The moment is here
March 1, 2024
The moment is here

A full year after tiny St Vincent and the Grenadines assumed the one-year (pro tempore) presidency of the 34-nation Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), our country is hosting the Summit of its leaders. Never before has such a small country been charged with that responsibility, welcoming and catering for such hemispheric giants as Brazil and Argentina, such politically diverse countries as Mexico and Jamaica, such physical neighbours but different societies as Brazil and Bolivia, while also having to accommodate the disputed border claims as in Guatemala and Belize as well as the Venezuela/Guyana hot potato.

The challenge before us is so huge that there must be some who wonder if we are not over-ambitious in our aspirations. Those without a deep understanding of international politics and who therefore take a transactional approach to such gatherings cannot help but see it in the context of immediate returns for what we spend. Reality, common sense and intelligence would put us on a completely different path. The wide disparity in perception lends itself readily to all kinds of mistaken views and actions.

There are elements in our society for instance who do not support our membership of CELAC, much more our leadership role. While that is their right, the basis, in failing to distinguish between political rivalry at a national level, and broader national interests, as well as remaining wedded to the old discredited pro-western perspectives which consider any alternative initiatives as almost dangerous, is seriously flawed. It is important to note that not only is CELAC, the only truly regional organization, based on shared historical experiences, but which seeks to build hemispheric solidarity outside the painful experiences of the USA and its unfortunate neighbour, Canada. There is in existence, a regional hemispheric body, the Organization of American States (OAS), but almost every member country of that body, save for the USA, has had bitter experiences from OAS intervention. The mighty military power to the north has not only intervened militarily but has even aggressively crushed tiny states as Grenada as it attempted to exercise its sovereignty.

The pity is that there are still political entities which do not seem to understand where our interests lie. Finding common interests with the likes of Brazil and Mexico is completely different from even dreaming of “common interests” with the likes of a foreign policy in which our own modest interests count for nothing. Yet it is in our best interests to continue to maintain friendly relations with the USA as we do with Venezuela.

That forms the core of the foreign policy outlined by this government, “the many-sided, post-colonial” focus. The CELAC Summit is a further manifestation of this policy.

Let us all welcome our hemispheric brothers and sisters and extend to them a truly Vincy hospitality.