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Belize currently holds the pro-tem chairmanship of CARICOM; and, next week, heads of state from member countries will converge in San Pedro for a summit. Chief among their discussions will be issues affecting the region, including the COVID-19 pandemic and regional trade. Prime Minister John Brice�o says that the final details are being ironed out.

Prime Minister John Brice�o


"CARICOM is coming here to discuss several issues from the issue of COVID-19, the issue of vaccines - especially for children - issue of trade, so many other matters; issues of poverty that has affected us because of COVID-19. Climate change - these are issues that affects our daily lives so we will be here to have that discussion with the prime ministers of this region. That's gonna happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday we are planning on having a joint session between SICA and CARICOM. Also just as important, the Secretary General of the UN, Mister Gutierrez is going to be here in Belize for the first time in the history of us having the Secretary General of the United Nations coming to Belize. He is excited on seeing the work that we have been doing on the issues of conservation, the issues of climate change and fighting poverty. And also he's excited to come and visit Belize."

CARICOM & SICA Meeting after 11 Years; San Pedro Declaration

The two-day meeting with CARICOM leaders will then transition into a CARICOM/SICA Meeting. According to PM Brice�o, it has been almost a decade since a meeting has been held between both regional organizations. Belize, as a member to both, plays a crucial role as the bridge between Central America and the Caribbean. It is his hoped that the San Pedro Declaration comes out of the meeting.

Prime Minister John Brice�o


"SICA and CARICOM have not met for the last eleven years and we believe that there must be a closer and stronger relationship between CARICOM and the Central American countries, through SICA. If we can work together, we can have a bigger voice, a stronger voice in the international forum. So again, I have taken the opportunity to invite the presidents to come or their vice presidents to come on Thursday to come up with a joint declaration - what we are referring to as the San Pedro declaration. So it is an exciting time for Belize. We need to take advantage of that role that we can play. Belize is historically a part of the Caribbean, but geographically, we are a part of Central America so we can play that connection; we can create the connection between SICA and CARICOM, but to do that, we have to be more active in SICA. Unfortunately, for many years, the past Government of Belize was not active in SICA so now we want to be able to do that so that we can create opportunities."

Channel 5

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What CARICOM Meeting is About

San Pedro will welcome the Caricom's heads of Government for the 33rd Inter-sessional meeting.
It's a meeting that's integrally important to the security and progress of the region and it's no wonder because the agenda for the two-day meeting is jam-packed.

We got just a preview of those talking points from Belize's Minister of Foreign Affairs Eamon Courtney when he sat down with our Sunup hosts on Wednesday. Here's how he laid it out.

Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs
"For example, the head will be looking at the Post COP26 climate change as it affects the Caribbean. COP27 will be in Egypt later this year and so we are starting to do an analysis of the failures of COP26 and how we position the region for COP27. We have the whole question of COVID, the continued reality of lack of access to vaccines around the region, the state of the preparedness in the region to deal with the consequences, the economic consequences, the health consequences and to put on the international agenda the position of CARICOM in so far as the Covid, not only the actor dealing with the pandemic but also the recovery in addition to which there is the question of Haiti. As you know Haiti is a member of CARICOM, unfortunately, Haiti is suffering from a serious crisis of governance. The current, first of all there is no president, the current Prime Minister, his term in inverted commas came to an end on the 6th of February and so the question is what is the legitimacy of his current governing and Caribbean community feels very strongly that Haiti is our member and we need to engage the international community to find a Haitian designed solution to the governance problems and just as urgently to the whole question of the effects of earthquakes, the effects of hurricanes because there is tremendous suffering in Haiti as well as Covid. So, those are three very important issues that we will be dealing with, we will be dealing with other issues, for example, the Caribbean single market and the economy, the implementation of it, where we are with it, Prime Minister Mia Mottley who chairs the Prime Ministerial sub-committee has written to each head of government identifying in each country, what they have achieved and what they need to do, what they have failed to do and she is pushing very aggressively for implementation of the measures that we should do so that we can have free movement of people goods and services throughout the region.

Channel 7

=====================

CARICOM HEADS TO TACKLE WIDE RANGE OF ISSUES AT MEETING IN BELIZE

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government will deliberate on several major issues, including the Region's post-pandemic economic recovery, when they gather on San Pedro in Belize for their Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting on 1-2 March 2022.

