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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
Rico important partner
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.”
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.
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
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.
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.
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.