Letters & Opinion

The US, CARICOM and Summit of The Americas: Of Hosts, Invitations and Exclusions…

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member-states are somewhat unlikely to attend the upcoming June 6-10 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, if the host decides on its own invitation list.

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and Permanent Representative to the OAS Sir Ronald Sanders said last week the Caribbean would not attend, after Washington announced it won’t invite Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.

Brian Nichols, the US Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, announced May 2 that Washington hadn’t invited the three nations to the Los Angeles Summit “because they do not respect democracy.”

However, Ambassador Sanders says, “The Summit of the Americas is not a meeting of the United States, so it cannot decide who is invited and who is not… It is a summit of all the Heads of State of the Western Hemisphere…”

The senior Caribbean diplomat reiterated the position taken earlier by CARICOM leaders (in March) at their last Inter-sessional Heads of Government Meeting in Belize, to “refrain from attending the event if the exclusion of the aforementioned states occurs…”

Belize’s Prime Minister John Briceno, recalling the united position taken two months ago at a meeting he hosted and chaired, said earlier this week: “The Summit of the Americans should be a summit of The Americas and not a summit of some of the Americas…”

He said Washington was “lobbying intensely” among CARICOM member-states, but as far as Belize is concerned, “the situation stands the same.”

Last week, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel condemned the planned exclusion of his country, saying Cuba can contribute to the discussions on a regional and hemispheric approach to COVID-19 treatment and recovery, especially with its Abdala vaccine.

“The great challenges of humanity are not solved through confrontation and violence, but through solidarity and cooperation,” said the Cuban President.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez also said Washington is putting pressure on several Latin American and Caribbean countries that oppose the exclusions.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador this week again called for “inclusion of all countries” in the Summit of the Americas.

Mexico’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marcelo Ebrard, later said  that the decision by the host country to exclude Latin American countries from the upcoming Summit of the Americas is more of a hindrance than a help.

He said, “There will be no way to bring the US and Latin American countries closer together as long as the US continues to be tough on the region.”

Clearly, CARICOM is under pressure right now from both sides of The Atlantic as world powers try to influence the votes of the 14-member grouping, or win support from its members individually.

The US, UK and European Union (EU) have been lobbying CARICOM support and succeeded in splitting the regional grouping right down the middle in voting last month at the United Nations on Russia’s exclusion from the UN’s Human Rights Committee – that after the CARICOM Secretariat had already issued an earlier diplomatically-safe and politically-neutral statement condemning Russia, calling for respect for territorial integrity and for both sides top stop the fighting.

The US, UK and EU are also still pressing individual CARICOM member-states to join their economic sanctions against Russia, even threatening reprisals against Economic Citizenship programs of nations that don’t.

And now the US is lobbying Caribbean member-states of the OAS to break with the united position of staying away if any nation is not invited…

CARICOM is certainly not in Washington’s good books at present – and not in the UK’s either, the former British West Indian colonies (except Surinam and Haiti) altogether condemning London’s decision to disband the parliament, suspend the constitution and rule the British Virgin Islands (BVI) territories directly from London.

The member-states are more likely to be at-one on the burning BVI question than on the Americas Summit, as regional observers have learned over time that when it comes to preserving CARICOM unity on external relations matters, the principle has always been to hope for the best and expect the worst.

CARICOM supported recognition of Maurice Bishop’s administration after the Grenada Revolution in 1979, but only Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago opposed the US-led invasion in 1983, following which it’s taken decades for the regional grouping to regain its admirable standing on the regional and global stages.

CARICOM opposed the Trump Administration’s four-year-long efforts to win the Caribbean over to Washington’s position in the Anti-Venezuela camp at the OAS; it thwarted Washington’s plans to win Caribbean support for the electoral coup against Bolivia’s President Evo Morales; and resisted plans to impose election observers on Dominica for its last general elections.

The US positions against Venezuela was led at the OAS by the so-called ‘Lima Group’ that even Peru has pulled-out of and which became silent after Trump lost power.

Earlier indications that Washington was hoping to strike an oil deal with Caracas in the Oil and Gas war against Russia have disappeared, now that Venezuela isn’t even invited to Los Angeles.

It will be argued that Cuba and Venezuela are not OAS member-states, Venezuela having withdrawn two years ago and Cuba has stayed out since 1962.

But under President Barack Obama, Cuban President Raul Castro was invited to the 2015 Summit of the Americas in Washington; and Castro was also again invited in 2018, with President Trump at the White House.

Facing mid-term elections and under pressure at home as inflation wreaks havoc and with his popularity lower than any other President at this point after just over a year in office, President Biden is highly-unlikely to back-down or budge on his exclusionary invitation list, in which case it can be expected that Washington will do all to deepen and widen the CARICOM split shown at the UN.

Between now and the June 6 Summit, therefore, virtually anything can happen between the US having its way and CARICOM standing its ground.

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