KINGSTON – Prime Minister Andrew Holness Wednesday held “very frank discussions” with the United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on a number of wide-ranging issues including the ongoing political situation in Venezuela, the Organisation of American States (OAS) as well as security, trade and investment and regional and hemispheric matters.
“I certainly value our fruitful and productive dialogue and look forward to the continued robust partnership between Jamaica and the United States.
“Jamaica was able to raise in direct ways our perspectives on difficult and complex issues and I believe that the United States was equally upfront in their perspective as well,” Holness told a news conference.
He told reporters that Jamaica had placed on the table “specific requests on areas of cooperation and I believe that we will see some benefits coming from that,” adding that he was confident that the relationship would be even much “more stronger’ in the future.
“We are determined to position Jamaica to take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself to grow the economy so that large and small businesses, as well as our communities and citizens, can reap the benefits. I, therefore, re-affirm Jamaica’s keen interest in and plans to build upon the economic partnership between the United States and Jamaica,” Holness said.
Pompeo, who arrived here on Tuesday night, following visits to some Latin American countries, said that Washington enjoys a “close relationship” with Kingston built “on a whole lot more than just proximity”.
He said development and infrastructure were among the topics discussed and last year Jamaica became the first Caribbean country to join “our Growth in the Americas and we are honoured to assist our Caribbean friends in making their countries more attractive to private sector infrastructure investment”.
He said because of the opportunities, United States-based companies have invested nearly one billion US dollars in energy infrastructure, adding “we want to ensure that all new investments, especially in the technology sector, come from trusted sources who won’t compromise Jamaican security and privacy.
“We want the Jamaican people to receive quality, high level trusted work on fair terms,” he said, noting that the discussions with Holness also centred on security in the region.
“We discussed how we can work together to stop drug flows and transnational crime,” he said, adding that Washington had provided a significant amount of funds over the past decade towards eradicating the illegal drugs trade.
He said he wanted to thank Jamaica for “standing up to the illegitimate, destabilising dictatorship” in Venezuela, where Washington is pushing efforts to have President Nicolas Maduro removed from office and replaced by Opposition Leader Juan Guaido.
“I know it has not been easy …but we will keep working together to help the Venezuelan people have a democratic nation with free and fair elections and to return to prosperity that the Venezuelan people so richly deserve,” Pompeo said.
At their summit in St. Lucia last July, CARICOM leaders, including Holness, 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”.
Pompeo said that during his deliberations with Holness, he pointed out that Washington is proud “that our neighbours believe in multilateralism…so we can work to secure a more secure and stable peaceful hemisphere and freedom.
“A strong freedom-minded OAS is crucial to that effort. Prime Minister Holness and I share the goal of empowering that organisation.”
He made it clear that Washington favours the re-election of Luis Almagro to be the secretary-general of the OAS.
“We have made very clear whom we think should be the next leader of the OAS. We have made that clear because we think he has demonstrated his ability to return financial stability to the institution and return this institution to a really important place for all member states of the OAS,” he added.
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. Hugo de Zela, Peru’s Ambassador to the United States is also a candidate.
On Tuesday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, told a news conference in Kingstown, “CARICOM as a whole has said we are not supporting Almagro”.
Holness said that during the discussions with Pompeo “we reiterated the valuable role of the Organization of American States in supporting countries of the hemisphere and expressed the desire for the OAS to continue playing this role through strong leadership, strategic and sustainable planning and of course responsible action by all members”.