Browne to attend Summit of the Americas
7 June 2022
ST. JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – Prime Minister Gaston Browne is due to leave here on Tuesday, the same day that his father, Harold A. Browne 76, will be buried, for the United States where he will join other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders for the Summit of Americas.
Browne is leading a delegation that includes his wife, Maria, who will also attend the forums for First Ladies and wives attending the summit, the island’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organisation of American States (OAS), Sir Ronald Sanders and Joy-Dee Davis Lake, Antigua and Barbuda’s Alternate Representative to the OAS
Browne in an interview here on Monday, said that CARICOM held a special caucus on the issue and decided that they should attend due to the United States softening position towards Cuba and Venezuela.
“We felt that, in good faith, at least, the United States has softened its position so we should attend,” said Browne, who had earlier signalled his intention not to attend the summit because an invitation had not been extended to Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, who publicly indicated he would not attend the June 6-10 summit because of the situation regarding Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua and Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell, who is engaged in a campaign for a June 23 general election, appear to be the only two regional leaders likely to be absent from the deliberations in Los Angeles.
“We continue to advocate for additional changes. The United States would have said certain things to us in confidence. And we believe that on that basis that we could participate while at the same time agitating for additional changes, additional concessions for Cuba and Venezuela in particular,” Prime Minister Browne said.
He said Senator Christopher Dodd and others “would have spoken to me and encouraged me to participate.
“I would have said to him and others in the US government that Antigua and Barbuda is not fighting any ideological war. We felt that we had a moral obligation to stand with our hemispheric partners in terms of ensuring participation and ensuring that there is no ostracism,” Prime Minister Browne added.
Browne said regional leaders will use the opportunity to defend the Caribbean’s position noting that Washington has shown some interest in the Caribbean during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by providing vaccines and PPE’s.
“I think they ought to go further. And when you look at the fact that COVID is going to be endemic, there is going to be further economic damage on countries in the Caribbean. The United States should be helping us to put together a ‘post-COVID’ Marshall Plan to salvage our economies.”
He said that the Caribbean needs real, practical solutions to their problems and therefore believes that this is an opportunity for them to advocate on behalf of the Caribbean people for increased collaboration and support from the United States.
“In terms of the supply of vaccines for the Caribbean region, recognizing that COVID will be endemic, the United States should be able to help us put a sustainable COVID strategy in place. We have had problems accessing vaccines on a timely basis and purchasing vaccines has been prohibitive.
“I don’t see why they can’t help us to establish a vaccine manufacturing facility. We can have great accessibility to vaccines and vaccines that are more affordable. These are the kind of collaboration that we need.”
Browne said that one of the aims of his government at the summit will be to encourage President Biden to change the aggressive policy towards Cuba in particular, and Venezuela. He said that there is the need for hemispheric solidarity and not policies driven by any state in the United States where a large percentage of Cubans reside.
“An American president must stand and bell the cat and not be dictated by some in Florida. You are telling me that because they want to win that seat that they are going to make the lives of tens of millions of people in Cuba and Venezuela miserable. That kind of geopolitics is backward looking,” he said.
Browne also said that he wants to see a President Biden, who will be more empathetic, noting that he must make the best of his term and make positive and impactful decisions to change the policies on Cuba and on Venezuela.
“Let’s get a truly integrated and united hemisphere. This would be a great legacy and a better legacy than winning the state of Florida. So I hope we can have some of those frank discussions at the summit and clearly boycotting is not going to achieve that.”
Prime Minister Browne said that the summit is expected to discuss clean energy and the climate crisis, and how the public and private sectors can work together to solve large environmental problems. He noted that the commitments made at the summit are expected to transform the hemisphere and the lives of its inhabitants.
Caribbean leaders had also had objected to an invitation being extended to Venezuelan Opposition Leader, Juan Guaidó to lead a Venezuelan delegation to the event and Browne said during the interview that “I have been told that Guaido will not be invited.
“Now having been told that and when I turn up in California and I see Guaido at that meeting, you know I taking the next flight back, so we have to accept that there were some genuine ommitments that were given,” Browne added.
The summit that will be held under the theme “Building a Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Future” for the hemisphere and Washington has said that “as Chair and Host” it will “work with the region’s stakeholders toward securing leader-level commitments and concrete actions that dramatically improve pandemic response and resilience, promote a green and equitable recovery, build strong and inclusive democracies, and address the root causes of irregular migration”