Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness has been warned by a former UN representative against becoming a pawn in Washington’s bid to solicit votes in its diplomatic war with the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s highly anticipated visit to Jamaica has been marked by intrigue and outrage in the lead-up to talks with Holness and a select group of Caribbean leaders that have been viewed by CARICOM Chairman Mia Mottley as a coup of sorts.
Pompeo will arrive in the island this evening for a two-day working visit where he is expected to meet with the leaders of The Bahamas, Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Lucia, and St Maarten.
Of the eight nations to be represented, five – Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas, St Lucia and Dominican Republic – were involved in a deeply polarising meeting with President Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida in March last year.
It is felt that Pompeo’s meetings here are a follow-up to that parley, and Curtis Ward, a former deputy representative of Jamaica to the United Nations, believes that the island has found itself between a rock and a hard place.
“Pompeo spoke in the OAS (Organization of American States) at a special session he requested last Friday and he singled out Jamaica and refers to the country as a good friend of the United States. In my opinion, he is pushing Mr Holness as the de facto leader of CARICOM, which he’s not. Sadly, at the moment, it seems CARICOM is void of a strong leader. Jamaica used to be the leader on foreign policy, but not anymore,” Ward said.
“Nobody in CARICOM pays any respect to what Jamaica does anymore, so Jamaica has to be extremely careful of how it deals with the Trump administration,” he added.
Ward also revealed that certain members of the US Congressional Black Caucus admitted to being disappointed with Holness’ stance and his strategy of “cosying up to Trump”.
Further, the former ambassador said that careful analysis indicated that Pompeo could use talks with the Caribbean leaders to affirm their support for the US position on Venezuela in the upcoming vote in the OAS, where the current secretary general, Luis Almagro, is seeking re-election. Yesterday, Pompeo reasserted America’s intention to push opposition congressman Juan Guaidó as Washington’s replacement for embattled President Nicolas Maduro.
Before arriving in Jamaica, Pompeo met with the president and foreign minister of Colombia, the foreign minister of Brazil, and the foreign minister of Bolivia.
“These are three countries that are adamantly opposed to Nicolas Maduro and who want to see him go, and a unified CARICOM would have 14 votes in the OAS. Almagro would need only 18 total votes to be re-elected,” said Ward.
Ward indicated that it could be a difficult sell, as a number of CARICOM countries are totally opposed to the re-election of Almagro, who has been criticised for hewing to Washington’s policies and for being hawkish on Venezuela.
“Some have actually come out in support of the Ecuadorian candidate,” the ambassador added.
Three candidates are vying for the post of OAS secretary general: Almagro; Hugo de Zela Martínez, Peruvian ambassador to the OAS; and María Fernanda Espinosa, a former Ecuadorian foreign minister nominated by Antigua and Barbuda, St Vincent and the Grenadines, among others.
Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada yesterday joined Barbados in opting to not send a representative to meet with Pompeo in Kingston.
Mottley, who is also Barbados’ prime minister, described Pompeo’s meeting with select Caribbean leaders as an attempt to divide the regional bloc.
St Kitts and Nevis Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantley said yesteday that his country did not regard the move by some regional countries to meet with Pompeo as off-limits, noting that the talks were an opportunity to pursue outstanding bilateral issues.