use this opportunity also to offer, in advance but nonetheless with
a special delight, our congratulations to the Commonwealth of Puerto
Rico on the imminent attainment of the 50th Anniversary
of its Constitution. We will look to join you soon, on the
appropriate occasion, to celebrate with you, in the fully festive
Caribbean way, this historic landmark in our region’s affairs.”
– Keynote Address by Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados to the
Caribbean Hotel Industry Conference-2002 at Wyndam El Conquistador
Resort & Country Club, June 16.
The Barbadian leader began to speak, his first salutation was to
“Excellency, the Honourable Sila Calderon, Governor of the
Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.” But the governor was not there,
having declined numerous invitations earlier in the year from top
Caribbean Hotel Association officials. Representing the governor was
Puerto Rico Tourism Co. executive director Milton Segarra.
anniversary of Puerto Rico’s Constitution July 25, referred to by
the prime minister, indicated that he is considering attending the
occasion or has already accepted by that could not be confirmed.
Reportedly the Calderon administration has invited numerous heads of
government from the region and even from the hemisphere but details
have not been released.
relationship of Barbados with Puerto Rico is a good example of how
some independent countries in the region attempt to interact with
the Commonwealth government when under the control of different
parties. As a senior head of government in Caricom, Arthur is
completing his second five year term. This means that he also knew
Gov. Pedro Rossello and in fact hosted Rossello on his visit to
Barbados, the only Caricom country he visited.
Rafael Hernandez Colon maintained cordial relations with Barbados
under Prime Minister Bernard St. John, visiting the country and
attending a Caricom Heads of Government Summit in 1985. Two then
Puerto Rico-based firms (Intel and Playtex) had plants in Barbados
but subsequently relocated. Barbados signed a tax agreement with the
U.S. to access Section 936 loans from Puerto Rico.
the Popular Democratic party is in office in Puerto Rico, as under
Hernandez and Calderon, the Commonwealth government conducts
relations directly with foreign governments whereas when the New
Progressive Party governed, as under Rossello, it dealt with foreign
countries through the U.S. embassies there.
like hot and cold water"
to the influence of these partisan aspects on their relations with
Puerto Rico creates quite a bit of diplomatic maneuvering but the
older countries, in the British tradition, just try to adjust.
Veteran Sir Neville Nichols, retired president of the Caribbean
Development Bank, who knew Gov. Luis Muñoz Marin, once said
“relations with Puerto Rico are like ‘hot and cold running
water,’ you go with the flow depending on which party is in power
in San Juan.”
the changes in Puerto Rico’s policy to ward the region complicates
its relationship with the U.S. and then affects U.S. policy with
countries in the region. An example is the current insistence by the
Calderon administration that it is entitled to have associate
membership in the Trinidad-based Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
The initiative is opposed by the Bush administration on the grounds
that Puerto Rico can not assume an international financial
obligation (the membership fee) without the approval of the U.S.
government. The U.S. State Department is also not happy about Puerto
Rico joining an organization which is political and in which both
Cuba and Venezuela are members.
the situation can be resolved has created a dilemma for both Puerto
Rico as well as some of the ACS member states as well as its
secretariat. Even though a number of regional observers feel the
Calderon administration mishandled the ACS membership, by not
seeking Washington’s concurrence before hand, they are convinced
that officials in the Caricom states are not going to become
embroiled in a dispute between the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Cited as
the main reason is the fact that Caricom countries have a whole
litany of problems in their relationship with the U.S. and see
little or no benefit for them by adding Puerto Rico to the list.
the U.S. Virgin Islands reportedly has been advised by the U.S.
State Department that it can proceed with its plans to seek Observer
status in Caricom.
Caricom approaches the 29th anniversary of its founding,
its heads of government will be meeting in summit in Georgetown,
Guyana, its headquarters. Puerto Rico enjoys observer status in
Caricom but has not announced by whom it will be represented at the
summit. At a recent meeting of the board of governors of the
Caribbean Development Bank, it was announced that Puerto Rico
Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado would attend but he was a no