UNITED States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives in Jamaica this evening amid mounting speculation around the reasons for his visit and clear signs of a rift in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) over the planned discussions in Kingston.
Pompeo is expected to be met by government officials led by Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith when he lands at the Norman Manley International Airport shortly after six this evening.
Tomorrow the US secretary of state is slated to attend several meetings including bilateral talks with Prime Minister Andrew Holness at Jamaica House, a sit-down with regional officials and a policy discussion presentation in New Kingston.
No agenda has been released for the series of talks, but it is expected that Pompeo will use his trip to consolidate regional support for the US stance on Venezuela – it does not recognise the Government of President Nicolás Maduro – and to seek votes for the re-election of Luis Almagro as general secretary of the Organization of American States (OAS) in the election set for March 20.
Holness is expected to add to the agenda the recent decision of the US State Department to cancel the visitors’ visas of several Jamaicans, including Cabinet Minister Daryl Vaz.
Sources say Holness will also initiate discussions with Pompeo on further support from the US to disrupt the flow of illegal guns into the island.
Last Friday, at a meeting of the OAS, Pompeo said he was looking forward to meeting with leaders from across Caricom during his visit to Jamaica.
According to Pompeo, he will participate in a round-table discussion with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and St Lucia while in Jamaica.
“I’ll travel to Jamaica, a good friend of America… I’ll gather at an important meeting with many Caribbean leaders to discuss how we can all work together to promote our common democratic values and prosperity for all of our people. I’m looking forward to a fantastic set of meetings,” said Pompeo.
He declared that his visit to the island – the second visit by a US secretary of state to Jamaica in less than two years following the visit of Rex Tillerson in February 2018 – is to emphasise the deepening of US relationship with the Caribbean.
Officials of the US State Department have also been reported as saying that Pompeo’s visit is to advance the common interests of the US and Caricom in, “security, prosperity, development cooperation, and the promotion of democracy and human rights, and to commemorate our strong relationship with Jamaica as a partner and ally”.
But with only six of Caricom’s 15-member states expected to be around the table, there are allegations of an attempt by the US to split the region.
Over the weekend prime minister of Barbados Mia Mottley, who is also the chairman of Caricom, warned of an attempt to cause a rift in the regional grouping.
“As chairman of Caricom, it is impossible for me to agree that my foreign minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of Caricom are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” Mottley told a gala to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the late Barbados prime minister and regional integrationist Errol W Barrow.
Yesterday, the Caribbean Media Corporation ( CMC) reported that Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell also confirmed that his country will not be represented at a meeting in Kingston.
According to the CMC, Mitchell said Grenada’s position on Venezuela is well known, and the country has expressed its position forcefully on this matter.
Pompeo is also unlikely to get uniform support from the region for Almagro’s re-election as Antigua and Barbuda as well as St Vincent and the Grenadines, have both nominated the Ecuadorian diplomat, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, for the position of general secretary of the OAS.
They are urging the other Caricom countries to support her candidacy while Ambassador Hugo de Zela, Peruvian ambassador to the United States and former chief of staff of the General Secretariat of the OAS is also nominated for the post.