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Last updated: 21 April, 2009 - Published 16:49 GMT
 
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Forum: Summit of the Americas
 
Summit of the Americas logo
The 5th Summit of the Americas is being held in Trinidad
Caribbean and other leaders from the Americas, including US President Barack Obama, are meeting in Trinidad, for the 5th Summit of the Americas.

There have been calls for regional leaders to deal "head on" with the critical issues.

There have also been concerns that Caribbean leaders have not been putting forward their agenda for the Port of Spain talks.

The former national security minister of Jamaica, Peter Phillips, says the governments should be aim to make their voice heard, particularly on finding a way out of the global financial crisis.

SOME ISSUES

  • Does Caricom, despite being the host location for the summit, risk having its concerns overshadowed by issues of its larger Latin American, US and Canadian partners?
  • What issues would like Caribbean leaders to focus on at the summit?
  • What do you think they should aim to get out of it?
  • With President Barack Obama attending, what would you suggest that they discuss with him?

Have your say

There are too many summits, conferences, seminars and all manner of big spending events that don't seem to help in achieving any objective. It's about time that the issues of alleviating poverty, ensuring good governance, ending discrimination and all the other social ills that affect people be shifted from all talk to walk.
Ralph Saywack
Brampton, Canada

It’s great hosting a summit but the USA should pay for it as they are one of the main reasons the world is in the state it’s in.
Tony Albert
London, UK

I too agree with Dr. Saith when he said that it is a great honour and privilege that Trinidad and Tobago will assume presidency of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, and that this is first time that a CARICOM country will hold the even in the Caribbean. But is this great privilege really worth TT $500M?? Mr. Manning confessed that for the first time in fifteen years, the country has gone into deficit financing, but it is worthwhile because the benefits of this Summit will me many; that international focus will now be on the Caribbean region, “the Caribbean region,” not “Trinidad and Tobago” Mr. Manning!

Why this much when we were told to “tighten our belts” in this time of global economic depression?

It is difficult to imagine that the Summit promotes sustainable development, when our country has exhausted our resources just to host the event. And what are these benefits? That not much of the discussions were focussed on the global financial meltdown, which was a key issue? $30M to the region from Obama to strengthen security within the region? When much more of our own dollars were spent for security but to no avail? It makes no sense to me, or I simply have not yet seen the advantages…
A B
UWI, Trinidad and Tobago

I think this gov't could have spent the money in terms of hospitals, water, housing etc. We are not very bad off but we could do better. It was great to have such a respectable man as Obama grace our shores, but does the benefit outweigh the costs. I think not. Let's take a different spin, if you are in a house and all the head of the house cares about is beautifying it, and making it look good to outsiders, while you are suffering, wouldn't the money better be spent on me. It's true it may be a long-term investment, but I've heard that a decade years ago when the Miss Universe pageant was held here, and I'm still waiting. When did the nation's voice become a whisper, or is it that the gov't just isn't listening...
Mandisa C
Arouca, Trinidad

I'm proud of my country that we are able to host the fifth summit of the Americas. I believe that the region will reap tremendous benefits from the discussions covering the issues affecting our hemisphere, even though the press only highlights the Cuba issue and Chavez and Obama's handshake. As a patriot of my beloved country I must say that I love and respect my leaders and they have my full support.
Tricia
San Fernando, Trinidad

I don't think that the summit will bring anything to the table that hasn't been served before. It really is a photo op that the First Great African American President has graced our shores with his presence, to say what he has been saying along "these are difficult times". Hence the reason have a conference convened for all the leaders while they remain in their respective countries and talk and stop the exorbitant expenditure that has no significant benefit to us. After all tough times call for tough measures. Aren't we supposedly tightening our belts.
Adella Marshall
St. Joseph, Trinidad

This summit is a total waste of time that will result in empty promises by people who rule in their own interest. I have lost hope in secular governments to meet the needs of the people because they prefer money and power than to uphold the dignity of human life, morals, and the environment where it is being trampled upon.... for me, I hope in the governance of church and they have no input in this summit.
Matthew Pierre
Arima, Trinidad

I am very excited that my country is hosting the 5th Summit of Americas. I feel very proud to experience the historical event. I do hope that whatever is discussed will be put in place for the benefit of the nations involved. I am however disappointed that "we" the people will not be able to meet and greet the leaders in person, especially Mr. Obama.
DL
Curepe, Trinidad

Our country is hosting the summit of americas which from earlier this year had the country in great disarray with mixed emotions. Due to the sums of tax-paying funds that are being used for same. The argument stems from the fact that the global economy is experiencing such a financial stench of heartache, while our country is blatantly spending money to host such a forum.

