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Rowley: Stop the sanctions

■ Ria Taitt

PRIME MINISTER Dr Keith Rowley yesterday called for the removal of sanctions against Cuba and Venezuela and for their inclusion in the Summits of the Americas. He also advocated greater support for Haiti.

It is a different perspective from that of the United States, which did not invite these countries (along with Nicaragua) to the IX Summit and has a long-standing policy of sanctions against Cuba and, more recently, against Venezuela.

Speaking at the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, the Prime Minister outlined T&T's foreign policy position in which respect, regard and dialogue are accorded to countries in the Hemisphere rather than a policy of exclusion, isolation and ostracisation.

Noting that Trinidad and Tobago had been included in each of the nine Summits of the America held since 1994 and was the smallest country in the Hemisphere to have hosted the Summit in 2009, the Prime Minister said : 'We know that small does not mean insignificant....We are convinced that our inclusion in this process and the respect and regard that have been accorded to our sovereign equality have contributed meaningfully to our strength and stability as a democracy and a beautiful twin-island Republic.

'What we wish for ourselves, we wish for others; and as a proud member of the Caribbean Community, we hope that such respect and regard would be afforded to all states within our hemisphere, including Cuba and Venezuela. The path of exclusion and sanctions has not been effective in the past and has brought us no closer to the goal of an Americas which is equitable for the ordinary citizens of our hemisphere no matter where they live.'

Rowley said 'we cannot accept without worry what is happening in Haiti as a normal existence for the population there. We who have put man on the moon and created the internet, we should be able to bring some relief to Haitian lives, within these Americas'.

The Prime Minister said the practice of democracy was neither a cloistered virtue nor an automatic oneshape- fits-all . 'We say that if we are all to end up in the same safe place, the journey must not be truncated and we may have to help some of our brothers and sisters along the way. But we must never abandon them,' he said. Empowering marginalised groups

Noting that the theme of the Summit was 'Sustainability, Resilience and Equity', the Prime Minister referred to the Roadmap to Recovery Plan, which he said T&T relies on to build a sustainable, resilient and equitable future. He detailed the priorities of T&T's 'people-centred' National Sustainable Development policy framework and strategy (2016-2030) which had enabled this country to join with the countries of the Americas to contribute to the political commitments on Democratic Governance, Digital Transformation, Health and Resilience, a Sustainable Green Future, and Equitable Clean Energy Transition, which have been adopted at the Summit. He said economic, pandemic and security challenges make this a steep climb but was persevering in the hope of preserving the gains made whilst bringing further improvement.

'By making and keeping these political commitments, we can and must empower our hemisphere's civil society, private sector, women, youth, and other vulnerable groups that have historically been marginalised and discriminated against, including Persons of African Descent and Indigenous and Tribal Peoples, to achieve their aspirations for a Sustainable, Resilient and Equitable Future', he said.

'Mr President, Excellencies, I firmly believe that the greatest opportunity that this Summit provides for delivering on these political commitments to our citizens, is the opportunity to rebuild trust, first in democracy, then among democracies, and ultimately within democracies, in our Hemisphere of countries with diverse histories, economies, polities and societies,' he added.

Cooperation is essential

Rowley also called for greater cooperation among states to achieve these objectives. 'Having ultimately recognised the necessity for cooperation to overcome the disastrous effects of digital, economic, health and social inequities, highlighted even more by the Covid-19 pandemic experience, we must be reminded of the importance of multilateral cooperation to preserve our region as a Zone of Peace, even as it is threatened today by the violation of international law and the global rules-based system in Ukraine,' the Prime Minister stated.

He said the compounded and reinforced challenges presented to global supply chains, energy and food security, among others should sharpen countries of the Summit of the Americas' focus on the risks that they all face now and the damage that could be done to future generations if they don't get it right. 'It is more than a cliche that the pandemic and the conflict in Europe, as well as our several hemispheric irritants, have presented us with real opportunities for wanting to do better, for building a more secure future, one to which our youth can aspire with confidence,' he said.

He said as leaders and citizens in a hemisphere that has withstood the ravages of a global pandemic during the past 27 months, the Summit provided a platform of opportunity and promise that should not be missed. 'The imperative of building a future that is democratically secure, clean and green, fair and free, inclusive and innovative, resilient and renewable, smart and sustainable, is clear and cannot be ignored,' he said.

'After more than two years and counting of a costly, extraordinarily global, dangerous and infectious public health emergency, and most recently during the outbreak of unjustified state-on-state war, the interdependence of our lives and livelihoods across this hemisphere and beyond, has been fully unmasked. We must all play our part if we are to rise to the occasion, one that is fully anticipated and warranted,' he said.

The Prime Minister said the Government of Trinidad and Tobago wished to reiterate its commitment to hemispheric cooperation, and he expressed his deepest appreciation to the President and People of the United States for the hospitality and courtesies extended to the T&T delegation. 'I assure you that the Government and People of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago stand in full commitment with you and all partners in the family of the Americas to 'build a sustainable, resilient and equitable future' for all our people,' he said.

END THE ISOLATION: Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley addresses participants yesterday during the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, California, USA. -Photo: OFFICE OF THE PRIME MINISTER

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