US free to invite whoever it wants to meet with: Dr Ralph Gonsalves

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves Tuesday praised the position taken by his Barbadian counterpart Mia Mottley as some regional leaders prepare to meet in Jamaica with United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves

Mottley, speaking at a weekend ceremony to honour the late Barbados prime minister and regionalist, Errol Barrow, said Bridgetown had not agreed to accept the invitation to the talks and warned about efforts to divide the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM.

“As chairman of CARICOM, it is impossible for me to agree that my Foreign Minister should attend a meeting with anyone to which members of CARICOM are not invited. If some are invited and not all, then it is an attempt to divide this region,” she said.

Gonsalves, speaking at a news conference here, said while the United States had every right to invite whoever it wanted to the talks with Pompeo, who arrived in Kingston yesterday, said “I have a strong support for Mia Mottley where she said she couldn’t, as chairman of CARICOM accept an invitation to go where some countries are invited and some are not invited.

“I think that’s the correct position because it would appear as though you are dividing CARICOM. Having said that it is the right of every sovereign country to invite who they want to invite and for those sovereign countries to go,” he said.

Gonsalves recalled that last year, President Donald Trump had invited some regional government leaders to Miami for talks adding that he had no idea as to why Washington had adopted that position regarding the Caribbean.

“All I know is this we are functioning in a straight forward manner within the four walls of the United Nations and we are friends of the United States of America. We have friendly relations, but I reiterate this that there is a section of the political leadership in the United States, which seems to think that if you are not yes, yes, yes all the time with everything they say or do, somehow …you with us or against us,” Gonsalves said, adding “well I am not a leader who can accept that “.

“Not because I am your friend that I must be subservient to you because I am small.”

Gonsalves told reporters that while St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States enjoy good friendly relations the section in Washington bent on dusting off the Monroe Doctrine of the early 19th century “and given new clothing, which will give a right to interfere and intervene wherever they would like in the hemisphere and to weaponise trade and weaponise the banking system.

“St. Vincent and the Grenadines says no to those things. Not because I am your friend that I must be subservient to you because I am small. I am your friend it does not mean that I must be slavish to you because you are powerful.

“I and the government, we accept the tenants of the United Nations, equality of states, respect for sovereignty and independence. Non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of a country save and except if there is a right of self-defence…or any form approved by the Security Council”.

Pompeo, who is visiting several countries in Latin America, said his two-day visit to Kingston, will allow meeting with “many Caribbean leaders to discuss how we can all work together to promote our common democratic values and prosperity for all of our people,” adding “I’m looking forward to a fantastic set of meetings”.

Pompeo said he would also participate in a round table with the foreign ministers of Bahamas, Belize, Dominican Republic, Haiti, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia.

Another issue on the table will be the current situation in Venezuela as Washington continues to lead the efforts to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office in the South American country in support of the Opposition Leader Juan Guaido.

Image result for President Nicolas Maduro
President Nicolas Maduro

At their summit in St. Lucia last July, CARICOM leaders agreed to maintain their position of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela and agreed also “that mediation-related activities would be continued to be pursued by the Prime Ministers of St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago”.

St Vincent opposed to US support of Juan Guaido

Gonsalves said while he was unaware of the reasons “why the United States government invites some countries and not others, what I do know the United States of America has a position in support of Guaido as the president of Venezuela and St. Vincent and the Grenadines says no.

“(I) don’t see how Guaido can be imposed as president. I don’t see how United States of America can seize US$25 billion of Venezuela’s money and then take three or four billion out of it and say you sending some humanitarian aid, not through the United Nations system but you politicising humanitarian aid,” Gonsalves said.

Gonsalves said that the humanitarian aid going to Syria has the backing of the United Nations, adding “we don’t support unilateralism for any entity that believes it can be a hegemon.

St Vincent and the Grenadines opposed to US candidate for OAS Secretary-General

‘We believe in multilateral consensus and we support international law. We are friends of all and we strive for a better world,” Gonsalves said, adding “I don’t know because of the Venezuela issue we have this difference, I don’t know if it is because Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent and the Grenadines presumptuous enough to say we not supporting (Luis) Almagro to be the secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS).

Luis Almagro
Luis Almagro

The two Caribbean countries have named the Ecuadorian diplomat and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa, as a candidate to oppose Almagro, who is seeking re-election in March.

María Fernanda Espinosa
María Fernanda Espinosa

Apart from Almagro, she will also come up against Hugo de Zela, Peru’s Ambassador to the United States.

“CARICOM as a whole has said we are not supporting Almagro,” he said, noting that Washington has sent out a document urging support for the incumbent.

“If they supporting Almagro and I ain’t supporting Almagro, we have to have a different candidate,” Gonsalves said, adding that he is very “open and transparent” in his dealing.

“I don’t know if by doing that (inviting some countries) they are looking votes for Almagro but that group is divided because a number of them don’t want Almagro, some of them may want the Peruvian ambassador, but I happen to think that most of the CARICOM countries that I know of support the candidacy of María Fernanda Espinosa,” he said.