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July 25 in San Juan to have a Caribbean flavor

By John Collins (1)

Caribbean leaders invited to the observance of  50th anniversary of Puerto Rico’s Constitution as efforts to expand relations continue.

 

GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Caribbean heads of government have been invited to San Juan to participate in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Constitution of Puerto Rico July 25, Efrain Vazquez-Vera, assistant secretary of State for Foreign Relations of Puerto Rico, told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

The official was attending the annual Summit of the heads of government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) held recently in this capital of the South American republic that is also the site of the headquarters Secretariat of the 15-member Caricom.

Puerto Rico has enjoyed the status of Observer in Caricom since 1990. Vasquez said Puerto Rico is interested in becoming more active in those Caricom bodies for which it is eligible and which relate to Puerto Rico specifically.

A number of the leaders indicated they would be attending the occasion or are considering it including prime ministers Lester Bird (Antigua- Barbuda), Perry Christie (Bahamas), Owen Arthur (Barbados) and Denzel Douglas (St. Kitts-Nevis).

Some leaders said that they would not be able to attend but would consider being represented by other officials if that was an option. They included prime ministers Said Musa (Belize), Keith Mitchell (Grenada), P.J. Patterson (Jamaica), Kenny Anthony (St. Lucia), Ralph Gonsalves (St. Vincent & the Grenadines) and Patrick Manning (Trinidad-Tobago). Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington, who knows Puerto Rico well, said that, while he welcomes the invitation he would not be able to attend.

It could not be learned if Presidents Bharrat Jagdeo (Guyana), Jean Bertrand Aristide (Haiti) and Ronald Venetiaan (Suriname) have been invited or would attend but since they are heads of state as well as heads of government the protocol is described as more complicated by experts in that field.

Two heads were absent from the summit – Prime Minister Pierre Charles (Dominica) and Chief Minister John Osborne (Montserrat) – and their reaction to the invitation could not be learned. Charles was recently hospitalized in Martinique. Montserrat is a British dependency and its foreign affairs are handled by the British government. Osborne, a businessman-turned-politician, knows Puerto Rico well because Montserrat has had a thriving trade with San Juan for years.

Puerto Rico important partner

A number of the nations in the Eastern Caribbean have had long relations with Puerto Rico and look forward to strengthening the ties. “Puerto Rico is important to my country because of vital transportation and shipping connections supporting our economy, particularly tourism,” said Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis. “San Juan is a magnet for shoppers in my country who go there not only because its close but also because they know it well,” said Bird of Antigua-Barbuda. “Our business community and tourism industry rely heavily on airline and shipping connections with Puerto Rico as well.”

Other countries with expanding transportation connections with Puerto Rico are Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad-Tobago, all of which are served by daily flights of American Eagle which are utilized by their tourist industry as well as their nationals traveling to the U.S. and Canada.

In June Arthur of Barbados and in May Anthony of St. Lucia both attended regional tourism conferences in Puerto Rico but neither met Gov. Sila Calderon. The July 25 initiative was welcomed by a number of Caricom delegates with long relations with Puerto Rico. Some said they will be watching how the efforts to restore the relationship develop. Others are aware of the impact of the changes in administrations in San Juan on Puerto Rico’s relations with the Caribbean.

A number expressed concern over the dispute which has arisen because of the Calderon administration’s efforts to seek associate membership for Puerto Rico in the [Association of Caribbean States (ACS)], a move opposed by the Bush administration in Washington. While Puerto Rico Secretary of State Ferdinand Mercado insists Puerto Rico is entitled, the U.S. State Department thinks otherwise.

Vazquez was only invited to the opening ceremonies of the Caricom summit and left Guyana the following day to return to Puerto Rico. The next evening U.S. Ambassador to Guyana Ronald Godard hosted the traditional Fourth of July reception at his residence and it was attended by a much larger number of guests than usual because of the coincidence of the Caricom summit.

Numerous dignitaries were present including President Jagdeo, Guyana Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Belize Prime Minister Musa, Caricom Secretary General Carrington and ACS Secretary General Norman Girvan. Absent were any representatives of Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S. flag territories in the region.

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1) Other articles by the well known Caribbean author John Collins can be read at: www.pymesdominicanas.com

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July 08, 2002

 

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