Obama to visit Jamaica next week

President Barack Obama.
Associated Press / Susan Walsh

For the second time in Jamaica’s history a sitting president of the United States will visit the island.

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan registered first in their history books as a Republican to make a stop to the island while in office.

On April. 9, President Barack Obama will make an entry for the Democrats and also imprint a new chapter in Jamaica’s history as the first Black president of the United States and the one to arrive while the first female prime minister leads the country.

A front page headline on the Jamaica Observer newspaper boasted “Yes We Can! Host Obama.” The March 20 issue will undoubtedly tally record sales and ultimately enter their archives as a collector’s item. Another inside story described the president’s visit as a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”

During the brief meeting in Jamaica, President Obama and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller will hold bilateral discussions on a range of issues of mutual interest.

“The government of Jamaica is delighted that President Obama will be visiting Jamaica at this time. It will mark the second time since our independence that a sitting U.S. president will be visiting Jamaica,” PM Simpson Miller said.

“We view the president’s upcoming visit as an affirmation of the strong ties of friendship and cooperation that have united our two peoples for centuries. We are confident that through fruitful dialogue and exchanges during the visit we will succeed in further strengthening the close relations that exist at the bilateral level between Jamaica and the USA, and between the USA and CARICOM.”

The leader’s announcement received an immediate endorsement from former prime minister and opposition leader Andrew Holness.

Holness said he was extremely happy that a sitting U.S. president would be visiting Jamaica but also added his Jamaica Labor Party’s view on the relaxed relationship between Cuba and the U.S. which PM Simpson Miller also mentioned in her statement to the Parliament.

“It is expected that the president will be proceeding from Jamaica to Panama for this hemispheric encounter which will welcome for the first time the participation of our closest neighbor the Republic of Cuba,” Prime Minister Simpson Miller added.

Holness’s response was that: “The Opposition will play its role when President Obama visits Jamaica and would like to place on record our appreciation for the chill in relations between the United States and Cuba. We the Opposition have always stated that the economic embargo against Cuba should be lifted. We welcome President Obama to Jamaica.”

President Obama will meet with regional leaders afterwards on April 10, 11 in Panama for the Summit of the Americas. It will be his second meeting with CARICOM leaders following his meeting in Port of Spain, Trinidad during the Summit of the Americas six years ago.

There on the isthmus along with “heads of Government will also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest. As is the regional interest the CARICOM/US summit will be co-chaired by the U.S. president and the current Chairman of CARICOM Perry Christie, prime minister of the Bahamas,” she added.

Prime Minister Simpson-Miller stopped short of saying whether or not Jamaicans would actually be able greet the two-term “change’ proponent who made history in 2008 when he was elected the first of his race to lead the free world.

Many are hoping that when President Obama arrives, his visit will be more than a brief stop-over and that nationals will be able to see him. A great many more are also hoping that his entourage will include the entire first family.

In a recent editorial in the Jamaica Observer, one of the island’s principal newspapers, the editor said: “In our view, Mr. Obama’s visit has both multilateral and regional dimensions. At the global level, the U.S. has been preoccupied with terrorism, the Middle East (Syria, Israel and Palestine) and with extricating its armed forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. There have also been domestic political distractions due to the fundamentalist Republican majority in Congress. The result is that, for a time, U.S. attention has been one of quiet complacency.”

“It is also an international endorsement of Jamaica, which is being held up as a model to the rest of the Caribbean.”

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