Letters & Opinion

The January 2020 US-Caribbean Pegasus Parley: Will CARICOM Unity Survive Jamaica?

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

WILL Caribbean Community (CARICOM) unity survive the latest round of successful divide-and-rule tactics by Washington in its continuing quest to garner more regional support for President Donald Trump’s plans for Venezuela and to maintain traditional hegemonistic US control over the Organization of American States (OAS)?

These are among the main questions on many minds across the region today about the two-day meeting in Jamaica this week between US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and host Prime Minister Andrew Holness, with Foreign Affairs Ministers from seven CARICOM member-states on the tow.

Like in March 2019 at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf resort when he met five Caribbean leaders representing Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia, this week’s Pompeo meeting with two more CARICOM member-states (Belize and St Kitts and Nevis) is also mainly about Venezuela, which Pompeo has made very clear.

Pompeo also promises to garner Caribbean support for US-backed OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to be re-elected in March, when his first four-year term comes to an end.

More CARICOM countries are today showing greater willingness to go the American way on Venezuela, and this must worry all Caribbean governments and citizens who understand the true nature of this existential threat.

The US used the sorry events in Grenada in 1983 to launch an invasion in the name of a Rescue Mission, with Caribbean support, using Barbados as a base and with Prime Minister JMG ‘Tom’ Adams leading the American charge.

The only thing Barbados and the Caribbean got out of the Grenada invasion, however, was the formation of the Regional Security System (RSS) — a regional military mechanism armed and trained by the US military — while the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) promised by President Ronald Reagan has still never really helped the Caribbean.

CARICOM learned a big unity lesson almost four decades ago and has since held on to its guarded positions of non-interference in the internal affairs of states, opposition to external military intervention and respecting the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace.

But all that changed after President Trump took over the White House in January 2017 and launched a campaign of sanctions and actions for regime change in Venezuela and targeted the Caribbean for special attention and treatment in seeking more regional support for its firm opposition to the Nicolas Maduro administration.

The Mar-a-Lago parley was followed by all five Caribbean countries represented voting with Washington at the OAS on Venezuela issues, including the appointment of a representative of the US-backed opposition leader Juan Guido to take Venezuela’s seat.

Washington has instilled a level of fear of retaliation among OAS member-states, to the extent that only three Caribbean countries (Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname) have dared to vote against the US interventionist policy on Venezuela, while all the rest either supported the America, abstained or registered absent.

When CARICOM held its July 2019 Summit in Saint Lucia, members unanimously opposed any type of military intervention in Venezuela.

But six months later, seven of the 14 CARICOM member-states – a full half in this context – met in Jamaica, with a secret Venezuela agenda, with the chief architect of anti-Venezuela policy in a US administration that insists it is keeping the military option on the table.

Taking the usual advantage of the division between those CARICOM leaders who take principled regional positions and those who readily cite independence and ‘national interests’ to stray from a regional path, the US now has the ears of seven CARICOM nations whose leaders still believe President Trump will deliver on his promises in Florida and Kingston before the November presidential elections.

Nobody knows (yet) exactly what was whispered into the ears of the Jamaica Prime Minister and the six CARICOM Foreign Affairs Ministers during the two days of secret talks. But the meeting must also be seen in the context of the collapse of the West Indies Federation in 1962.

The Kingston gathering was also about the March 2020 election for the position of OAS Secretary General, with two CARICOM states (Antigua and Barbuda and St Vincent and the Grenadines) having proposed a rival candidate to challenge Almagro, who is absolutely important for Washington’s anti-Venezuela policy implementation across the region.

CARICOM has 14 votes at the OAS and its opposition to Almagro’s efforts to impose himself on Dominica ahead of the December 6 general elections, passage of a later CARICOM-proposed resolution expressing concern for the treatment of Bolivia’s indigenous majority after the US-backed October 2019 coup and CARICOM’s mounting of the current offensive against Almagro have angered Washington.

The Jamaica meeting is a natural follow-up to the Mar-a-Lago summit in Florida, both aimed at securing Caribbean support for President Trump’s plans for Venezuela — and for the leadership of the OAS.

Half of all CARICOM states were represented in Kingston this week — and that alone is an added plus for Washington.

Jamaica and the six other nations attending will each say they are seeking the best from America in their nations’ interests, which is their duty. So then, what will be their position if the US is again prepared to promise to deliver all they ask, in return for supporting Washington on Venezuela?

After all is said and done in Kingston, the questions that will naturally arise include:

Will CARICOM nations remain united behind the candidate proposed by two member-states, or will at least half vote with Washington for Almagro in March?

What will be the positions of those seven nations – and others — if and when the US requests Caribbean support for direct intervention – including military — in Venezuela?

And what will all that mean for CARICOM Unity – and CARICOM itself?

The answers are still floating in the air, but each will soon land as the Caribbean’s plucked 2020 Venezuela chickens have already started flying home to roost – whether to roast, or to toast.

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