Norman Girvan Critiques U.S.’s Public Relations Disaster in Trinidad

Professor of economics and development studies Norman Girvan (Graduate Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies-St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago) offers an assessment of the United States’ decision not to allow the Trinidad Hilton hotel to host the Cuba-CARICOM Summit in Port of Spain, Trinidad, slated for December 8, 2011. He calls it “Stupid, petty, vindictive, short-sighted, counter-productive, a huge diplomatic faux pas.” Musing on the possibility of an apology by the U.S. government to the 14 CARICOM leaders for the faux-pas, Girvan concludes: “Sure. And one day, pigs will fly.” Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

This was a meeting of 15 heads of state; 14 of whom lead countries with which the United States has friendly relations. Cooperation extends across a wide range of subjects, especially security. Diplomatically speaking, the U.S. government gave each of these leaders a slap in the face.

The host country, Trinidad and Tobago, is one of Washington’s best friends in the region. It is a principal supplier of natural gas to the United States and a close ally in the ‘war on terror’. It is the only CARICOM country to have been visited by President Obama, when it hosted the Summit of the Americas in 2009. Just two months ago there was a visit from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who held cordial discussions with Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

[. . .] The official U.S. explanation—that the request for a special licence came too late to be properly processed—beggars belief. How far up the chain of command did this matter go? Did it reach Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? To President Obama? Was Attorney General Holder consulted? Was Ambassador Beatrice Welters in Port of Spain brought into the picture, and if so, did she offer counsel to her superiors on the possible political fallout?

Was this, as many believe, a deliberate political act meant to signal Washington’s displeasure with the cordial relations that exist between CARICOM nations and Cuba, or even to sabotage the summit? The U.S. decision was communicated on the very eve of the meeting, forcing alternative arrangements to be hurriedly set in place. If that was Washington’s intention, it certainly backfired. In a separate statement, the assembled leaders jointly declared themselves “affronted by the intrusion of the United States against the sovereignty of Trinidad and Tobago”; going on to note that the action “could have impacted on the success of the Summit, but thanks to the commitment and solidarity of the Member States of the Caribbean Community we can celebrate an outcome which reinforces the strong fraternal bonds between CARICOM and Cuba.”

The U.S. action actually succeeded in educating and galvanising public opinion against the obnoxious extra-territorial reach of the Helms-Burton law, as well as U.S. embargo itself. Media coverage of the action has been extensive; and uniformly negative. The Cubans on their own could hardly have accomplished such a public relations feat. [. . .]

For full article, see

For more information on Dr. Girvan’s research and publications, see

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