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US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo and Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Jamaica on Janaury 22, 2020 in controversial visit

Only CARICOM countries can divide CARICOM

By Sir Ronald Sanders
(The writer is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United States and the Organization of American States. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own)
 
The meeting between U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and the Foreign Ministers of seven Caribbean countries, gave rise to many questions, but the U.S. seeking to “divide CARICOM” should not be one of them.
 
External forces can try as they wish to divide the members of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM), but only those Caribbean nations can cause the division. 
 
So, there should be no blame attributed to the U.S. government for “dividing CARICOM” by the invitation to foreign ministers of only six of its 14 independent member-states to attend a January 22 meeting, hosted by the Jamaica government. The U.S., like every other government in the world, has the perfect right to invite to a meeting any governments with which it wants to confer.  
 
The issue – if, indeed, there is an issue – is with those CARICOM governments, particularly the host government, that agreed to the meeting without insisting that no CARICOM government should have been excluded from a rare opportunity to consult a U.S. representative as high-level as the Secretary of State.
 
After all, the meeting was held in the Caribbean, under the auspices of a CARICOM government. It was not held in the U.S. under the control of the U.S. government as occurred when President Trump invited five Caribbean leaders to Mar-a-Largo, his estate in Florida.
 
At the very least, it was within the Jamaica Prime Minister’s capacity to advise the U.S. government that it would be both prudent and beneficial for representatives of all 14 independent CARICOM governments to be invited to what Mr. Pompeo’s own State Department described as “a roundtable discussion” with the named foreign ministers of the seven Caribbean countries. It should be noted that, in addition to the six invited foreign ministers from CARICOM countries, the Dominican Republic was also an invitee as it was to the Mar-a-largo gathering with President Trump. The CARICOM six were: Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, St Kitts-Nevis and St Lucia.
 
In the past, whenever any CARICOM government has hosted a leader of a major nation, it has been the general practice to invite all CARICOM governments to be present for discussions.   The wider CARICOM meeting with such leaders did not preclude a bilateral meeting by the host government with the invited leader. Indeed, it was the norm that a bilateral meeting would be held between the host and guest leaders, followed by the wider consultation with all CARICOM governments.
 
In this context, the off-the-cuff remark, made by Jamaica Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, at a press conference with Mr. Pompeo, that, “if any­one wanted to attend, they just had to signal”, was unfortunate. Mr. Holness is a decent man; undoubtedly, had he prepared his response, it would have been more considered and less dismissive than it sounded.
 
No CARICOM country should have to ask for an invitation between a representative of the world’s superpower and representatives of CARICOM countries. From the inception of the treaty organisation, CARICOM member countries have operated in recognition that there is strength in their taking common positions on the crucial issues that affect them jointly. 
 
A separate collective CARICOM meeting with Mr. Pompeo would not have deprived the Jamaica government of bilateral discussions of matters of peculiar interest to Jamaica. However, apart from specific national interests, Jamaican concerns, that are shared with all other CARICOM countries, would have been bolstered by Mr. Pompeo hearing the collective voice of the 14 independent member states.   That opportunity was lost at the January 22 meeting.
 
It is for the other five CARICOM countries that readily attended the meeting to consider whether they should have accepted an invitation that excluded eight of the countries on whose support and solidarity they depend in global affairs.
 
Would the arguments that they advanced, not have had greater effect if Mr. Pompeo had heard them from 14 countries rather than 6, especially as among the remaining eight countries would have been Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Suriname – three countries that possess resources that are of considerable interest to the U.S.?
 
Of course, at the heart of this matter is that CARICOM countries have never agreed to harmonise their external relations, as have the (still) 28 countries of the European Union (EU), which conduct their collective policies through a single European Commission under the direction of a Council of Ministers of the member states. CARICOM governments have clung to the notion that CARICOM is “a community of sovereign states”.   In affirming this position in their external relations, they have placed the rights of “sovereignty” over the obligations of “community”, allowing each of them to pursue short term “benefits” from external sources at the expense of the longer term gains they would get from being seen, indeed and in fact, as a solid and unshakeable group. 
 
