KINGSTOWN – St Vincent and the Grenadines will not be represented at the Summit of the Americas to be hosted by US President Joe Biden in California next week, Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves has confirmed.
“I’m not going because I don’t see what is to be gained from going. And as presently advised, as I say, I’m not supporting or sending anybody,” the Prime Minister said on radio on Wednesday.
“Because if you invite me to come to your house and I say, as a matter of principle I ain’t coming, because you shouldn’t be excluding people, how could I then send somebody else?”
Gonsalves appeared to have failed, in a series of letters, to persuade his CARICOM colleagues to boycott the summit over Washington’s refusal to invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the talks.
In a May 11 letter to CARICOM leaders and copied to the CARICOM Secretary-General Carla Barnett, a copy of which was seen by the Caribbean Media Corporation, he wrote: “I realise it is a difficult decision, but our American friends have left us with no other credible, principled, and practical choice. We may yet persuade them to alter their posture.”
However, speaking on NBC Radio on Wednesday, Gonsalves said: “A number of them are going and they will go and they will sit and protest by raising the issue because everybody’s agreed that these countries shouldn’t be excluded. It’s just the tactical approach now what you’re going to use.”
Noting that some leaders will attend the summit while others will stay away or send lower-level delegations, he said: “For instance, the president of Mexico is saying that he’s not going but he’s sending his foreign minister. The president of Argentina says ‘I’m going as head of CELAC — the Community of States of Latin America and the Caribbean’, and he’s saying, ‘I’m going but I’m going there to protest and saying that this is wrong’. So people have different tactical approaches.”
Gonsalves said he had made it clear that he would not attend the summit unless Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were invited.
“You can’t have a Summit of the Americas with only some people. It has to include everybody,” he insisted, adding that “mature people across the Caribbean” were writing to him encouraging him to “hold firm to the position”, while some organisations had issued press releases to that effect.
The Vincentian leader said the hemisphere was going “backwards”, noting that Cuba was invited to the Summit of the Americas in 2015 amidst rapprochement between presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro.
Havana was again invited to the summit in 2017 in Peru.
“I mean, why are we fighting these 20th Century battles and conflicts in this third decade of the 21st Century? Our American friends are wrong on this. I respect President Biden greatly but I can’t agree with his government on this matter,” Gonsalves said.
He said the “excellent relations” between Kingstown and Washington will stand despite the current impasse.
“Friends must tell friends how they feel about something,” Gonsalves said. (CMC)