The citizens of our country are practically not allowed to be, in any way, part of the celebrations of this summit, especially since the long awaited President Obama will be visiting our country. We are not allowed in specific districts where the summit will be hosted. Our country is practically in "shut down" mode due to the event.

Thus far, quite a lot of government-employed citizens have lost their jobs and there are a whole lot more job loss to come. Same is taking place within the private sector. What state our economy will be in? We are not sure of, but thanks to international news, citizens have taken it upon themselves to do specific financial tweaking to ensure their investments are secure.

Though our country hosting the 5th Summit of the Americas has brought a lot of mixed emotions, we are nontheless happy that President Obama will set foot on our soil, even though, we are in no way, allowed, by our Government, to show our support for him, because we have lost all rights as citizens for this weekend of the 17th - 19th.

Happy Summit to us, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago.

President Obama, we love you anyway, even more than we care about our own Prime Minister.
Mel M
Trincity, Trinidad and Tobago

The hosting of the Summit is a good idea and will definitely benefit the country, however the native irony still remains: Trinidad & Tobago is rich in natural resources and tourism, etc, however there is still a high rate of poverty, high inflation, and the long existence of our continued devalued TT dollar.
Bambu
Couva, Trinidad and Tobago

I think that the people should be allowed to protest.
MD
Curepe, Trinidad

Unless President Obama can guarantee an end to America's constant meddling and sabotaging of Haiti's internal politics, this gathering won't have an acceptable regional meaning. There must be an investigation & accounting into the ousting of President Aristide, and a promise to restore his presidency. In other words, the democratic process and the wishes of the masses in Haiti must be respected.
Kreg
San Antonio, Texas

This summit is merely talk shop; all talk no action and an opportunity for a social gathering of the American President, Latin American & Caricom leaders at the State's expense. The only plus for Trinidad & Tobago is the opportunity to be the centre of world attention for a day.
R Kalip
Rio Claro, Trinidad

I believe that Prime Minister Manning has the right idea to host the Fifth Summit, but at the expense of taxpayers dollars costing in excess of TT $1billion? I think that the benefits to the summit may be long term, but how will Trinidad recover from the short-term cost of the summit and its impact on social development in the country?
Stephen Seepersad
Princes Town, Trinidad

As much as the Summit of the Americas is an important event, for the government of Trinidad and Tobago to spend millions of dollars of tax payers money for the preparation when there is widespread CRIME, POVERTY, INFLATION, etc. was not necessary. Patrick Manning has done nothing beneficial for this country nor will he ever. The resources used for this event could have been used to develop the country instead (not by building tall buildings but by educating the people!) As it stands, Trinidad and Tobago is heading to a 5th world status!
AA
South Trinidad, WI

I believe that the issue of Cuba be placed on the top burner, along with Haiti. It is imperative that the leaders discuss these two nations since one has been excluded from attending and the other is the poorest state in the Western Hemisphere. There should be greater boarder control since, we in Trinidad and Tobago have been constantly deporting illegal workers specifically women from Venezuela and Columbia.

As much as the global financial crisis has been the number one issue, there is the need to re-examine environmental issues. Right now Trinidad is building an aluminum smelter plant, destroying precious mangroves to build industries, and there has been an enormous increase in crime in Trinidad and Tobago, due to the illegal drug trade and importation of illegal guns.

I honestly believe that the issue of corruption be discussed, since all 34 nations have experienced high levels of corruption including the US. The theme of the summit is Securing Our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability’. This will only become an expensive talk show with the operative word being talk, if we are to neglect these important issues.
Paul Ramlogan
Flanagin Town, Trinidad and Tobago

Something just makes me look at the irony that this summit is hosted by a country that has a terrible record where the implementation of summit agreements are concerned. What gives Prime Minister Manning the moral authority to preside over same?
Anthony Tom
Carapichaima, Trinidad

Until the day when the Caribbean can agree on/at firstly a summit of the Caribbean; CARIFORUM, CARICOM, OECS, CSME, until such day, we will only be pawns in other people’s games as we will be at this Summit! America and Cuba are already working towards a resolution. However, because it suits certain Caribbean and Latin American politicians to go on and on about this, we are quickly seeing a summit dominated by discussions on that American/Cuban relationship.