The Meeting, under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Mr. John Antonio Brice�o of Belize, is also expected to address advancing the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), regarded as the Region's most practical option for responding to current economic challenges, and building a more resilient Caribbean Community.

The situation in Member State Haiti, including the current political impasse and security and socio-economic challenges, will also be examined. Heads will also discuss the regional security situation including any new challenges from the period of the pandemic.

The Meeting is expected to advance the CARICOM Agri-Food systems agenda with recommendations for regional food and nutrition security. The Heads are also expected to engage representatives of the Private Sector, Labour and Civil Society.

Climate Change, an existential threat to Caribbean small island and low-lying States is also before the Meeting, which will assess the outcomes of COP26 - the last global Climate Change conference in Glasgow, and begin to outline the Region's plan of work for COP27.

The Meeting begins on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m. Belize Time with an Opening Session which will be addressed by Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett; Out-Going Chairman Prime Minister Mr. Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda; and the Chairman, Prime Minister Brice�o. There will be a Closing Press Conference on Tuesday at 5:00 p.m. Belize Time.

This will be the first in-person CARICOM Heads of Government Inter-Sessional Meeting for the Secretary-General and new Deputy-Secretary General Dr Armstrong Alexis who took up their positions last August and November respectively. Two new Assistant Secretaries-General - Ambassador Donna Forde who heads the Foreign and Community Relations Directorate and Ambassador Wayne McCook who heads the Single Market and External Trade Directorate, are also attending their first Heads of Government Meeting.

Following the Inter-Sessional Meeting, CARICOM Heads of Government will join their Central American counterparts for the Fourth CARICOM-SICA summit on 3March, also on San Pedro, Belize., where the two Regions will seek to build on common interests and challenges, including the current pandemic and climate change. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to address the gathering.

Editor's Note: CARICOM Secretary-General Dr Carla Barnett provided a preview of the major issues in this interview:



https://caricom.org/caricom-heads-to-tackle-wide-range-of-issues-at-meeting-in-belize/

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Excitement over High Level Meetings in San Pedro

Aside from the CARICOM-S.I.C.A. meeting, there will also be a visit from the United Nations Secretary General, Ant�nio Guterres. It's exciting time for islanders, including Belize Rural South area representative Andre Perez.� � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � � ��

Andre Perez, Area Representative, Belize Rural South

"This is nothing new for our island. We are very much prepared. This community is prepared and we always rise to the occasion. As I speak to you right now, we are making all preparations - both at the airport, the roads, everything prepared at least for that. This is nothing you. We are very used to international events. International events we are very much used to."

Duane Moody

"Sir the U.N. secretary General is also going to be here. Will he be visiting here too?"

Andre Perez

"World leader. Yes, world leaders coming here. Secretary General Ant�nio Guterres."

Channel 5


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Arrival of the Heads of Government for the 33rd Inter-Sessional CARICOM meeting in Belize

CARICOM Heads Arrive On San Pedro

Tonight, CARICOM heads of government have safely arrived in Belize and are settling into the San Pedro's Grand Caribe resort.

And tomorrow the work begins the strategic planning, lengthy negotiations, and making of commitments that will determine the outcomes of this Caricom heads of government intersessional.

We'll be bringing you the updates all week but tonight we show you how it all started with the last of the arrivals. Cherisse Halsall has more:

It was just moments ago that Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Anor Mottley made her official entrance to the 33rd Caricom Heads of Government intersessional meeting.

And while hers is the arrival that we'd awaited all day, we also saw the arrival of a who's who of Caribbean Heads of Government or their representatives who are in Belize for their first face to meeting in two years.

Dr. Carla Barnett - CARICOM Secretary General
"This is the first face to face meeting that heads will be having since the 2020 meeting because of the impact of the covid pandemic, so there is a desire, there is an expectation that heads sitting around the table are going to be able to discuss a lot of important matters."

And the most important items on the agenda include rebounding from COVID and activating the CARICOM Single market and Economy:

Dr. Carla Barnett - CARICOM Secretary General
"The main items on the agenda that heads will be discussing tomorrow and on Wednesday include the impact of the covid19 pandemic, we are now moving towards focussing on economic recovery. We are going to be talking as well about the Caricom single market and economy and triggering more robust implementation. There is significant impetus for the CSME at this time, because od the impact of the covid pandemic and so we will be looking forward to advancing some of those ideas. We will be talking specifically on about agriculture and agriculture development, food security and nutrition security - will be talking about that. We will be engaging with the social partners as we normally do, the private sector and labour in particular. One of the important things on the agenda will be of course climate change and the preparations that we will be making for COP27, following up on the outcomes of COP26 and we will of course be discussing with our member state Haiti to see how we can help to resolve some of the issues. We expect Prime Minister to be here and finally we are also going to be preparing for the summit with SICA, the Caricom SICA summit will take place on Thursday immediately after our Caricom heads of government meeting and so there is a lot that is on the table for discussion and we are looking forward to having really energetic and productive discussions."

