The Bahamas has taken over the rotating chairmanship of the 15-nation Caribbean Community from Antigua and Barbuda and will be the venue for next month’s mid-year regional leaders summit, the bloc said this week.
Prime Minister Perry Christie of the Bahamas has replaced Prime Minister Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda at the start of the year and will run Caricom, as the bloc is commonly known, with help from the Guyana-based administrative secretariat, until the main summit in Belize in early July.
Caricom quoted Christie as saying that one of the main challenges would be to continue work on overhauling the structure of the community and to review the functioning of its organs, including its headquarters in Guyana.
“We will be aiming at making the community more resilient to the internal and external factors which hinder our efforts at attaining sustainable development in a rapidly changing world,” Christie said.
He said the recent moves by the U.S. to improve relations with Cuba speaks to the dynamic nature of the global environment in which Caricom operates, noting that the region is heartened by moves for rapprochement between Cuba and the U.S.
He also said the latest developments between the two neighbors underscore the need for an “urgent summit between the American president and the heads of the community.” Caribbean leaders and President Barack Obama have met at least once to discuss key issues of mutual interest, including hemispheric security and international crime.
Caricom has been at the forefront of international calls for an end to the decades-long economic embargo against Cuba and other restrictions that have been in place ever since a band of bearded, left-leaning rebels headed by retired President Fidel Castro kicked out a U.S.-supported regime that had turned the island into an international gambling den and haven for prostitution and other acts of malfeasance and immorality.
Caricom is pushing ahead with its calls for a new beginning between Cuba and the U.S. despite fears that an open Cuba could be bad news for the region’s vital tourism industry as Americans, Britons, Canadians and other traditional tourists might decide to change relaxation ground and sample what Cuba has to offer.
Caricom leaders are to meet in Nassau, the Bahamian capital, Feb. 26 and 27. Developments in Cuba will be one of the main topics on the agenda.
Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados broke the island’s hemispheric isolation in 1972, by establishing diplomatic relations with Havana, defying the Nixon administration at the time.
A community council meeting, the first major session involving regional ministers for the year, is scheduled to be held in Guyana next week to discuss Cuba and other items, officials said this week.