Caribbean Heads of State & Government Meet with Congress

WASHINGTON, -- Heads of Government from the Caricom Member States concluded successful discussions with members of the United States House of Representatives Congressional Caribbean Caucus. The meeting, organized by the Inter-American Economic Council, held at the Longworth House Office Building on Capitol Hill was designed to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the nations of the Caribbean.

"The meeting served to identify mechanisms that will institutionalize the relationship between members of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus and the CARICOM Ministers," said Council President Barry Featherman. The Heads of Government met with a bipartisan group of members of the United States Congressional Caribbean Caucus and key business leaders including the Stanford Financial Group . The discussions focused heavily on the Recovery Efforts for the Caribbean Nations that were devastated by Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne, the FTAA negotiations, the third border initiative, security, health, commodities, criminal deportees, immigration, transnational crime and illegal trade in arms.

In his keynote address to the Members of the Caucus, the President of Suriname, HE Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan congratulated Council President Barry Featherman and the Inter-American Economic Council for its diligent work in creating a forum for the further strengthening of multilateral ties between the United States of America and the Nations of the Caribbean Community. The President expressed the need to work together to help the Members of the Caribbean Community devastated by the recent Hurricanes. He reiterated the Caricom's endorsement of Suriname's Ambassador Albert Ramdin as the region's unanimously endorsed candidate for Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States. Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer addressed the Members of Congress and indicated that his Government will continue to work to strengthen democracy in the region citing his own country's superlative voter turnout of 91 %. He also implored the Members of the Caucus to "transition to a Caribbean Coalition whose influence could be used to leverage immediate US intervention in those Caribbean countries devastated by recent hurricanes." Similarly, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves, said that the two nations need to work to help the victims of the Hurricanes and build a partnership between the US and the Caribbean based on equality and mutual understanding. The newly elected Secretary General of the OAS, Dr. Miguel Angel Rodriguez, in his remarks pledged that the OAS will work collectively with the Members States on efforts to alleviate the suffering of the Members States affected by the Hurricanes and for the longer term economic development of the region. Mr. Allen Stanford spoke about the need for additional assistance to the nations devastated by the Hurricanes. He also addressed the need to streamline regulatory regimes that make it difficult for investors to take advantage of all of the opportunities that exist in the region. In his statement to the assembled Members of Congress and Caribbean Leaders, Council President Featherman expressed his gratitude to the Secretary General of Caricom, His Excellency, Edwin Carrington and the Caribbean Ambassadors to the United States of America who used their good offices in making this meeting and other meeting between Members of Congress and the Caribbean Community possible. The Congressional Delegation included the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus Congressman Donald Payne (D-NJ), Congressman Robert Ney (R-OH), Congressman Pete Sessions (R-TX), Congressman Tom Feeney (R-FL), Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY), Congressman John Sweeney (R-NY), Congressman Mel Watt (D-NC), Congressman Phil English (R-PA), Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) Congresswomen Donna Christensen (D-VI), and Congresswoman Diane Watson (D-CA).The Foreign Ministers of the Bahamas, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, the Minister of Community Development in representation of the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago also attended the meetings as did the Staff Members from the Caucus, the Caribbean Diplomatic Community in Washington, DC, Ambassador John Maisto, RNM Chief Richard Bernal and the Executive Vice President of the Inter-American Development Bank, Mr. Dennis Flannery.

As a result of this meeting organized by the Inter-American Economic Council, the Bi-Partisan Co-Chairs of the Caucus submitted a request to authorize Fifty Million Dollars in Hurricane Relief Aid from the United States of America to Haiti, Grenada, Jamaica, the Bahamas and the other nations affected by the Hurricane. In commenting on the request, Council President Featherman stated, "this is the goal of the Council's Caribbean Initiative - we look beyond dialogue and truly advance action." "A concrete result of the meeting organized by the Inter-American Economic Council and the Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus, it is likely that Fifty Million Dollars will be authorized."

About the Council and the Caribbean Caucus
The Congressional Caribbean Caucus was established as a follow up to two historic visits by Congress Members to Antigua and Barbuda and Barbados in January of last year, a visit to St. Lucia in 2004 and the Business Roundtable organized by the Council under the Auspices of the Government of Barbados at the OAS General Assembly Meeting. The council's goal is to work with sub-regional groups within Latin America including the Andean Initiative and the Caribbean Initiative to facilitate understanding and greater sensitivity and appreciation of specific regional issues. The Council has cooperative agreements with the Organization of American States signed by the Council President with Dr. Cesar Gaviria in June of 2000 and the Caribbean Development Bank signed by President Featherman with Dr. Compton Bourne last December. The Council is chaired by His Excellency Ambassador Christopher Thomas of Trinidad and Tobago, the former Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States.

Please click below to view pictures of the event and a copy of welcome remarks by Council President, Barry Featherman and the Hon. Dame Biller Miller of Barbados.

PICTURES: Caribbean Congressional Dinner

- Barry Featherman - Council President & CEO

- H.E. Runaldo R. Venetiaan - President of Suriname

- Hon. Baldwin Spencer - Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda

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