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OUR CARIBBEAN – Questions on elusive Obama Caricom ‘tango’


Rickey Singh

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UNITED STATES’ PRESIDENT Barack Obama had promised to have a dedicated meeting in Washington last year with the Heads of Government of the 14 independent member states of the Caribbean Community. It did not happen.
His promise followed an informal meeting held on the margins of last April’s Fifth Summit Of The Americas in Port-of-Spain with the Community’s leaders who were, and remain anxious to discuss with him critical issues affecting this region and related also to the global financial and economic crisis.
CARICOM leaders patiently waited for the meeting but, according to my inquiry, no official correspondence seems to exist at the Community Secretariat in Georgetown that offers even a brief explanation why it could not be held as intended.
 Like American presidents before him, Obama had declared early in his historic presidency recognition of CARICOM as an important “partner” of America’s “third border” in matters of security, drug trafficking and issues of poverty and unequal development.
But this past Tuesday, aware also of CARICOM’s comparatively miniscule but rapid interventions in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake disaster of January 12, President Obama found time to have a scheduled meeting at the White House with one leader of the Caribbean region – President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic.
The Dominican Republic is a partner of CARICOM in the conxtext of its membership in the CARIFORUM group of states that have a structured relationship with the European Union (EU) and with which an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) of lingering controversies was signed in 2008.
Following a half-hour meeting that would undoubtedly have been preceded with exchange of relevant correspondence on USA-DR relations, President Obama was telling the assembled media of the “valuable role” played by the government in Santo Domingo during the critical initial phase of the earthquake.
 As the first Africa American president, Obama is yet to make even a fly-over visit to bear a personal eyewitness account of the mind-blowing destruction of Haiti, the first black nation to win its freedom from colonialism through a revolution of black slaves.
He could have done so even if meant being facilitated via the Dominican Republic – Haiti’s border neighbour that too many governments in Santo Domingo have been treating with utter contempt, and worse, while prefering to project a cultural profile of being Hispanic and European in contrast to Haiti as black and African.
Haiti is today a full member of CARICOM, a regional integration movement that, for all its challenging internal problems, continue to reflect unity in coordination of foreign policy, and in reaching out to states of the Greater Caribbean, including the Dominican Republic. and, of course, Cuba.
However, for reasons not easy to appreciate, the Dominican Republic has been increasingly absent within recent years, at leadership level, from CARICOM’s Heads Of Government Conference, as invited special guest.
This happened for the last three summits, including the 31st that concluded last week in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Why? And why not the meeting, as promised by the president, with CARICOM Heads of Government? Perhaps one may now be in the making?
Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.

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