AS THE US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo is Donald Trump’s principal adviser on foreign policy, charged with ensuring the protection of US government interests in foreign states. He is his country’s top diplomat. And yet the two-day summit convened in his name in Jamaica has been, even before it began yesterday, anything but diplomatic.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley withdrew her foreign minister from the meeting saying some members of Caricom were not invited. She was soon supported in her action by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley. Antigua and Barbuda also yesterday endorsed her position.
Mottley’s stance has shades of Eric Williams’ famous declaration “one from 10 leaves nought” in the wake of Jamaica’s withdrawal from the nascent West Indies Federation. Williams may have been hasty in his calculation, but he was correct in asserting the value of unity.
On the Pompeo agenda are reportedly pressing matters such as the crisis in Venezuela, regional security, and key international developments. How can such topics be effectively broached at a regional level without all 15 Caricom members at the table? To paraphrase Williams, one from 15 leaves nought.
As a former director of the CIA, Pompeo may well be more at home dealing with spycraft than diplomacy. There is some irony in his recent refusal to testify in House proceedings against Trump, citing attempts to intimidate, bully and improperly treat officials of the Department of State by democrats. Pompeo now stands accused of doing similar: seeking to divide and conquer Caricom from a position of power.
“He who pays the piper calls the tune” might sum up the Trump administration’s past approach to Ukraine. Is this now the case with Caricom as well?
The Opposition UNC is right to air concerns over this state of affairs. But to turn this into a domestic political spat with Rowley plays into the hands of those who would seek to divide and conquer. In other words, we need to see the glass half full.
It is laudable that Mottley, the current Caricom chair, has taken such a strong and brave stance. She has forced Caricom as a whole to reckon with the undermining of its very rationale.
The close and longstanding diplomatic ties between this region and the US will hardly disappear overnight. But it is a mistake to take lightly this jaundiced approach to Caricom, as represented by this oversight. Caricom’s raison d’etre is foreign policy co-ordination. While we should be able to trust delegated member states to represent the interest of all, that process of delegation is a matter for Caricom to determine, not its powerful allies.
For his role in the Ukraine affair Pompeo stands accused of enabling the destruction of US diplomacy. His visit, which comes as the US Senate begins its impeachment trial against his boss, should not be allowed to have the same destructive impact on Caricom.