United States and Caribbean ‘bound by friendship’ – US President


Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller (right), emphasises a point while addressing journalists following Thursday’s (April 9) bilateral meeting with United States President, Barack Obama (left), at Jamaica House. (Credit: Yhomo Hutchinson)

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday April 10, 2015, CMC – US President Barack Obama ended a one-day visit to Jamaica on Thursday, after spending the day with regional leaders and young people where he discussed several issues from the state of Jamaica’s economy, the energy crisis and education.

Regarding education, hundreds of young people from across the region and Latin America will benefit from US$70 million education investment initiative proposed by the United States.

Obama announced the initiative during a meeting with young leaders at the University of the West Indies Mona Campus, on Thursday afternoon.

He also launched a Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative to build on an exchange programme he started years ago.

“Four years ago I launched an initiative called the hundred thousand strong in the Americas and the goal was to have a hundred thousand US students studying in this region and a hundred thousand of this region’s students studying in the United States at the end of this decade And we are on track to meet that goal, so today I’m proud to launch the Young Leaders of the Americas Initiative right here in Kingston, this is not your traditional exchange. We are going to seek out the most innovative young entrepreneurs and civil society leaders in the Caribbean, Latin America and we are going to give them a chance to learn, and the capital to make a difference,” he said.

Concerning the international drug policy of the United States, the president said more discussion is needed and the full cooperation of Caribbean governments is needed.

“Our current policy continues to be to decrease demand, we need to focus on the public health approach to decreasing demands and we have to stop the flow of guns and the flow of cash into the Caribbean, Central America and Latin America and at the same time, they have to cooperate with us to decrease the power of the transnational drug organizations which are vicious.”

He said the focus should not be on “throwing every low level person with possession into prison,” they should also be treated. Obama added that with economic development and alternative opportunities for the youth, “then I think we can strike the right balance, the process of not simply throwing not every low level person.” Another issue that was placed on the table during the Towne Hall meeting was that of his country’s immigration policy.

He says part of the issue is dealing with undocumented immigrants living in the U.S and providing them with a pathway to earn legal status and added that the U.S. is not into separating families from undocumented relatives.

During the meeting with CARICOM leaders, the President also announced a US$20 million effort to jumpstart private and public sector investment in clean energy projects in the Caribbean and Central America.

“If we can lower these costs through the development of clean energy and increased energy efficiency we could unleash, I think, a whole host of additional investments and growth,” Obama said.

In remarking on the relationship between the Caribbean and the United States, the president said the bonds are “extraordinarily strong”.

“We are bound by friendship and shared values and by family and we have a great stake in each other’s success.”

The President noted that through the CARICOM-US Summit, leaders could focus on some of the unique opportunities and challenges that the region faces and “make sure that we deepen or co-operation in economic growth and how we can further integrate the region”.

He said said it is also important to ensure that the Governments of the region and the US are open and transparent and uphold human rights for all citizens and his Government is also committed to combating transnational crime through its Caribbean Basin Security Initiative.

CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas, said the meeting was significant because “it reinforces the symbiotic relationship between the US and the region. We are joined by history, by migration, by commerce and geography.”

He said the people of the Caribbean look to the US to reinforce the message of social mobility, the promise of societal growth, economic development, equity and fairness.

“At the core of the mission is that of the development of our people, to make their lives better, free from crime and violence, with incomes that support a good living for themselves and their families, and to ensure a bright future for our young people.”

After laying a wreath at National Heroes Park in honour of the thousands of Jamaicans who died in World Wars I and II, the President departed for Panama where he will attend the Summit of the Americas.

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