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Trump to meet with Holness, C’bean leaders

Published:Wednesday | March 20, 2019 | 12:00 AM

United States President Donald Trump will meet with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and four other Caribbean leaders on Friday to discuss a range of issues surrounding trade and security, The Associated Press has reported. The hot-button item of Venezuela and its controversial president, Nicolas Maduro, is also expected to be front and centre.

The leaders of St Lucia, Haiti, the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic will also meet with Trump at his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.

The US president is expected to thank Holness and the other governmental heads for their advocacy for peace and democracy in Venezuela, said Sarah Sanders, Trump’s press secretary. Energy investment will also be on the agenda.

She said that the United States remained “a good friend to the Caribbean and seeks to build on a proud legacy as the region’s partner of choice”.

Jamaica joined several countries in censuring Venezuela in an Organisation of American States vote in January.

The Holness administration’s decision to buy back the Venezuelan government’s 49 per cent stake in Petrojam, Jamaica’s oil refinery, through PDV Caribe, a subsidiary of the state-owned oil company PDVSA, had sparked a diplomatic tiff between both countries for more than a year.

Kingston had argued that its decision to forcibly retake the shares, which was executed last month, centred on economic grounds – that Caracas’ failure to contribute to the overhaul of Petrojam’s ageing infrastructure threatened Jamaica’s energy security and other international obligations. But critics, including the Opposition, posited that Jamaica’s buy-back was hostile to a traditional ally and that its aggression was part of a proxy war at Washington’s bidding.

Sanctions imposed by the Trump administration have turned the screws on the Maduro regime, shutting off revenue inflows and compounding the social and economic crisis.

Just yesterday, Trump hit Venezuelan state mining company Minerven with sanctions, barring any US citizen or entity from any financial transactions with the company or its president.

Trump, in his rhetoric, has toyed with the option of military intervention to uproot the Maduro regime, but retired four-star general Stanley McChrystal, has warned that any attempt to invade Venezuela was ill-conceived.

“If we start from a basic assumption that invading sovereign countries is not something that should be considered lightly, I don’t think it’s something that in ... Venezuela is warranted or would be in the best interests ... ,” McChrystal, who visited Kingston last Thursday, told The Gleaner.

“Now circumstances can change and things in the world can change ... but I don’t see a situation where that should be a serious discussion at this point,” added McChrystal, who headed military commands in Iraq and Afghanistan.