theguardian.com- The prime ministers of Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago are boycotting a scheduled meeting with the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, in a growing row between Caribbean nations who are open to improved relations with the Trump administration, and those who have opposed talks on principle.
Pompeo arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday, where he was set to meet seven Caribbean leaders to discuss regional concerns including Venezuela’s political crisis, trade and national security.
But the meeting represents a departure from formal talks between the US and Caricom, the 15-member organization that advocates for collective regional interests.
Barbados’s prime minister, Mia Mottley – who is also the Caricom chair – announced earlier this month that she would not be attending the meeting in Jamaica, which she described as “an attempt to divide [the] region.”
“I am conscious that if this country does not stand for something, then it will fall for anything,” she said. “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.”
Mottley has previously criticized the US for inaction on the climate crisis and its regional impact on migration. The Trinidad and Tobago PM, Keith Rowley, later joined Mottley’s boycott, announcing on Monday he would also not be taking part in the meeting.
“[She] 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,” Rowley said in a speech.
The Jamaican PM, Andrew Holness, will be joined by leaders representing the Bahamas, Belize, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, St Kitts and Nevis and St Lucia. Kamina Johnson Smith, Jamaica’s affairs and foreign trade minister, called Pompeo’s two-day visit “a symbol of Washington’s engagement with the Caribbean”.
Pompeo’s Caribbean visit comes as Donald Trump faces his first day of an impeachment trial in the US Senate over his efforts to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on his Democratic rival Joe Biden. Pompeo has repeatedly been linked to the scheme.
The meeting in the Caribbean comes a year after Jamaican, Bahamian, Lucian, Haitian and Dominican leaders privately met Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Trump promised investment aid in exchange for support of US interests.
Shortly after, the same nations broke from other Caricom members to back Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as head of state. Caricom officially recognizes Nicolás Maduro as Venezuela’s president and urges dialogue with the leaders of the opposition.