The fact of the matter is that by the end of Obama’s presidency America and Cuba would have normalised relations and this summit would have had nothing to do with it. Wake up my people, the world is moving quickly! Our leaders should be articulating the more urgent regional priorities. Just look, not too far back, on our handling of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the EU, not a very brilliant Caribbean performance.

Now let’s turn to the Americas long running dispute (between Caribbean and Latin America with USA interest) of import tariff on the region’s bananas entering the EU. That dispute is actually one of the Americas which has been left to the EU to resolve. Why can’t we resolve these issues amongst ourselves? Why are we fighting each other at the WTO and waiting for Europeans to resolve our problems?

Then there are the border issues, for example Venezuela’s encroachment on other countries sovereignty; the long running territorial disputes with Guyana and Venezuela’s claim to Dominica’s Bird Island. Then we have the Caribbean stuck between the drug games of Latin America and the USA with neither of these blocks truly appreciating and paying up for the detrimental impact that their drug business is having on Caribbean lives, instead we seem to get blamed by the Americans and totally ignored by Latin America on this issue.

Therefore until the Summit of the Americans can reach the level of maturity whereby we can resolve such issues ourselves then its resolutions remain insubstantial with no binding and lasting impacts.

We now know that the resolve from the recently concluded London G20 will impact negatively on several of our sectors, with the most direct impact being on the Financial Sector i.e. Off –Shore Banking; therefore we have gone into reactionary mode – trying to out the fire after the spread! But months prior to the London G20 we knew the G20 Agenda – but how much did we do to influence the outcome and have a positive result for our region? Nothing! Several of our members at the Summit of the America’s are members of the G20; Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the USA. So what did we in the Americas do prior to the G20 to influence the decisions there?
Gerald La Touche
Roseau & Birmingham
Dominica & England

As I'm sure our learned readers already know that "Securing Our Citizens' Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability" is the focus of the summit; whatever that in practical terms means.
More importantly, we should ask ourselves what has the previous 4 OAS summits accomplished? Can someone tell me this? If not, what does it really matter what they talk about other than the summit being another drain on the public purse and another photo op.
And they say talk is cheap!
My two pence.
Alex
London, UK

There are many issues facing the people of the Caribbean especially during this time of economic slow down. However, being reasonably fair to the new US president, we appreciate the fact he is willing to sit and listen to our leaders and hoping such talks would be meaningful beneficial with the hope of implementing programs and ways of improving the relationship between the US and its Latin/Caribbean neighbours.

Priority No.1: Border security; our borders are too porous and as a result there's an increase in gun and drug trafficking. Our islands lack the man power and other needed resources to effectively patrol and secure our coastline. In St. Kitts alone, there are so many points of entry from neighbouring islands.

No. 2: Training for security forces in the fight against crime, assisting with forensics and or establishing a DNA lab in the Eastern Caribbean. Finally, the issue of obtaining US visas here in the Eastern Caribbean...it’s way too expensive where each applicant is at the mercies of the officer. The larger Caribbean islands citizens do not have to leave their island, so travelling by air and hotel stay do not pose a problem. Hoping the meeting would be frank and cordial.
Randa Langley
Saddlers, St. Kitts

I think that this so-called summit is a total waste of money, resources, and time. The president of the United States has a lot on his plate at this time and he really cannot devote too much of his time to Caribbean issues. As for the issue of requiring visas; every country have its right to sovereignty, and as such they can require visas for visitors regardless of where they are visiting from. And not all islands in the Caribbean are a part of Caricom. Therefore these islands are not legally bound to the rules, treaties, or arrangements pertaining to Caricom. And yes, St. Maarten and the United States Virgin Islands are the only two duty free ports in the Caribbean.
Yolanda Paris
Miami, USA

I think that the Summit may end up being a Latin Summit being held on an English-speaking Caribbean island.
The issues affecting Caribbean States include the fact that we cannot afford to have effective border patrol (sea border) to police the illegal importation of contraband such as firearms and illegal narcotics.
Ironically, the firearms and narcotics are only intransit through our Ports as they make their way to the real market, the USA.
The USA (could) assist us more with border patrols. We have complicated border systems even within the Caribbean. For instance look at a Duty Free Port like St. Maarten. There is no Customs while less than a 80 miles away there are ports that have strict (and largely unenforceable due to being prohibitively expensive) border systems.