Channel 7


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Opening Ceremony, CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting.


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CARICOM Kicks Off; Who's In Attendance? And What Happened At Breakfast?

Today the CARICOM Heads of Government held the first working or plenary session or the thirty third inter-sessional meeting.

The major regional meeting is being hosted on San Pedro at the Grand Caribe Hotel. And while it has been overshadowed by a skirmish between Channel 7 and the Government Press Office - the meeting is a marquee political event featuring 12 regional leaders. Jules Vasquez tells us who's here - and what Cherisse Halsall did to try and cover the event:

The CARICOM leaders who have arrived for the first face to face meeting in two years are:

Prime Minister of the Bahamas - Phillip Edward Davis, who is accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Frederick Mitchell.

Next on the list alphabetically is Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley - who is accompanied by her Minister of Foreign Affairs Jerome Walcott.

Dr Natalio Wheatery is the Duty Premier of the British Virgin Islands

And Roosevelt Skerritt - who has visited Belize before is the Prime Minister of Dominica.

And he is accompanied by Dr. Kenneth Darroux, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Business and Diaspora Relation

Grenada's Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell arrived at nightfall.

While Guyana's President Dr. Mohamed Irfan Ali is accompanied by his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hugh Todd.

Haiti's Prime Minister Dr Ariel Henry is accompanied by his Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus

Montserrat's Premier and Minister of Finance Joseph Pharrell is accompanied by his minister of External Affairs, Alva Baptiste

Saint Kitts and Nevis is represented by Ambassadors Vance Armory and Lionel Osbourne

St Vincent and the Grenadines is represented by its Deputy Prime Minister Montgomery Daniel and Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar

Suriname's President is Chandrikapersad Snatokhi And Charles Misick is the Premier of Turks and Caicos

The leaders and their delegations gathered for breakfast this morning near the Grand Caribe pool in advance of the first day of meetings

Which is where Cherisse Halsall tried to get her standup done - just like she had seen a Caribbean colleague do. She fought for space to do just that with the director of the press office:

Cherisse Halsall
"Soh, why he could get his stand-up and I can't get mine?"

Mike Rudon, Press Office
"Cherisse, the media is not allowed. You see where the cordon is, that is where the media should be - outside of that. We will have the opening where we will allow cameras in there."

Cherisse Halsall
"I am not going to the opening. I just want to do one, 10 minutes stand-up in front of this Grand Caribe sign and I will be out of here forever."

After that Rudon called in the Special Unit Police:

Police
"Morning, ma'am I am Cpl from Special Branch, for security purposes, you cannot be here recording. As the man informed you. As far as I am concerned, you cannot be here."

Police
"Please leave, or we might have to escort you."

Cherisse Halsall
"I think it might have to come to that."

Police
"You have to deal with foreign affairs, they gave us strict instructions that you guy need to have some identification."

Cherisse Halsall
"We have identification on the shirt and everybody knows where we are from."

Halsall tried to plea her case and the back and forth continued with the police for another few minutes -

Cherisse Halsall
"Hi Jules, foreign affairs is removing us from the scene."

Rosanna Briceno, Special Envoy
"Hey, don't touch her."

That's the Prime Minister's wife, special Envoy Rossana Briceno as they unhand Cherisse, but keep pushing the camera man out - all the way through the lobby to the street. An unfortunate moment but the meeting continued and moved from breakfast to opening ceremony without a glitch

With Prime Minister Briceno taking center stage as the chairman and host.

Hon. John Briceno, Prime Minister
"I hope that you have been well taken care of - if you have been well taken care of, that's all my work. If anything went wrong, then its Minister Courtenay's fault, so you can start with that right."

After an opening ceremony the heads of government got into their two day working session with both face to face and virtual elements.

