US Secretary of State Meets with Regional Officials as CARICOM Chairman Questions Exclusion of Others

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday January 21, 2020 – United States’ Secretary of State Michael Pompeo is meeting with some of the region’s leaders and Foreign Ministers in Jamaica this week, even as questions are raised about why other countries were excluded.

Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is also the current chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), has suggested that Pompeo’s meeting with foreign ministers of only six Caribbean nations – The Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia – is an attempt to divide the region.

His two-day working visit to Jamaica, which begins today, has been welcomed by the island’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith who said it is “a demonstration of the commitment of the United States of America to once more strengthen its engagement with Jamaica and the wider Caribbean”.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said that during the visit, in addition to meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness and senior members of his Cabinet, Pompeo is expected to give a policy speech on the Caribbean region’s critical importance to his country, and the US’ renewed commitment to closer ties, based on shared values, interests and economic prosperity.

But not all the region’s leaders or Foreign Affairs Ministers were invited, and Mottley made note of that over the weekend. She indicated that Barbados would not be sending a representative.

“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,” she said.

Mottley was backed by Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM David Comissiong who said in a statement that Barbados was not showing any animosity or disrespect to anyone, only carrying out a leadership duty in the overall best interest of CARICOM.

“[US President Donald] Trump pulled this type of stunt last year with his invitation of four specially-selected and invited CARICOM Prime Ministers to Trump’s private property in Florida, much to the chagrin and suspicion of several of the other leaders and Governments of CARICOM,” he said, referring to a March 2019 meeting attended by the leaders of Jamaica, St Lucia, the Bahamas and Haiti who discussed the political situation in Venezuela.

“One of the fundamental missions of CARICOM is to deal with powerful third world countries, not as individual Small Island States, but as a unified, collective of 15 nations. By doing so, we forge ourselves into a much stronger bargaining unit, and are better able to withstand the pressures that many big nations apply when they are conducting their foreign affairs. So, we in CARICOM should always strive for unity and collective action,” he added.

Prime Minister Mottley’s position has also gathered regional support, including from her Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Dr Keith Rowley and Antigua and Barbuda’s Foreign Minister Chet Greene.

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