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US missions for EC countries

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US missions for EC countries

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A key United states Congressional panel wants Washington to set up diplomatic missions in every Eastern Caribbean island-nation, instead of having everything done by the American Embassy in Barbados.
Although the diplomatic outposts wouldn’t be full-fledged and fully staffed as in Bridgetown, the committee believes the presence of an American Foreign Service Officer and a permanent mission in Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Lucia, St Kitts-Nevis and St Vincent would end the hardship imposed on American business executives and US citizens in those islands as well as those countries’ nationals now forced to travel to Barbados for visas and other services.
A resolution calling for the offices was approved by a voice vote on Capitol Hill, garnering bi-partisan support. The effort was engineered by US Congressman Eliot Engel, Democrat of the Bronx, with full support from Representative Connie Mack, a Republican of Florida.
Both insisted that the new embassies should be patterned off the US mission in Grenada which reports to the US Ambassador or chargé d’affaires in Barbados and is staffed by a single Foreign Service Officer and a few locally recruited employees.
In a statement to the Foreign Affairs panel, Engel, who represents thousands of Caribbean immigrants who live in the Bronx and Westchester County, listed several reasons to support the case for the missions:
– In order to meet with local officials, private businesses or civil society, American diplomats must fly to the islands from Barbados or Washington, often on expensive, infrequent flights and stay overnight in expensive hotels.
– Americans living in the countries don’t have a fully accredited consular staff to assist them in the event of an emergency.
– Key national events and meetings “often pass with no American presence”.
– Close working relationships with key leaders “never develop because our diplomats are not there to establish them”.
– American diplomatic activities were “limited to phones, emails and faxes, when the best interaction is often carried out in person”.
– Venezuela and Cuba have established embassies in all of the countries involved, so the United States was “behind the diplomatic eight-ball because we are simply” not in the countries. (TB)