By RON FANFAIR
Barack Obama’s ascendancy to the presidency of the United States has re-invigorated Caribbean people and provided them with hope and optimism at a time when the world is mired in economic crises.
St. Kitts/Nevis Prime Minister, Dr. Denzil Douglas, shared this observation in Toronto when he met recently with nationals to, among other things, update them on some of the discussions and decisions taken at the just concluded Summit of the Americas that will impact Caribbean people.
Douglas was the first Caribbean head of state to visit this city since the historic Summit in Trinidad & Tobago.
“The environment in which the Summit took place gave Caribbean leaders an opportunity to dialogue with U.S. President Barack Obama and that, to me, brings comfort to the Caribbean people,” Douglas said. “Our people had begun to perceive that the U.S. agenda under the George Bush administration no longer even considered us to be part of the world.
“Under Bush, we felt that America looked inwardly to a large extent and no longer, in my opinion, seemed to be very concerned by what was happening around the world. What Obama emphasized at the Summit brought a lot of hope to our people. We certainly got the sense that the U.S. does not seem to be only engaged in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but is mindful of what is impacting on the lives of the people of the Caribbean region in terms of their social development.
“The dialogue was very positive in the bilateral meetings and I believe we will see a difference in their attitude that will benefit the man in the street in our islands.”
While in Trinidad, Obama announced a US$30 million initiative to enhance security in the Caribbean and he promised that his country will partner with the region to help entrepreneurs and assist in managing energy and climate change. The U.S. president also pledged to direct key members of his Cabinet to build and sustain relationships with their Caribbean counterparts.
Douglas said Obama made a very favourable first impression with him and his colleagues.
“Previously, the U.S. showed no interest in working with us to prevent the continuing flow of small arms into our territories,” said Douglas, who is the chairman of the Regional Security System. “Not one Caribbean country produces firearms, yet there is so much on our streets. Here comes Obama and he immediately agrees we must work together to address this concern and he also makes funding available to us to help in terms of security.”
Douglas said the summit also provided Caribbean leaders with an opportunity to interact with other Western Hemispheric leaders and talk openly about the unprecedented global financial crisis.
“These leaders were coming from the G-20 Summit in London and we were able to dialogue with them to attempt to come up with solutions and pathways to be pursued as we try to provide our people with the best opportunities to survive in terms of energy security, responding to the serious economic challenges and looking at further sustainable development of the hemisphere,” he said.
“Far reaching decisions were taken to ensure there is a new spirit of co-operation and a new opportunity for widening and deepening the relationship between the Caribbean and North America, particularly the United States and Canada.”
It was the first time that the Summit of the Americas was held in the Caribbean.
“That was significant and it has now become part of the history of the Caribbean community of nations,” Douglas added.