With at least grudging respect for social distance protocols

Channel 7


Day One of the CARICOM Inter-Sessional on San Pedro

CARICOM Heads of Government are gathering in person for the first time since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The thirty-third Inter-Sessional is being held in San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. A number of issues relating to the Caribbean community are on the agenda for the two-day event. But, as is standard practice for such international events, the working sessions are closed door. This means no press, international or local, are allowed in. However, before these began, News Five's Paul Lopez was following the opening ceremonies this morning. Here is his report of that event.

Paul Lopez, Stand Up

Meetings between CARICOM's Heads of Government officially began today with an opening session on San Pedro Town, Ambergris Caye. Representatives from CARICOM member states converged inside the West Room at Grand Caribe Resort. Prime Minister John Brice�o and CARICOM Secretary General, Carla Barnett addressed the opening session.

Prime Minister John Brice�o

"A warm welcome to Belize. I am happy to welcome you all to San Pedro Ambergris Caye, better known as La Isla Bonita. San Pedro is an island that attracts many local and foreign tourists for leisure, which unfortunately many of us will not get to fully enjoy this week."

The next two days will be filled with meetings and discussion between Heads of Government in this room and those attending virtually. Topics like the unrest in Haiti and the effects of Climate Change on the Caribbean are at the top of the agenda.

Prime Minister John Brice�o

"Beaches here are eroding because of rising sea levels. Belize's Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site is struggling due to coral bleaching. A growing population is testing the limits of the island's capacity. Most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic dealt a devastating blow to San Pedro's lucrative tourism industry."

Acting President of Haiti, Ariel Henry, is present at this week's high level meeting. The humanitarian and leadership crisis is also one of the issues being discussed by Heads of Government.� Also a priority on the agenda is the Caribbean's COVID-19 plan of recovery.

Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary General, CARICOM

"Significant obstacles still lay in our path. Much of our citizens remain unvaccinated. Too many of our children are still out of school. Too many of our businesses are still floundering with the result and effect of unemployment. However, one thing we have learnt over the forty plus years of our existence is that we are a resilient community, bound together particular in times of adversity. Such is this time."

Most Caribbean countries function on a service driven economy, particularly in the tourism industry. Marketing the Caribbean as a single product could boost the region's recovery efforts says Dr. Barnett. Additionally, CARICOM leaders have agreed to reduce extra-regional agro-food imports by twenty five percent by 2025.

Dr. Carla Barnett, Secretary General, CARICOM

"Chair, heads of government, distinguished delegates, as we look forward to the significant milestone in 2023 of fifty years of CARICOM, we can celebrate our achievements across the four pillars of our integration movement. What we must also do is look forward to those achievements as the foundation for building a resilient Caribbean community, based on rule of law, participatory governance, social, economic and environmental resilient. In short, a place where our people live in a safe, prosperous, and viable society."

Channel 5


Belize Officially Assumes Protem Chair Of Caricom

And from the arrival of the different CARICOM leaders, we turn now to today's opening ceremony when Belize, the host country of the 2-day forum, officially took over as the Protem Chair of CARICOM.

That ceremony was broadcasted live this morning from San Pedro, and Daniel Ortiz reports on a few of the highlights. Here's his story:

This morning's ceremony marked the opening of the 33rd CARICOM Inter-sessional Meeting of Heads of Government.

But, it also finalized the handing-over of the rotating chairmanship from Prime Minister Gaston Brown and the Country of Antigua and Barbuda, to Prime Minister John Briceno and the country of Belize.

Hon. John Briceno - New Chair, CARICOM
"I hope that you have been well taken care of. If you've been well taken care of, that's all my work. If anything went wrong, well then, it's Minister Courtenay's fault. So, we can start with that, right?"

Dr. Carla Barnett - Secretary-General, CARICOM
"Let welcome to the Chairmanship of the Conference of the Heads of Government for the first time our host, the Prime Minister of Belize, Hon. John Briceno. I have no doubt that his experience and skills will be of great benefit as he leads our community in this uncertain time."

Hon. Gaston Browne - Outgoing Chair, CARICOM
"After 6 months as chairman in office of CARICOM, I hand the gavel of leadership to my colleague and friend, the Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceno. In doing so, I offer him my full support, as I'm sure all my colleagues do. Our unit and solidarity in CARICOM will be a vital and necessary element in the strength and stability of our organization, as we face a world in flux."

Prime Minister Briceno takes over the chairmanship during the tenure of Belize's Dr. Carla Barnett, the CARICOM Secretary-General.