But, there should be no mistake. External forces will always try to break any solidarity of CARICOM countries if it is in their interest to do so. No CARICOM government should behave as if such attempts are an affront – it has always been a fact of international relations.  Instead, CARICOM countries should consider what they lose individually and collectively by fragmenting themselves, instead of acting in solidarity. 
 
As for the Jamaica meeting, Mr. Pompeo had one overriding objective and that was to secure the support of the seven attending countries to vote for Mr. Luis Almagro to be re-elected as the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States. 
 
The U.S. has calculated Mr. Almagro’s support and reached the unavoidable conclusion that he does not now have the 18 votes required to be re-elected. There is nothing wrong with the U.S. government promoting and advancing a candidate it favours; many countries in the Lima Group and in the Caribbean are also promoting the candidates they back.
 
The more fundamental issue is not whether external forces are trying to divide CARICOM, but whether CARICOM will allow itself to be divided. Maybe, at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in February in Barbados, the 14 Heads of independent member states should lock themselves in a room, without anyone else, and thrash out this issue.

Latest News in Pictures

 

Meeting between US Congressional Representatives, Global Banks and Caribbean government representative.  Congresswoman Maxin Waters (centre in red), Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne to her right, Sir Ronald Sanders to Prime Minister Browne's right.  Capitol Hill on November 14, 2019

 

Signing agreements for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Kosovo and Antigua and Barbuda in Washington, DC on 24 July 2019.  The agreemenst were signed by the Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Ronald Sanders (sitting right) and the Ambassador of the Republic of Kosovo, Vlora Citaku (sitting left). Frymezin Isufaj and Joy-Dee Davis. Ministers Coundellor (standing left to right)

 

 Speaking at US Capitol Hill in behalf of CARICOM during Caribbean Legislative Week on 5 June 2019

 

Meeting Wesley Kirton Co-Chair Caribbean Studies Associaton, US, and Captain Gerry Gouveia of the Guyana Privat Sector at Antigua and Barbuda Embassy, Washington, DC on 4 June 2019

 

On 15 May, 2019 with the formidable US Congresswoman Maxine Waters who is Chair of the Financail Services Committee of the US House of Representatives.  I had presentred the case against de-risking, withdrawal of correspondent banking relations and blacklisting alone with CARICOM Ministers of National Security. 

 

 Testifying on 14th May, 2019 before the US International Trade Commission on behalf of Antigua and Barbuda and Caribbaean States on the perennial US trade surplus with the region which reached $7 Billion in 2018. 

 

Sir Ronald at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, talking trade and other relations between the US and CARICOM countries, especially Antigua and Barbuda, with Cingressman Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati) on  27 February 2019.

 

Caribbean Ambassadors in Washington with US Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. Kim Breier, at the US State Department. Sir Ronald third from right in January 2019. 

 

In July 2018, while in Ottawa for Antigua and Barbuda bilateral talks with Canadian government officials, Sir Ron ran into old and repected friend, Joe Clarke - former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Canada and a great warrior in the anti-apartheid struggle.

 

With Ambassador Jesus Silvera of Panama, receiving a donation to the rebuilding of Barbuda, June 2018

 

With OAS Secretary-General, Luis Almagro, on 6 June 2018, signing the Inter-American Convention against Racism, Racial Discrimination and  Related Forms of Intolerance.  Antigua and Barbuda was the first signatory to the Convention and the second country to ratify the Convention. 
 

 Signing ceremony in Washington, DC of Abolition of Visa Requirements between Ukraine and Antigua and Barbuda in May 2018.  Ukraine Amnbasador (left) and Joy-Dee Davis, Minister Counsellor, Antigua and Barbuda Embassy (right) 

 

 With Governor-General of Canada,Her Excellency Julie Payette, at Rideau Hall in Ottawa on January 30th 2018.  In addition to beeing accredited to Canada as High Commissioner, I have the honour of sharing the distinction with this amazing former Astronaut of being a Senior Fellow at Massey College in the University of Toronto.

