GEORGETOWN, Guyana (CARIBUPDATE/DEC 16, 2016) — The Caribbean Community (Caricom) has welcomed the passage of the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act which is aimed at consolidating Washington’s engagement with the Caribbean.
While the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat re-issued a statement by one of the US congressmen, who tabled the bill without comment, St Kitts-Nevis Ambassador to the United States, Thelma Phillip Browne said she welcomes the wide range of community and institutional support which the bill provides, but is particularly enthused by the potential support for “public health advances and cooperation on health concerns and threats”.
She said her enthusiasm stems from the fact that aid will come not only for communicable and non-communicable diseases, but for an enhanced approach to managing crime as the public health issue that it is.
She also praised the sponsors of the bill, New York Democratic Congressional Representative Eliot L Engel, the ranking member of the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, and South Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a former chair of the committee.
She said she has taken note of Congressman Engle’s comments that passage of the bill comes at a time when our friends in the Caribbean need us more than ever, this bill will prioritise our partnership with the sub-region for many years to come.
“It is long past time to have a multi-year strategy that will allow us to increase engagement with the Caribbean, especially when it comes to energy and security."
“The countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in our country.”
“I look forward to working with the Caribbean-American diaspora to ensure that they can provide input to the State Department and USAID on US relations with the Caribbean in the years ahead."
With constant crises around the globe that demand US attention, we must not lose sight of our long-term interests close to home,” said Engel.
Ros-Lehtinen said he was honoured to work alongside Engel in order to send this “important legislation aimed at prioritising our bilateral relationships with allies in the Caribbean to the president’s desk.
“We must strengthen our relationship with Caribbean nations so that they view the US as a reliable partner and push back against the negative influence of Maduro’s corrupt regime in the region".
“It is vital to work proactively and collaboratively with Caribbean nations to promote close cooperation in the areas of security, trade, illicit trafficking, and energy and I look forward to seeing this important legislation implemented in order to advance our own national security interests,” said Ros-Lehtinen.
Under the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, the US Secretary of State and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will devise a multi-year strategy on issues of concern to the region, such as security, energy, diplomacy, and increased access to educational opportunities.
The measure, which was unanimously passed in the US Senate on Tuesday, now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature for it to become law.