Dr. Carla Barnett
"It is my pleasure to welcome you all and to address this opening session of the 33rd Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community. I am particularly pleased that this, my first address to this forum as secretary-general is taking place in my home country. We gather together around the table, rather than virtually for the first time in almost 2 years. The circumstances that occasioned that hiatus are still with us. We are learning to live with it, and to conduct our affairs in what can only be described as the new normal."

In their remarks, the keynote speakers reflected on shared challenges that residents of the Caribbean collectively face.

Dr. Carla Barnett
"Much too many of our citizens remain unvaccinated. Too many of our children are still out of school. Too many of our businesses are still floundering with the resultant effect on unemployment. However, one thing we have learned over the 49 years of our existence is that we are a resilient community."

Hon. Gaston Browne
"We must, however, continue to be vigilant in managing the threats of de-risking, the threats associated with the proposed global minimum cooperation tax, and sanction listings of so-called uncooperative jurisdictions by the OECD and the European Union. We must also enhance our negotiations of the EBA to ensure that it delivers the promised benefits to all its members, including the LDCs within CARICOM."

Hon. John Briceno
"I'm well aware of the criticism in many quarters, and perhaps well-founded about the state of our integration. For many, we are not moving fast enough or going deep enough. Others feel that their fledging national identity is at risk. But, none have challenged the inevitability of integration for our small Caribbean States. Integration is not only a [inaudible] for our development. It is also imperative for our recovery."

Hon. Gaston Browne
"It is not a secret that the result of COP-26 fell far short of expectations, and continue advocacy to push the major polluters of the world, to reduce emissions, to take mitigating actions, and to contain rising temperatures to remain 1.5 degrees [Celsius] of pre-industrial levels. The provision of affordable broadband is a public good, as vital as the provision of water or electricity, and this should remain a regional priority. Diversification and rapid economic expansion through digitalization require widespread enhancement of our information and communication technology infrastructure. Therefore, the cost of telecommunications and access to cheaper and more efficient broadband is quintessential for robust economic growth and development."

And of course, there is a renewed call for closer regional integration and the removal of all artificial barriers to trade. Belize, the new Protem Chair of CARICOM is well aware of those barriers since it recently picked a legal fight with Trinidad & Tobago, a fellow CARICOM Nation.

Hon. Gaston Browne
"I believe that CARICOM has learned from these developments to rely more and more on our own initiatives and our own resources to produce, buy and consume local and regional products as a priority for increased product security, profitability and sustainability."

Hon. John Briceno
"Colleagues, Prime Ministers, ladies and gentlemen, the CSME is at the center of our integration. Reflecting on our undertakings in the St. Anne Declaration of 2018, we need to redouble our efforts to complete the removal of the remaining barriers to inter-regional trade, empower our private sector, and full effect to the regime for free movement, including by addressing administrative obstacles. The CSME is the answer to the questions of how do we reduce the region's food import bill, how do we generate economic growth, how we improve and benefit more from trade with extra-regional partners. A robust CSME is indispensable to building resilient economies. It is central to our economic recovery."

Dr. Carla Barnett
"Let us set a target to lift intra-regional trade out of the doldrums of 16 to 18% of our total trade into 25% by 2025. This can be fueled in large measure by the agricultural sector. The proposal put forward to this meeting by the special ministerial task force on agriculture is worthy of favorable consideration."

The 33rd CARICOM Inter-sessional Meeting of the Heads of Government will continue tomorrow, and we'll have some of the important takeaways in our Wednesday newscast.

Channel 7


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CARICOM Day 2 In San Pedro

Right now in San Pedro, the CARICOM thirty third intersessional meeting is wrapping up with a press conference. That started at 6:00 pm and the press conference is expected to cover all the major points of discussion.

Jules Vasquez is there and we hope to have a report from that later in the news.

But, his report tonight focusses on tomorrow's summit with SICA, which started taking shape today:

A fast moving convoy announced the arrival of the Vice President of El Salvador, Felix Ulloa - who walked the red carpet on the North End road, not on the Grand Caribe pier. After the formalities, he was ushered into the Grand Caribe lobby, the first dignitary to arrive for the CARICOM-SICA Summit - which started tomorrow with him, two Minister's of Foreign Affairs from Honduras and Panama, and two presidents, Costa Rica's Alvaro Quesada and Guatemala's Alejandro Giamateei - who arrives tomorrow.

