The Prime Minister was responding to questions at a joint press conference held at the Office of the Prime Minister this morning, following bilateral discussions with United States (US) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, who is on a two-day working visit to the island.
Mr. Holness emphasised that the focus has to be that every member of CARICOM and every Jamaican ensure that there is engagement within the region.
“So, the conversation should be how do we get greater engagement, how are we talking more. My interest is to get Jamaica talking with everyone and to strengthen our relationship, particularly with our largest trading partner, particularly with our largest security partner, because we have over one million US visitors coming to our shores yearly. We have significant economic, social and cultural interests, so we should never seek to create an artificial divide,”Holness said.
"When friends ask to be hosted or for us to host them, we are friends and so we do that. We are friends with the United States and so we are happy to host here. Not to the exclusion of anyone and if anyone wanted to attend, all they had to do was signal. From my perspective, we would have done everything to ensure that they are present," Holness lamented.
For his part, Secretary Pompeo concurred that “there is no intent from the United States to divide CARICOM”.
“We want all the countries of this region to prosper and be successful. We know that countries in this region will agree with the US on certain positions from time to time and disagree with us from time to time. That’s true for Jamaica, as well as true for many of the folks that I’ll visit with this afternoon. We want to invite them all to be part of the economic prosperity security zone that is this region, and we welcome the leadership that Jamaica has demonstrated in the CARICOM region,” he said.
Secretary Pompeo said the US welcomes dialogue with every country in the region, noting that “we’d want to meet with them all, we’d welcome them all to participate in all of the conversations that we are having about important issues”.
“Things that matter to the United States of America we think matter to each and every country in CARICOM and we want to work with them closely to develop a security prosperity dialogue with them, so that we can all be successful, not divided, but together,” he added.
Pompeo lauded Holness for Jamaica's stand on Venezuela, noting that "I want to commend the Prime Minister for standing up to the illegitimate destablising Maduro dictatorship and its brutal repression of the Venezuelan people. Know this hasn’t been easy but I applaud his leadership. We will keep working together to help the Venezuelan people to have a democratic nation with free and fair elections. And to return to prosperity, that the Venezuelan people so richly deserve, " Pompeo declared.
Later today, the US Secretary of State will engage in round-table discussions with Caribbean officials at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
Secretary Pompeo is expected to deliver a policy speech on the Caribbean’s critical importance to the US, and the country’s renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, interests and economic prosperity.
Critics of today's meeting have charged that a prime reason for Pompeo's trip to the region, is to divide CARICOM and to secure as many votes as possible to have Luis Almagro remain as secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS) when the vote comes up early March. There are 15 votes in CARICOM.
Almagro is openly hostile towards Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and has sided with the US in lobbying for his replacement as that country’s leader by opposition congressman Juan Guaido whi is openly supported by the Trump administration.
The Holness administration has consistently voted with the United States in relation to Venezuela in the OAS.
- Countries: Jamaica