A visit by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to Jamaica to meet with eight of CARICOM’s 15 Foreign Ministers and to hold bilateral discussions with Jamaica’s Prime Minister, has divided governments across the English-speaking Caribbean.
Prior to the 21/22 January meetings CARICOM’s Chair, Barbados’ Prime Minister, Mia Mottley, sharply rejected the US approach, drawing a clear line between her government’s position and that of the Jamaican Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, and criticising the side-lining of the regional bloc.
Speaking at an event to commemorate former Prime Minister and regional integrationist, Errol Barrow, Mottley described the US approach as an attempt to divide and rule, something that both Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and Secretary Pompeo subsequently refuted.
Quoting the words of Errol Barrow “we shall be friends of all and satellites of none”, Mottley said his observation was “as valid today, perhaps even more so than it was at the time of its initial delivery”. The region, she said, should not become pawns or satellites of others.
“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,” she said.
Her position was backed by Trinidad’s Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, who said that Mottley spoke for Trinidad and had his government’s full support. Other governments that confirmed that they supported the position of CARICOM’s chair included Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, Antigua’s Foreign Minister, Chet Greene, who hoped that the Caribbean would continue to see the value of working together to promote common solutions, and St Vincent’s Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves.
Speaking in response following his bilateral meetings with Holness, Pompeo told a news conference “There is no intent by the United States to divide CARICOM. Not yesterday, not today, not tomorrow. We want all the countries of this region to prosper and be successful”. “‘We want to invite them all to be part of the economic prosperity security zone that is this region. We welcome the leadership that Jamaica has demonstrated in this region, in CARICOM”.
“There is absolutely no attempt to divide, we have conversations, dialogue with every country, we welcome that, we want to meet with them all, We would welcome them all to participate in all the conversations that we are having about the important issues and the things that matter to the United States of America, we think matter to each and every country in the CARICOM. We want to work with them closely to develop our security prosperity, dialogue with them so we can all be successful, not divided, but together”.
Prime Minister Holness told the same news conference that he wanted to “endorse” the sentiments made by Pompeo, adding “Jamaica does not want to see and does not engage in any policy that would divide CARICOM”.
“CARICOM is an important fraternity of countries. But more than that it is the fraternity and we want to keep it that way. In modern diplomatic relations, in the exercise of foreign policy we all must respect the sovereignty of countries to determine how they structure their foreign policy”. Continuing, he said: “We are friends with the United States, so we are happy to host here, not to the exclusion of anyone, and if anyone wanted to attend, they just had to signal. From my perspective we would have done everything to ensure that they are present”.
Holness went on to stress the importance for Jamaica of engagement and strengthening its relationship with the US, Jamaica’s largest trading partner, largest security partner, and “particularly because we have over a million US visitors visiting our shores yearly”.
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