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United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

The T&T Government has backed Barbados’ position not to send a representative to today’s meeting being held by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with several Caribbean leaders in Jamaica. The Communication Ministry confirmed the Government’s position yesterday.

The Ministry said Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is supporting Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley on the issue. Mottley is currently Caricom’s chairman.

US media recently announced that Pompeo is visiting Germany, Colombia, Costa Rica and Jamaica and Florida from January 18-23. The fight against terrorism and the crisis in Venezuela are expected to dominate the Latin American/Caribbean trip.

The US State Department said Pompeo will meet Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness today and “conduct a multilateral roundtable discussion with Caribbean leaders, and deliver remarks on US Caribbean relations.”

Reports are that the meeting will discuss ways of improving ties with Caricom and “outstanding issues with Venezuela.” It was also reported that Pompeo is “likely to stress that international pressure is required for the departure of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.”

It has been noted Washington is vying for the re-election of Organisation of American States (OAS) Secretary-General Luis Almagro who is backing Maduro’s rival, Juan Guaido. Costa Rico’s Tico Times reported that the Jamaican stop, which includes a bilateral with Holness, “aims to strengthen ties with the Caribbean”.

The Times also reported: “In Jamaica, Washington’s main ally in that region, Pompeo will participate in a roundtable with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and Saint Lucia. The support of the Caribbean countries is key to the re-election of Luis Almagro as OAS secretary-general, which Trump’s government actively promotes.”

The State Department’s announcement on Pompeo’s Jamaican meeting did not identify which Caribbean leaders will be involved. However, subsequently, Caricom chairman Mottley said Barbados couldn’t send a representative to the meeting since some Caricom leaders were not invited. She viewed the initiative as an attempt to divide the Caricom region.

Opposition MP Rodney Charles said the United National Congress (UNC) had unconfirmed reports that T&T wasn’t invited to the meeting. Government sources said this country “likely wasn’t invited due to our position on Venezuela”

The Communication Ministry release, which was issued after Charles spoke, quoted Rowley as saying: “Prime Minister Mottley has the full support of the Government and the people of Trinidad and Tobago in outlining our principles and vision of Caribbean unity. In the expectation of Caribbean unity, the Prime Minister of Barbados speaks for Trinidad and Tobago.

“Prime Minister Mottley said that as chairman of Caricom she will not agree to send her Foreign Minister to attend a meeting to which some members of Caricom weren’t invited. Prime Minister Rowley has repeatedly stated that Trinidad and Tobago stands on its proud history of fairness on the world stage, ranging from opposition to apartheid in South Africa to opposing the US invasion of Grenada.”

However, Charles claimed that T&T had “surrendered regional leadership and is no longer invited to major regional meetings.” He added: “Ms Mottley’s position highlights Trinidad and Tobago’s diplomatic isolation, the surrender of our leadership role within Caricom and the need for countries such as Barbados to pursue our interests in the global arena. We’re literally on Caricom’s B Team, with Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and even St Vincent.

“It’s an axiom of diplomacy that once a country isn’t seated at the table participating in discussions then it may very well find itself on the menu. Hapless Keith Rowley and his woefully incompetent Foreign Minister Dennis Moses and a totally demoralised Foreign Ministry aren’t up to the task of promoting Trinidad and Tobago’s interests globally.”

Pompeo’s Jamaica meeting comes almost a year after US President Donald Trump’s meeting last March with the leaders of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti and St Lucia. Those talks centred on security, trade and Venezuelan unrest.

Other Caricom leaders including TT’s and then- Caricom head St Kitt’s Prime Minister Timothy Harris weren’t part of that meeting. Rowley, Harris and Mottley had been heading talks for peaceful resolution of Venezuela’s crisis. Other Caricom leaders later criticised Trump’s meeting with the five leaders.