And while they will have high level meetings in the "West Room" - out on South San Pedro - it's more like "who dat?":

Jules Vasquez
"Do you know what Caricom is?"

Brian Burke, Tour Agent
"Caribbean communities, something like that. I know a thing or two about it because I had to get a Caricom passport to travel in the past. Other than that I don't really know what's going on. We haven't been properly informed."

Jules Vasquez
"If you had one message to give those Caricom leaders, the SICA leaders are coming - that's Central America, what would be that message?"

Brian Burke, Tour Agent
"The message I would give to these Caricom leaders and all these people: lets really do this, come together and figure out the best way for the people to live and make their money, because Corona really have a lot of people in a lot of bills."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you know anything about this, do you care anything about this?"

"Carvin' Marvin" Vernon, Craft Vendor
"Well yeah its a Caribbean country for us to get our act together, because after covid everybody got loose, so that is good for the island and its good for the country."

Jose Quiroz, Jungle Water Adventures
"No idea boss, no idea. I mean after covid all we do is work. Caricom, cari-gone like you said, we just got to work, no matter who is here. Its all about making the money right now."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you even aware of what the Caricom meeting is about?"

San Pedro Resident
"No, actually I'm not. Actually, there's been a lot of security and restrictions on traffic and things like that for security purposes, but as far as the purpose of the meeting, I'm afraid I'm ignorant of that."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you know what Caricom is?"

San Pedro Resident
"No, I don't."

Jules Vasquez
"Do you even know what Caricom is?"

Leticia Caliz, San Pedro resident
"I think its Caribbean Community."

Jules Vasquez
"If you had one message for all those prime ministers and Central American presidents, if you had one message for them, what would you say to them?"

Leticia Caliz, San Pedro resident
"The foreign ones, I don't have anything to tell them, but for my government, my prime minister, well thank you Mr. Johnny Briceno for doing a great job so far. We have to say thing are expensive, because they are going up, but this covid really knock us out and things are getting better, so for me its good."

Jules Vasquez
"What would be your message to them."

"Carvin' Marvin" Vernon, Craft Vendor
"Well, my real message to them is that when you come to Belize, you come to paradise. Learn from us, because we have a lot to teach you. With the calmness we have a nice country and we have some nice people, because right now everybody don't have their heads on their body. Everyone is living like a loose chicken. What I'm saying to them is just come and enjoy Belize, make sure you take back something positive from us and lets work together to have a better and a better Central American."

The press conference is underway and we'll give you a live look later.

Channel 7


CARICOM - Heads of Government Closing Press Conference.


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Today's session....

The Fourth CARICOM-SICA Summit is underway in San Pedro Town, where heads of government from the Caribbean and Central America are gathered for discussions on regional and hemispheric affairs, climate change, COVID-19 response and recovery, and development financing.
Also, joining virtually are H.E. Ant�nio Guterres, United Nations Secretary-General, and H.E. Alberto Fern�ndez, President of Argentina. Prime Minister Hon. John Brice�o gave opening remarks at the start of today's session.


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CARICOM Meeting Closes On High Note For Belize

When we left you last night - the CARICOM leaders were having their closing press conference at the purpose built West Room at the Grande Caribe resort.

That's where the leaders outlined the major initiatives coming out of their two days of meetings.

Jules Vasquez was there - and here's his recap:

At its closing, Chairman of the 33rd Inter-sessional Prime Minister John Briceno outlined the major initiatives coming out of the meeting.

The most intriguing is the Agri-Food program introduced by Guyanese President Irfaan Ali - a sweeping review of CARICOM agricultural productivity, and potential:

Hon. John Briceno - Prime Minister
"They did an entire study from the different counties in CARICOM looking at the products we can grow and putting it in a matrix where there are certain advantages we may have and the idea is that we can try to grow more of what we eat. For example, we import poultry, there is now need for us to import poultry, or some of the grains like corn and beans, the different meats, all of that an be grown here in the Caribbean and Belize certainly is no exception."