Another issue is the unfair treatment of true Caribbean nationals who wish to travel to the USA; the requirement of an entry visa.
St. Kitts and a few other Caribbean countries no longer require entry visas to the EU; why should we be required one to enter the USA? What is the real reason why we need an entry visa?

If nothing can be done about the entry visas to the USA, something should be done to relieve the thousands of dollars that it truly costs to get one. For those who live on St. Kitts, they have to make their appointment with the US Embassy in Barbados, buy an airline ticket (averaging about US$800), pay for their hotel stay (anywhere between US$50 to $150), find money for the application fee (US$300?), pay taxi in Barbados (US$75 in all), and then when we get to the counter we encounter rude and disrespectful agents, who then dismiss the applications in a matter of seconds; forfeiting thousands of dollars that it cost just to get to the application window.

Those two major situations cause for many Caribbean nationals to build a level of anti-American-ism in their person and I wonder if the US authorities really appreciate that reality never mind how unfortunate it is.
Charles Jong
Basseterre, St. Kitts

The Summit of the Americas should draw a line in the sand as far as US regional dominance is concerned. It should be used by regional governments to reverse the Monroe Doctrine; to emphasise that the US is an equal regional partner, although it may be first among equals.
It should also be used to remove US protectionist measures, which are backed by Obama, including the backhanded ones of declining imports on dubious health and safety grounds.

I also believe that delegates should question the ring of steel that surrounds the US post 9/11. If the US imposes tough new immigration conditions for Caribbean and Latin America citizens, we too should impose strict conditions on US visitors.
We should also emphasise the integrity of our jurisdictions. We may be small islands in the Caribbean, but our fierce independence is as legitimate and deeply-held as that of the US. Delegates must also not forget the pressing need to regularise relations with Cuba, this must be unconditional.

Finally, we must also look at the Latin American governments and hold them morally and legally responsible for the epidemic of drug trafficking and dealing in the region.
Otherwise, it is a good photo opportunity.
Hal Austin,
London, UK

This summit, though important, is costing the taxpayers in the hundreds of millions in buildings, closing of government offices and businesses. Al this is being done with our money but with no benefit to the nation. Oh, and (the writer from) from Mayaro why don't you ask our government to deal with crime at home first and start conserving resources locally.
Sean
Chaguanas, Trinidad

I will rally behind the PM of T'dad & T'go as he attempts to promote regional integration, sustainable development & solidarity. However, I will explicitly suggest to the larger nations(Venezuela Colombia, USA, Brazil etc) that they need to curb their citizen's appetite for illicit drugs, weaponry, domination in trades & other countries' natural resources.
J A Mayro
Mayaro
Trinidad

More about Caricom and the free move of Caricom people
Cris Gurchuran
San Juan, Trinidad

Lucian Power says that while the Organization is aware that St. Lucia is not being represented by its best economic minds and political thinkers at the Latin American and Caribbean Summit being held in Trinidad and Tobago this week, the body, though pessimistic, remains hopeful that Prime Minister King and his team could profit the opportunity to bring meaningful benefits to St. Lucians and not simply a memento of a photo opportunity with President Barack Obama.

The organization says that Mr. King does not have the Caribbean stature of Sir John to attract the attention of President Obama nor the negotiating skills and diplomatic finesse of Dr. Anthony to profit the opportunities that will be present at the Summit and advises him to stay within the OECS guidelines and not be carried away by some grandiose Prime Ministerial vision of himself with the President of the United States.

Lucian Power says that this is a great opportunity for Caribbean people but one that holds little promise for St. Lucia because of deficiencies with the Prime Minister and the team he will be taking along with him to the Summit.
John Charlery
Lucian Power

 
 
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