Presidents of Cuba and Chile join 39th CARICOM Heads meeting

DPI, Guyana, Monday, July 02, 2018

The thirty-ninth Regular Heads of Government conference of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will welcome the Presidents of Chile and Cuba during the three-day meeting in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

The meeting opens on July 4 and concludes on July 6 and is being chaired by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness. Secretary-General of CARICOM, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, briefed media on the agenda of the conference today.

The Heads of Government will dedicate Thursday and Friday to work through pressing issues on the agenda.

Secretary General of CARICOM Ambassador Irwin LaRocque

Thursday’s discussions will focus on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), particularly the Golding Commission Report which is a review of the CSME which was chaired by former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

In June CARICOM facilitated stakeholder discussions here in Georgetown on implementing an effective CSME.  The issue of affordable intra-regional travel and travel requirements for Haitians is also expected to be addressed under the CSME umbrella.

The Heads of Government will also address disaster management and recovery, Ambassador LaRocque noted. Building a climate resilient Community is a top priority for those states in the hurricane belt. The Community was devasted last season by hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Ambassador LaRocque noted he remains positive following a recent meeting in Barbados where discussions focused on the pledges and resources from development donors.

During the conference, the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) will facilitate a series of meetings on building resilience in Montego Bay. The engagements began today and will be reported to the Heads when they meet.

Thursday and Friday’s working sessions will also include discussions with the Presidents of Chile, Sebastián Piñera, and Cuba, Miguel Díaz-Canel. CARICOM has long-standing relations with the Central American countries.

Ambassador LaRocque noted the meeting with Cuba is significant since it is the Community’s second interaction with the new president. CARICOM and Cuba are currently in discussions on climate change and science and technology, however, it is unlikely any agreements will be signed during the conference.

Heads of Government are also expected to hear the “far-reaching recommendations” of the CARICOM Commission on Marijuana. Ambassador LaRocque noted the Commission is recommending the decriminalization of marijuana.

“They are recommending that … the legislation be put in place to allow for research of medical marijuana,” Ambassador LaRocque said. The report also addresses the concerns of abuse of the herb.

During the conference, the new President of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) will be sworn in by the Governor-General. Vincentian Adrian Saunders will replace Sir Dennis Byron. The swearing in will be held on Wednesday.

By: Tiffny Rhodius