Affairs Lisa Hanna, while noting the important role that the United States plays in global geopolitics and trade, says “it is indecipherable, that CARICOM as a block appears to be sidelined as only a select group has been invited to attend an important meeting with the Secretary of State.
“In these circumstances, it would have been clearly expected that the entire regional leadership would be served well by such talks, especially at this crucial time when as small developing nations climate change, the illegal gun trade, drug and human trafficking, organized crime and USA trade sanctions affect us all. We, therefore, share the concerns expressed by the Chairman of CARICOM, Prime Minister Mia Mottley about the exclusion of other countries to the meeting,” Hanna said.
The Shadow Minister emphasized that Jamaica must be resolute in preserving the traditional principles on which Jamaica has relied for decades in forging and maintaining solid diplomatic relationships internationally.
Ms. Hanna cautioned the Prime Minister to assert his voice of leadership in defence and promotion of the previously coordinated CARICOM decisions taken on Venezuela and not deviate from them.
“We must not follow like lemmings, but display the fortitude of those before us who have made Jamaica and Jamaicans symbols of international integrity and purveyors of the importance of the adherence to international norms. Jamaica is a respected leader in CARICOM and nothing we do should send the slightest message that we are prepared to sacrifice our CARICOM brothers and sisters on the altar of expediency. We are stronger together.
Pompeo will hold talks with Jamaica’s Cabinet on the second day of the visit and is expected to give a policy speech on the Caribbean region’s critical importance to the United States and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, the ministry said.
It’s understood that Pompeo may be seeking the support of Caribbean countries in the re-election of Luis Almagro as secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), which Trump’s government actively promotes.
“Almagro is the leader we need for the OAS to continue proactively addressing the central challenges facing the region,” said Pompeo last week, who will speak at the OAS headquarters in Washington on Friday before the delegates of the 34 active members of the organism.
However, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who has not been invited to the Jamaica round table, has launched a campaign to ensure that Almagro, is removed from that post when elections are held in March.
“I don’t like what he’s done to the OAS and I don’t like how he’s seeking to implement a neoliberal agenda, don’t like it at all; so I have to fight against that in the interest of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the region. I’m sorry. That is the position,” Gonsalves told a recent Dominica radio programme, ‘Issues At Hand’ on We FM.
Almagro has received much criticism from within CARICOM since February this year when he made a tweet implying that the General Elections in Dominica would probably not be free and fair.
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