Mia Mottley - Prime Minister, Barbados
"We really as a region need to recognize that food and water are becoming the new oil and that we needed to be able to reduce the volume of imports while at the same time increasing the opportunities for our agricultural sector, our farmers in particular but at the same time, seeking to do two other things. One, reduce the cost of food and two, encourage our people to eat more locally grown food. Broadly speaking we recognize that we can be self sufficient in poultry in the region - we're importing just over 200 million dollars in poultry a year, two we recognize that we can also seek to position ourselves by 2025 to be self sufficient in the feed-stock for poultry while still having the capacity to export and to that extent the government of Guyana, President Ali was able to make the point that 2,500 hectare would be needed to be dedicated to corn and soy production and if we can do throughout the region, not just Guyana, Guyana is more than willing but Suriname, Belize, Jamaica in particular and then in addition to that he then took three products for which there is potential value added, there is a lot of Pam oil for example imported into the region but there is no reason why we shouldn't be using coconut oil, which in any event has particular health benefits and we looked at two other items where the value added can be there so you're not only looking at your basics but those things that have value added."

And that brings us to the deathless talk - only three decades and counting - of a functional trading bloc known as the Caricom Single Market and Economy:

Hon. John Briceno
"More than ever I believe that because of the shocks that we've been getting I believe that now there is a renewed commitment to the single market integration in the Caribbean."

Jules Vasquez
"How do we make the tariffs functional, so that we can create a market place for our products to truly move freely and more cheaply across borders?"


Hon. John Briceno
"That's something that has to start with us as heads, today all heads made a commitment once again to be able to try to move that integration even more - faster, because we are realizing that by doing that, our people benefit and we also have to appeal to the private sector in our individual countries."

Underpinning this urgency is a plan - also spearheaded by Guyana - to bolster investment in agriculture:

Hon. John Briceno
"President Ali has spoken to several institutions certainly CDB is one of them and also to the Republic Bank in Trinidad and they have already indicated that they are prepared to make a sizeable amount of money in the millions available at very low concessionary rates between 2 to 2 1/2 percent for farmers in the region."

Mia Mottley
"The money from republic government is being offered to government to help farmers and in some instances will be state led in others will be private sector led. In addition, the Caribbean private sector organization made a presentation looking at the poultry sector in particular and recognizing the opportunities there, so we hope that the regional private sector will also come to the table ready to make the decisions for investment."

All this forward looking talk is not so much about expansionism as it is about survival and recovery from a history of dispossession:

Mia Mottley
"And let us be very clear, we in the region have increased our debt largely as a result of us fighting this climate crisis, it has therefore left us less capable of absorbing the shocks with respect to this war in Ukraine, that we might otherwise be. Therefore it is critical for us to raise with the international financial institutions and with the G20 countries the extent to which the climate crisis has literally derailed us from our development trajectory and particular the pursuit and of the sustainable development goals."

And reparatory justice is also a part of the conversation. Heads of government have drafted a letter to send to their former colonizers. Prime Minister Mottley spoke of the receptions the last time such a letter was written in 20i6

Mia Mottley
"There was not an acknowledgement of the need for reparations since then we've had the George Floyd and Black Lives Matter, we've had a recognition by the global population, especially younger people that there's a need for climate justice - we're dealing with a world that generally that is intolerant of the kind of inequity and poverty and discrimination that has come to characterize too much of the last 3 - 4 decades in particular of global activity and development. We had no development combat given to us at the point of independence. But there was a compensation package for those who were slave owners there was. A further package for the apprenticeship system I think that my officials and advisors count it at about 20 million pounds for the British planters who had slaves and another 27 million pounds as a result of the apprenticeship system, so that 47 million pounds was given in the middle of the 19th century. Fast forward now, 130 to Jamaica becoming independent, Trinidad becoming independent, Guyana becoming independent, Barbados and we go down the line. None of us were given a development compact. We had to start providing for our people without the benefit of any source of development funding. We had to deal with lack of housing, lack of educational opportunities, lack of health care facilities and we had to do this in spite of the fact that substantial wealth was extracted from our countries for centuries, in spite of the fact that substantial wealth was extracted not only by the governments but also by the private players who were the owners of the plantations or enterprises doing business and trade in our part of the world. Whether we like it or not, it is regrettable that the region in which we belong, effectively was the modern crucible for racism in the Americans and in the western world and this is where it played out and that is why on Sunday I made the point that we cannot be content to be the staging ground in the Caribbean for anybody's battles and that is why the Caribbean must always remain a zone of peace going forward because we've already been that staging ground for centuries."

Channel 7


Two days of discussions between CARICOM Heads of Government concluded with a press conference on Wednesday evening. The conference was led by Belize's Prime Minister John Briceno, CARICOM Secretary General Carla Barnett, Prime Minister Mia Mottley the Prime Minister of Barbados, and the President of Suriname, Chandrikapersad Santokhi.



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