Tue | Sep 28, 2021

Why was Jamaica ‘MIA’ for hours on decision re OAS meeting on Cuba, diplomats query

Published:Sunday | August 1, 2021 | 1:35 AMErica Virtue - Senior Gleaner Writer
Kamina Johnson Smith
Kamina Johnson Smith

When the Organization of American States (OAS) gave the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) 48 hours notice that it would be discussing Cuba among its membership, the community’s ambassadors in Washington, DC, were asked to provide a response before noon on July 27, the day before the meeting was scheduled to take place.

It came “without warning and out of left field,” The Sunday Gleaner was told last week by a trusted Central American diplomat, who is close to CARICOM, noting that Jamaica went missing for several hours, resulting in 13 member states issuing their country’s position minus Jamaica.

“Me dijeron que Jamaica desaparecio durante horas,” said The Sunday Gleaner source. Translated to English, it reads “I was told that Jamaica went missing for hours.”

It was later reported in the media that the foreign affairs ministry said Jamaica was unable to respond by the deadline because its representative was tied up in another engagement; however, the country stood with its CARICOM colleagues.

Information reaching The Sunday Gleaner is that Washington Abdala, who chairs the OAS Permanent Council, sprang the meeting on the body, much to the surprise of many, especially the Caribbean Community. The region’s representatives were to contact their respective governments and provide a response before noon, July 27.

“Here is what I was told. All states were to provide a response by 9 the morning after Washington Abdala sprang the meeting on the body. All states except Jamaica responded by that hour. Jamaica’s ambassador to the OAS, Audrey Marks, could not be located and it was unclear if she knew of attempts to locate her by phone. However, Jamaica had a representative to the meeting who knew of the deadline, and it was made known that all positions should be in place and at what time,” a regional diplomat told The Sunday Gleaner on Friday.

“When all the positions came in, there was nothing from Jamaica, and its representatives could not be found. The deadline was moved from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. to accommodate Jamaica. When nothing came, there was no choice but to send off the letter stating CARICOM’s position.”

NO CHOICE

The source continued, “So it was on that basis why Sir Ronald Sanders had no choice but to send off the letter stating the position of the 13 states from which responses were received by the stipulated time. By 2:01 p.m. the position of CARICOM, minus Jamaica, was public to all member states.”

On July 27, Sanders wrote to Abdala, the permanent representative of Uruguay, naming the 13 states from which responses were secured.

“I write on behalf of the following 13 members of the Caribbean Community: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, regarding your convocation of a Special Meeting of the Permanent Council on July 28th, 2021, to address ‘The Situation in Cuba’,” read the letter, inter alia.

“It is the considered opinion of our delegations that the proposed convocation of this meeting, which has been called without consultation, would be unproductive and would serve no useful purpose…Our delegations collectively reiterate the position, previously expressed by Antigua and Barbuda, by formal letter of July 26th, that since 1962 Cuba has not been a member of the OAS and has not participated in any of its activities…All 13 of our delegations urge you to reconsider holding the meeting and advise that should you decide to proceed, our delegations will be obliged not to attend. We request that this letter be distributed to all member states urgently,” ended the letter.

Writing in his column in CNG media, Sir Ronald said the meeting was convoked without prior consultation with CARICOM and the states were troubled.

He pointed to possible reasons for the sudden meeting.

“No possible useful purpose will be served by any meeting to discuss Cuba. The OAS can enforce nothing on it. Any discussion could only satisfy political hawks with an eye on US midterm elections where winning South Florida with the backing of Cuban exiles would be a prize. The task of the OAS should be to promote peaceful and cooperative relations in the hemisphere, not to feed division and conflict,” he said.

CARICOM’s chairman, Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne, wrote to United States President Joseph Biden in a letter dated Sunday, July 26, telling him that the bloc would not be interfering in the internal affairs of the country.

“The Caribbean Community has been and remains troubled by the circumstances in Cuba, in which shortages of food, medicines and other basic needs result, significantly, from the long-standing US trade embargo and the more recent punitive measures imposed by the previous US administration. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this deteriorating…” wrote Prime Minister Browne.

“All of this, together with threats to its national security, have contributed to placing Cuba in conditions of abnormality in which normal criteria and expectation cannot be applied…”

Don Rojas, the former press secretary to assassinated Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop, said the US should listen to CARICOM.

“CARICOM is to be applauded for taking a unified and principled position against participating in an anti-Cuba meeting at the OAS. Washington set up the OAS as a hemispheric grouping of nations minus Cuba and since then it has used this body to isolate Cuba,” Rojas told The Sunday Gleaner.

The Sunday Gleaner source said it was laughable to read Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith’s response in the media regarding Jamaica not being among the CARICOM members who responded to OAS’s request for a meeting.

“To see your foreign minister now saying that Jamaica was in solidarity with all the other member states is just hogwash. Jamaica was hoping that Haiti and the Bahamas, which usually vote with them, would either abstain or oppose, so they could hide behind them and say there was no consensus. It never occurred to them that given the situation in Haiti, with the assassination of their president (and with outside interference, it seems), Haiti could not vote for the OAS to interfere in the internal affairs of Cuba. I have to say that your representatives here are spineless but I hear how you all love your visas, so I guess hiding was the best way to secure it,” was his caustic observation.

There was no response from Minister Johnson Smith to messages sent via WhatsApp.

 

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com