US Attorney General holds key meetings on 2nd Caribbean trip

US Attorney General holds key meetings on 2nd Caribbean trip
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder is attending a two-day meeting of ministers and high-level officials responsible for public security in the Americas in Trinidad this week. He also is using the opportunity to meet with high-level regional officials including the prime ministers of Grenada and Barbados where he has ancestral roots.

Holder on his second official visit to a Caribbean Community (CARICOM)country since last year. He was scheduled to join security and law ministers from 34 member nations of the Organization of American States (OAS) at a meeting Thursday that will focus on the improving police management in the hemisphere, meeting organizer, the OAS said.

Cuba remains excluded from the OAS because of its continuing problems with the U.S.

The OAS said that the meeting will look at ways of strengthening “the training and education of personnel responsible for public security in the region” in addition to trying to come up with ways of fostering better community participation in policing, building trust and improving service, accountability, transparency and police management.”

Holder is the latest high-ranking cabinet members from the administration of President Barack Obama, to have met with Caribbean leaders and ministers in the past two years.

Just last week, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano met with regional officials in the Bahamas, following up on sessions with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

Holder, whose parents are from Barbados, the most easterly of the Caribbean island chain, also met with officials in Barbados last year on a working vacation visit

Washington has been showing increased interest in its so-called Third Border region in the past two years as critics have been pointing to the fact that China is moving to fill the geopolitical gap left by the U.S. in recent years, as it focused more on the Middle East and its fight against terrorism than an area just off its south coast.

A Chinese goodwill hospital ship currently is in the Caribbean attempting to win hearts and minds by offering free treatment to thousands of locals onboard and mimicking similar exercises the U,S. military has run in recent years virtually unchallenged.

Holder is visiting an island that has been placed under a state of emergency for the past three months allegedly to deal with runaway gangland violence and drug trafficking from the nearby South American mainland. But unions say the move was also designed to nullify their growing militancy in the midst of a pay dispute with authorities there.

Trinidad is a key trading partner with the U.S., supplying more than 60 percent of natural gas needs to Eastern Seaboard states.