Caribbean Community leaders pick a new secretary general

A Dominican-born, New York University-educated economist has been selected as the new secretary general of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

Irwin LaRocque becomes only the second person from the nine-nation CARICOM sub-group — the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), to serve as the regional trade bloc’s chief executive.

Until his appointment late Thursday, July 21, LaRoque had been serving as trade chief at the Guyana-headquartered CARICOM secretariat.. He was chosen by a sub-committee of Caribbean leaders following interviews in recent weeks wth several candidades.

His appointment comes in the aftermath of calls from various quarters for leaders to fill the post, which had remained vacant for nearly a year, following the resignation of Dr. Edwin Carrington, who had served as the CARICOM CEO for 18 consecutive years.

The OECS, the bloc’s quite vibrant sub-grouping, had long identified Larocque as its favored candidate, arguing that the time had come for one of its sons or daughters to head up the European-styled regional community. Respected economist Allister McIntyre from Grenada was the only other person from the grouping to serve as CEO for three years from 1974. Former Deputy Secretary General Carla Barnett from Belize was also a front-runner for the position but the OECS easily prevailed.

Tobago-born Edwin Carrington, 73, retired last August, in part as a result of some political harassment from Jamaican authorities, leaving the position unfilled until the official announcement last Thursday night.

LaRocque, 56, read political philosophy and economics at at New York’s New School for Social Research before holding a string of key government positions in Dominica, such as chief executive of several ministries including foreign affairs and trade.

His appointment has come even as he is serving as co-chair of the U.S.-CARICOM Trade and Investment Council and was in charge of trade talks with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office for a new framework agreement between Washington and the Caribbean.

“Ambassador LaRocque’s experience in national public sector reform will be critical in the reform and restructuring process of the CARICOM secretariat, which is currently in progress,” the statement said, quoting bloc chairman and St. Kitts Prime Minister Denzil Douglas as saying that “LaRocque possesses the requisite skills of visionary leadership, courage and commitment required to guide the Community at this time of change and uncertainty.”

Carrington was recently appointed as his country’s envoy to CARICOM.