Caricom source thinks Trump out to split OAS vote

T&T blanked!

T&T’s Prime Min­is­ter Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley and the lead­ers of two oth­er coun­tries who re­cent­ly sought peace in Venezuela’s cri­sis aren’t among the five Caribbean lead­ers who’ve been in­vit­ed to meet US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump to­mor­row on is­sues, in­clud­ing Venezuela.

While Row­ley wasn’t on that in­vi­ta­tion list, as word of Trump’s meet­ing was an­nounced by the White House yes­ter­day, US Am­bas­sador Joseph Mon­del­lo held dis­cus­sions with Op­po­si­tion Leader Kam­la Per­sad-Bisses­sar at her Port-of-Spain of­fice.

Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Min­is­ter Stu­art Young told re­porters yes­ter­day the is­sue of the Trump meet­ing and oth­er is­sues will be ad­dressed to­day.

He de­clined to con­firm or de­ny if Row­ley—back from his US health check—will be do­ing the speak­ing.

White House press sec­re­tary Sarah Sanders had said ear­li­er yes­ter­day that Trump will meet with the lead­ers of five Caribbean na­tions “in an ef­fort to strength­en co­op­er­a­tion on se­cu­ri­ty and trade is­sues.” Sanders said Trump will “al­so use will use the meet­ing to thank the lead­ers for their sup­port for peace and democ­ra­cy in Venezuela.”

In­vi­tees are Ja­maica Prime Min­is­ter An­drew Hol­ness, Ba­hami­an Prime Min­is­ter Dr Hu­bert Alexan­der-Min­nis, St Lu­cian Prime Min­is­ter Alan Chas­tanet, Do­mini­ca Re­pub­lic Pres­i­dent Dani­lo Med­i­na and Hait­ian Pres­i­dent Jovenel Moi­se.

Trump’s in­vi­ta­tion was is­sued to lead­ers of four of the five Caribbean states which in Jan­u­ary sup­port­ed an Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Amer­i­can States (OAS) res­o­lu­tion re­fus­ing to recog­nise the le­git­i­ma­cy of Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Nico­las Maduro’s sec­ond term: Ja­maica, the Ba­hamas, Haiti and St Lu­cia.

Guyana al­so sup­port­ed the OAS vote. Do­mini­ca, St Vin­cent/Grenadines and Suri­name vot­ed against, while St Kitts, T&T, An­tigua and Bar­bu­da, Bar­ba­dos and Be­lize ab­stained.

An­oth­er in­vi­tee to Trump’s meet­ing, St Lu­cia—part of the Li­ma group of Cana­da and Latin states—in­di­cat­ed in Feb­ru­ary it didn’t sup­port Maduro and called for fresh elec­tions.

The five in­vit­ed lead­ers will meet Trump at his re­sort in Palm Beach, Flori­da.

Sanders said Trump will dis­cuss po­ten­tial op­por­tu­ni­ties for en­er­gy in­vest­ment with the lead­ers, adding the Unit­ed States re­mains “a good friend to the Caribbean and seeks to build on a proud lega­cy as the re­gion’s part­ner of choice.”

But no­tice­ably miss­ing from Trump’s “thank you” meet­ing are the three re­gion­al lead­ers who played a lead­ing role re­cent­ly in try­ing to re­solve Venezuela’s cri­sis peace­ful­ly through di­a­logue: St Kitts/Nevis Prime Min­is­ter Dr Tim­o­thy Har­ris (Cari­com chair­man), Row­ley and Bar­ba­di­an Prime Min­is­ter Mia Mot­t­ley.

Trump’s cau­cus with the lead­ers comes two months af­ter Venezuela’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis arose when Na­tion­al As­sem­bly leader Juan Guai­do de­clared him­self in­ter­im pres­i­dent af­ter what he dubbed “in­valid elec­tions.”

The US and oth­er coun­tries have sup­port­ed Guai­do against em­bat­tled Pres­i­dent Maduro. While Maduro’s held on, US sanc­tions against his ad­min­is­tra­tion in­ten­si­fied Tues­day. That day, Trump re­it­er­at­ed that “all op­tions are on the ta­ble” re­gard­ing Venezuela, in­clud­ing mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion. He said the “tough­est sanc­tions” are ahead.

T&T and Cari­com have main­tained a non-in­ter­ven­tion, non-in­ter­fer­ence pol­i­cy on Venezuela. At the height of the cri­sis, a Cari­com del­e­ga­tion com­pris­ing Har­ris, Row­ley and Mot­t­ley went to the Unit­ed Na­tions to lob­by for peace­ful res­o­lu­tion, al­so speak­ing to rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous oth­er coun­tries

. They fur­ther at­tend­ed a Uruguay meet­ing with Mex­i­co and held talks with Eu­ro­pean rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Al­though Cari­com was ini­tial­ly di­vid­ed on Maduro, the del­e­ga­tion at­tend­ed the meet­ings with full Cari­com sup­port.

Cari­com’s in­put in Uruguay helped pro­duce the Mon­te­v­ideo Mech­a­nism for di­a­logue.

How­ev­er, Cari­com sources yes­ter­day told the T&T Guardian that Cari­com wasn’t snubbed for Trump’s meet­ing.

“The coun­tries in­vit­ed were all orig­i­nal mem­bers of the Li­ma Group in the OAS, which in­cludes the US, Cana­da and oth­er Latin coun­tries.

Guyana, al­so a mem­ber of that group, was al­so in­vit­ed but the Pres­i­dent is ill and couldn’t at­tend and on­ly heads of gov­ern­ment were al­lowed.

Bar­ba­dos, St Kitts and Nevis and T&T weren’t part of the Li­ma group,” the source said.

But they agreed the meet­ing “is an ob­vi­ous move to di­vide Cari­com on the Venezuela is­sue at least. At the OAS, Cari­com’s 14 votes con­sti­tute a se­ri­ous bloc which can de­ter­mine how votes go, as on­ly three more votes will give a ma­jor­i­ty.

So not for the first time, the idea is to split the vote at the OAS for an ini­tia­tive that’s forth­com­ing in sup­port of OAS Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Luis Al­ma­gro, whom Cari­com has strong­ly lined up against.

There’ll no doubt be an at­tempt for the five coun­tries to emerge in sup­port of Guai­do and they’ll get some good­ies.”

Cari­com has been urged by some - in­clud­ing T&T’s Regi­nald Du­mas- to pro­pose a can­di­date to re­place Al­ma­gro.

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