 

In Tobago after delivering feature address at The Tobago Finance week on 13 November 2017.  Photo shows, Economist Terrence Farrell, Sir Ronald, Tobago Deputy Chief Secretary Joel Jack, and Anthony Pierre, Chairman of the Caribbean Association of Chartered Accountants

 

 In Port-of-Spain, Trinidad speaking at the annual Conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Trinidad and Tobago on 9 November 2017

 

 Speaking at a meeting in Geneva, prior to appearnace at the World Trade Organisation on Antigua and Barbuda's contention with the US government on the WTO award to Antigua over Internet Gaming, September 2017 

 

 Speaking on Refugees resulting from Climate Change and the growing danger to small island states at an event organised by OXFAM in Washington, DC on 30 October 2017. (Heather Coleman, OXFAM; Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda; Selwyn Hart (Barbados), Lisa Friedman, New York Times)

 

Sir Ronald speaking at the National Press Club in Washington DC on 12 October 2017.  He was talking about the devastation of Barbuda by Hurricane Irma and the remedies for Climate Change and Global Warming.  To his left are:  The Prime Minister of Grenada Dr Keith Mitchell, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin la Rocque and St Lucia Prime Minister Alan Chastanet

 

Sir Ronald speaking at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on the security and other threats posed to the Caribbean and the Hemisphere of Climate Change and Global Warming on 13 September 2017

 

 Sir Ronald (third right) with senior officers of the Inter-American Defense Board in Washington, DC after discussing what assistance could be given in the clean up and rebuilding of Barbuda after Hurricane Irma (Friday, 15 September 2017)

 

With US Congressman, Ranking member of Committee on Foreign Affairs at Capitol Hill on 14 September, discussiing secutty matters, Hurricane Irma and Barbuda and the US-Antigua and Barbuda WTO issues.  Very helpful.

 

 With US Congressman Mark Meadows on Capitol Hill talking the US-Antigua and Barbuda WTO issues, and the effets of Hurricane Irma on the island of Barbuda on 12 September, 2017.  Good man. 

 

 Talking to the Emergency Agencies of the OAS about the impact of Hurricane Irma on the island of Barbuda and seeking assistance on 14 September 2017

 

Sir Ronald with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa on 28 August 2017 discussing Canada-Antigua and Barbuda bilateral matters.

 

Sir Ronald with the President of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto, at the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States in Cancun, in June 2017

 

Heads of Delegations to the OAS General Assembly in Cancun.  Mexican Presdident, sixth from right, front row.  Sir Ronald fourth from right, front row.

 

Meeting of Consulation on the situation in Venezuela at the Organisation of American States on 31 May 2017 Sir Ronald (far right).

 

With Texas Congressman Randy Weber at Capitol Hill in Washington DC, talking energy, water and US-Antigua and Barbuda relations on Wednesday 5 April, 2017 

 

 

With my colleague Argentine Ambassador to the OAS, Juan Jose Acuri (right) and the Argentina candidate for election to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rigjts Dr Carlos de Casas on 29 March 2016

 

 At the International Monetary Fund with Exceutive Director for Canada and the Caribbean, Nancy Horsman, to discuss Antigua and Barbuda matters.

 

At the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy receiving Antonia Urrejola, the candidate of Chile for the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, on 23 March 2017 

 

 With the Mexican Candidate for the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, Joel Hernadez Garcia, on 21 March 2017

 

 At the World Bank on20 March 2017 meeting Christine Hogan, the Executive Director for Canada and the Caribbean, to talk about Antigua and Barbuda matters.

