Jamaica's Prime Minister Andrew Holness (FILE)
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MIAMI – Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness the message coming out of the discussions the United States President Donald Trump had with a select group of Caribbean leaders is that Washington “wants to encourage and promote stronger relationship with the region”.
Trump met with the leaders of St Lucia, Haiti, the Bahamas and Jamaica at his private residence on Friday for a two hour meeting to discuss among other issues the ongoing political and economic situation in Venezuela, where Washington is at the forefront of efforts to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office.
Speaking to reporters following the meeting, Holness said “it’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk, that there will be real investments”, adding “we’re very happy with that message”.
“We feel that that is a message that is long-in-coming, but we’re also satisfied that it’s not just a message. We’re satisfied that there will be instrumental action.”
Holness had earlier posted on his Twitter page that he believed the talks were “promising”.
“Our first meeting as Caribbean leaders with US president . . . was promising as we anticipate further discussions on energy trade, security and issues to do with peace and stability within the region,” he wrote.
Washington along with its allies have been seeking to remove Maduro from office in favour of the Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó, who has declared himself the interim president of the South American country.
CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts and Nevis last month had reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.
St Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said that those attending Friday’s meeting “all recognise there’s a problem in Venezuela”.
“Most people recognise the need for new elections. The world remains divided on that. I think there is a growing consensus that there needs to be fresh elections in Venezuela to resolve the humanitarian crisis,” Chastanet added.
In January, Jamaica, Haiti, the Bahamas, Guyana and St Lucia supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognising Maduro’s second five-year term. Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname voted against the measure.
St Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Belize abstained during the vote; while Grenada was not present.
Earlier this week, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, brushed aside suggestions that Trump’s non-invitation to the other Caribbean leaders was a snub.
“There are people in Trinidad and Tobago who believe that because Trinidad and Tobago was not invited to the private residence of an American president we are somehow diminished,” Rowley told a news conference.
“[But] ladies and gentlemen, we have never stood taller; we have never stood prouder; and, as I speak to you now, CARICOM’s position, as reaffirmed in the last meeting of heads in St Kitts and Nevis, is that there are three people representing and authorised to represent CARICOM outside of its heads and caucus, and that’s the chairman of CARICOM, who is the prime minister of St Kitts and Nevis (Dr Timothy Harris); Trinidad and Tobago’s prime minister or designate; and Barbados through its prime minister or designate,” Rowley added.
In late January, regional leaders – led by Harris and including Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Rowley – met with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the roadmap towards peace and security for Venezuela. (CMC)