ST JOHN’S – Prime Minister Gaston Browne is due to leave here on Tuesday, the same day that his father, Harold A. Browne 76, will be buried, for the United States where he will join other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders for the Summit of Americas.
Browne is leading a delegation that includes his wife, Maria, who will also attend the forums for First Ladies and wives attending the summit; the island’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders; and Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Antigua and Barbuda’s Alternate Representative to the OAS.
Browne in an interview here on Monday, said that CARICOM held a special caucus on the issue and decided that they should attend due to the United States softening position towards Cuba and Venezuela.
“We felt that, in good faith, at least, the United States has softened its position so we should attend,” said Browne, who had earlier signalled his intention not to attend the summit because an invitation had not been extended to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, who publicly indicated he would not attend the June 6-10 summit because of the situation regarding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is engaged in a campaign for a June 23 general election, appear to be the only two regional leaders likely to be absent from the deliberations in Los Angeles.
“We continue to advocate for additional changes. The United States would have said certain things to us in confidence. And we believe that on that basis that we could participate while at the same time agitating for additional changes, additional concessions for Cuba and Venezuela in particular,” Prime Minister Browne said.
He said Senator Christopher Dodd and others “would have spoken to me and encouraged me to participate.
“I would have said to him and others in the US government that Antigua and Barbuda is not fighting any ideological war. We felt that we had a moral obligation to stand with our hemispheric partners in terms of ensuring participation and ensuring that there is no ostracism,” Prime Minister Browne added.
Browne said regional leaders will use the opportunity to defend the Caribbean’s position noting that Washington has shown some interest in the Caribbean during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by providing vaccines and PPE’s.
“I think they ought to go further. And when you look at the fact that COVID is going to be endemic, there is going to be further economic damage on countries in the Caribbean. The United States should be helping us to put together a ‘post-COVID’ Marshall Plan to salvage our economies.”
He said that the Caribbean needs real, practical solutions to their problems and therefore believes that this is an opportunity for them to advocate on behalf of the Caribbean people for increased collaboration and support from the United States. (CMC)