 

With Joe Barton, US Congressman from the State of Texas in his Office on Capitol Hill on Thursday, 16 March 2017 discussing US-Antigua and Barbuda relations

 

Hosting a meeting at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy in Washington, DC of diplomatic representatives of St Lucia (Ambassador Anton Edmunds, St Kitts-Nevis Ambassador Thelma Phillip-Browne and St Vincent Deputy Chief of Mission Omari Williams)

 

Meeting the Cuban Ambassador to the United States, Jose Cabanas Rodriguez at the Antigua and Barbuda Embassy on Tuesday, 21st February, 2017

 

With the Ambassador of Ecudaor to the United States, Francisco Borja Cevallos, talking Ecuador-Antigua and Barbuda relations on 13 February 2017

 

 With US Congressman Gus Bilikakis (Dem,Fl) for talls on Caiptol Hill in Washington

 

With Charlie Crist, US Congressman (Dem, Fl) for discussions on US-Antigua and Barbuda matters

 

 With US Senator Jeff Duncan, Chair Foreign Relations Committee talking energy and Citizenship by Investement Programmes in the Caribbean

 

 With Professor Louis Gates Jr at the Smithsonian National Musuem of African American History in Washington, DC after an evening of enlightening presentations on the neglected story of the building of the US 

Videos of historic Rastafarian occasion at the OAS on 14 May 2018

The You Tube Video below is the historic occasion at the Permanent Delegation of the Organisation of American States (OAS) when Antigua and Barbuda led the way in aplogising for the wrongs done to the Rastafarian community of the Caribbean. It was the first time that a representavive of the Rastafarian community addressed a high-level inter-governmental body.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XR-In_q1dR8&feature=youtu.be
 

Another You Tube Video is the Report to the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States on 20 April 2018 on the Antigua and Barbuda General Elections of March 21.   See video of the report on You Tube link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFm3Y_AzTxE

 

Sir Ronald Statements at the OAS

Two statements made at the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States on 20 April, 2018 have been posted in the "Lectures" section.    The statements are on:  The Guatemala Referendum authorising the Government to take the border dispute with Belize to the International Court of Justice; and a Report on the General Elections held in Antigua and Barbuda on 21 March, 2018.

TV Interviews in the US

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) carried two programmes, coast-to-coast on 23 stations in the US on the Caribbean, featuring interviews with three Caribbean Ambassadors including Sir Ron.   The YouTube links to the programmes are below:

PART ONE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPWd8qSRdTY&feature=youtu.be

PART TWO

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAtjZgRC9rU&feature=youtu.be&app=desktop

 

The TV Network CSPAN interviewed Sir Ronald in a cost-to-coast boadcast on the effects of Hurricanes and other matters related to Antigua and Barbuda.   The link to the interview is below:

https://www.c-span.org/video/?434242-3/washington-journal-ronald-sanders-discusses-impact-irma-antigua-barbuda


All posts...

Election for the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General

Sir Ronald was a candidate for election to the post of Commonwealth Secretary-General In November 2015 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta. View further details here.

Portrait of Sir Ronald Sanders

Sir Ronald Sanders is currently Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the United States and the Organisation of American States.

Welcome

Welcome to this website. I created it in 2009 in response to many requests for access to commentaries I have written, lectures I have given and interviews that have been broadcast or printed in the media on matters related to the political economy of the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.  They are all avaialble here for free.

These requests have come from university students, publications, academics, government officials and business people in many parts of the world. In the course of responding to these requests, I have been pleased to build up a network of global contacts who now receive my commentaries weekly.

From a career that encompassed broadcast and print journalism, development and commercial banking, diplomacy and international negotiations in both the public and private sectors, I am privileged to draw on wide and varied experiences to write, lecture and undertake consultancies.  The latter activity was susended while I carry out my present functions as Ambassador for Antigua and Barbuda. 

I have taken the greatest pleasure in receiving comments and criticism from people all over the world that the Internet has made a “village”. I have learned from many of the comments I received. They have caused me to reflect on my own thinking. Through this website, I hope to communicate regularly with all who write to me.

The website is now a permanent repository of the weekly commentaries and lectures going back several years. Anyone is free to access them here, and to cite them provided my permission is sought in advance through the “Contact me” mechanism. A few of the lectures I have given in Britain and in the Caribbean are also posted on the site in a PDF format which can be easily downloaded. Again, I would make the same request to seek my permission before citing the material.

I invite responses to my writings, and inquiries about the experience and knowledge I can bring to achieving the objectives of companies and organizations that do business related to the Caribbean and the Commonwealth.

Kind regards

Ronald Sanders