leaders like Colin Powell
Bahamas meeting with regional foreign ministers U.S. official listens to their
concerns; pledges greater attention
Bahamas – U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell made a whirlwind visit to this
capital of the Bahamas for bilateral discussions with the government of the
Bahamas as well as a meeting with the foreign ministers of the entire Caribbean.
discussed a broad spectrum of topics faced by the Caribbean with the
Secretary,” said Guyana Foreign Minister Rudy Insanally, co-chair with Powell
of the encounter. “We covered the challenges of development and we pointed out
that trade and investment have central roles in the new relationship between the
Caribbean and the U.S. in the post-9-11 strategy,” referring to the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.
Powell “for his sympathy with our problems,” Insanally said major areas of
concern to the region listed by the Guyanese official included “the blocking
of multilateral funding to Haiti; the blacklisting of certain countries for
alleged money laundering practices; deportations of Caribbean born convicted
felons in the U.S.; human, narcotics and arms trafficking in the region and the
U.S. third border initiative. We must also find ways to stimulate investment
from the U.S. and provide for greater market access for products from the
all equals and respect each other,” said Powell. “I return to Washington
with a greater appreciation for the problems and threats faced by the
area over which there was not a meeting of the minds was Haiti, a problem to
which the Bahamas is very close and with which the 15-member Caribbean Community
(CARICOM) are concerned about. The region has closed ranks around Haiti and
insists that U.S. pressure on lending agencies like the International Monetary
Fund, the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank not to resume
funding for Haiti that are blocked should be lifted.
Powell pointed out that even though the U.S. “has sent $55 million to Haiti in
the last year and hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years, there is
still a political crisis in Haiti that must be dealt with. It is also a human
crisis that we must deal with. We support the Organization of American States
(OAS) and stand ready to assist.” Listening as the Secretary spoke was the
Haitian Foreign Minister.
that the Bahamas “is experiencing a terrible problem because of the Haitian
exodus and the U.S. is also threatened because a significant percentage of them
are on their way to the US,” said Bahamas Foreign Minister Janet Bostwick.
Rico not present but still discussed
a press conference prior to his return to Washington Secretary Powell was asked
about the opposition of the U.S. State Department (USSD) to the quest for
associate membership of Puerto Rico in the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
This goal was a blank in the platform of Gov. Sila Calderon in her gubernatorial
campaign and Secretary of State Fernando Mercado was present at the recent ACS
summit in Venezuela hosted by President Hugo Chavez.
don’t know anything about it, but I’ll take your question back to Washington
and we’ll get an answer for you,” said Powell. Later, an aide accompanying
the Secretary said “we’re
waiting for Puerto Rico to get back to us and haven’t received an answer.”
The official said that in the meantime “another problem has arisen because the
government of Puerto Rico wanted to sign an agreement with a foreign country and
the USSD objected.”
official declined to identify the country but informed sources point to the
Dominican Republic with which the government of Puerto Rico recently concluded
an agreement on the areas of trade and agriculture. “These types of accords
have to be developed and concluded within certain perimeters,” said the
official. “Changes were requested in the proposed pact in order for the
objections to be lifted.”
that a number of states, and mentioned were California, Florida, Louisiana,
Texas and Washington State, have concluded various agreements with foreign
countries in the past, the official said “there is an established procedure to
be followed and that has been explained to San Juan.”
could not be learned if Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), as U.S.
flag territories in the Caribbean, were invited to the Bahamas encounter with
Powell. It was recalled that both then Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello and USVI
Gov. Roy Schneider were invited to the summit which then President Bill Clinton
had with Caribbean leaders in Barbados in 1997.
Rossello didn’t attend that one but Schneider did. Earlier in 1994
Rossello attended the first Summit of the Americas in Miami hosted by President
Rico enjoys observer status in CARICOM since 1990 and sometimes attends the
periodic summits of the organization but was not present at the recent
intercessional summit held in Belize imme3diately before this Bahamas Powell
was in the Bahamas for less than 24 hours, arriving at 4:30 PM and leaving
immediately following the meeting. Security at the conference hotel was
described as “very tight” by attendees but his coming and going went hardly
noticed by Bahamians although the presence of four U.S. Navy warships and a U.S.
Coast Guard cutter in the harbor told them “someone important was in town.”
was explained that the Secretary’s brief visit was dictated by a 5:30 PM
meeting in Washington of President George W. Bush with Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon the same afternoon.
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