Prime Minister of Belize, Juan Antonio Brice–o.
Prime Minister of Belize, Juan Antonio Briceno.

Despite weeks of threats by various Caribbean leaders about not attending next week’s Summit of the Americas if countries like Cuba are excluded, all indications point to a majority of nations showing up in California next week.

The chair of the 15-nation grouping and Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno is now arguing that the region should not miss the chance of meeting with President Joe Biden and other top players to discuss a range of issues including recovery assistance from the covid pandemic, problems associated with migration and mounting debt among other issues.

Briceno, bloc chairman until July when Suriname hosts the next summit and takes over as rotating chair, said that the region has played its part in backroom lobbying on behalf of Cuba and the benefits are beginning to tilt in favor of the  island.

Several Caribbean and other Latin American countries have in recent weeks been voicing their displeasure with indications from Washington that it will not invite Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua because of their alleged undemocratic nature and poor human rights records among other complaints. Cuba and Nicaragua have already expressed a disinterest in attending and Briceno says the region is now a bit more comfortable with recent moves by the US to make life easier for the island.

“Because of the lobbying efforts that we’ve been doing on behalf of Cuba, that they’re starting to ease up some of the sanctions like allowing remittances to be able to go into Cuba, to allow more flights to be able to go to Cuba and probably even cruise ships that will be able to create more economic activities for their people. But, unfortunately, they (the US) believe that at this point, they will not be able to invite Cuba,” Briceno said.

As to whether CARICOM nations should attend, Briceno said the number of countries planning to attend is rising and the region has serious issues to raise at the conference.

“After long discussions in CARICOM, we’ve decided to allow countries who want to participate to attend this summit. I just checked with the Secretary General Carla Barnett and she said so far seven countries have already committed to going. So, Belize has, we have agreed that Belize will attend the summit.  Many countries believe that it is in our interest to be able to attend,” Briceno told LoveFM radio at the weekend.

Hours after he spoke, five-term Vincentian Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves again threw his regular political jabs at Washington by contending that it is not a domestic or local summit, but a hemispheric conference that all should be automatically invited to attend. It is not the right of President Biden to say who should come, Gonsalves said on a weekend radio program.

“That’s not his right to exclude anyone. That’s to be done in the whole of the Americas — he alone can’t make that decision. Whether we should be represented at any lower level is still up in the air. As presently advised, I don’t see how we should go, but I will have further discussions with my cabinet colleagues and also with my colleague heads. I find it is a terrible idea to exclude people. We are still preoccupied with 20th-century conflicts, and battles in the 21st century. We have now entered the third decade of the 21st century and we have to resolve these problems,” Gonsalves said.