Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have been urged to be mindful that the United States of America will leave no stone unturned as it seeks to impose its will on smaller and less powerful states in a bid to maintain its dominance in the region.
In fact, leading political consultant Peter Wickham and International Relations lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Dr Kristina Hinds, both believe the harsh treatment of Dominica, Venezuela, and Bolivia in recent months is characteristic of the Donald Trump administration’s disregard for the sovereignty of Caribbean and Latin American nations.
According to them, it is for this reason that Prime Minister Mia Mottley’s firm stance last weekend against a meeting between U.S Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and select Caribbean leaders was important.
In the face of what they have both described as an extension of Trump’s meeting with four Caribbean leaders at his Mar Lago estate in Florida, they have lauded numerous countries including Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada, who all opted to boycott the talks held in Jamaica.
But the two commentators, in separate interviews, advised that if regional leaders are serious about protecting their countries’ cherished right to self-governance, they must all stand united.
Wickham condemned what he believes is an “assault” on the region waged by the U.S through its interference in the leadership of the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as attempts to undermine Venezuela through that regional organisation. He further pointed to the persistent threat of a military invasion despite CARICOM calls for peace and the US’ meddling in Dominica’s election last December.
“We saw an alarming level of interference overtly regarding the US position on [Venezuelan President Nicolas] Maduro and we saw it more recently in Dominica’s election. The American OAS representative spoke openly about issues that he was having with Dominica, which did not have any context within the truth and reality of what was happening on the ground. I am convinced to this day that many of the noises we heard about the Dominican situation were directly related to the American position,” said Wickham.
“America needs to understand that a line must be drawn in the sand regarding our level of Independence, our right to self-determination and while we are friends, there has to be a limit. I think they have crossed the line in relation to Venezuela, they have crossed the line in relation to Dominica and essentially that is the signal being sent by Prime Minister Mottley,” Wickham added.
“What happened in Dominica serves as a warning to the rest of us regarding the extent to which America will seek to interfere and seek to guide the hand of various Caribbean islands,” the noted political scientist said. “When we are hearing about Russian interference in American elections, we need to be concerned about American interference in our own politics.”
Wickham further argued that questions raised about whether Barbados was invited to this week’s meeting with the US official were “inconsequential” in light of Mottley’s principled stand as the Chair of CARICOM. He also rubbished notions that the talks were bilateral on the basis that bilateral negotiations occur between only two countries and where other Caribbean states are involved, the talks become regional.
Since then, Pompeo has denied Ms. Mottley’s suggestions that the US is working to divide the 15-member regional group and lauded Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ leadership in the region. Holness further suggested that member-states interested in attending the meetings only needed to ask for an invitation.
Meanwhile, for Dr. Hinds, the U.S position is in no way surprising. Though she acknowledged that each state is free to engage the regional powerhouse individually, the international relations specialist warned it would be difficult to do so from a position of strength.
She further stressed that recent “overt” attempts by the Trump-administration to influence the region’s policies while isolating some countries should immediately raise red flags.
“The United States of America and no other entity should be dictating to CARICOM which members they are talking to. If they are talking to members of CARICOM, they should be speaking with all members and not just a selected group that they choose to engage with, and going forward, I think this is a very useful position if heads of government are interested in giving CARICOM teeth and in allowing the organisation to try to function better as a collective,” suggested Dr. Hinds.
“I think as a group of sovereign states that have a level of maturity now in terms of independence, that CARICOM members should be able to say that we want to be dealt with as a collective and in terms that are mutually agreeable to both sides, not just the more powerful countries.”
She added that the current US position was not merely a Donald Trump position, but was characteristic of the powerhouse’s attitude from as far back as the 19th century.
“This is consistent with the foreign policy approach of the US not just to the Caribbean, but to this hemisphere. When we consider the relations between the US and other states, we like to focus on Venezuela but there has been a less than easy relationship when Bolivia had its socialist and left-leaning administrations as well,” she said.