President Obama with Jamaican American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke, behind, as he steps down on Jamaican soil on April 8, 2015 at 7:30 PM EST. (JIS image)
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Thurs. Mar. 9, 2015: U.S. President Barack Obama woke up in the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica this morning after touching down at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston at 7:30 p.m. last evening on Air Force One.
The President is being accompanied on the short trip to Jamaica by Jamaican-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke. They were greeted on arrival by Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller along with CARICOM Chairman and Bahamian Prime Minister, Perry Christie; CARICOM Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque; Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator AJ Nicholson; Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Micheal Peart; President of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris; Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson; Commissioner of Police, Dr. Carl Williams; Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla; Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Stephen Vasciannie and Chief of State Protocol, Elinor Felix.
President Obama sings along to Bob Marley music being piped in as he tours the Bob Marley Museum with tour guide Natasha Clark in Kingston, Jamaica, last night (Photo by Pete Souza)
After arriving at the airport, Obama embraced PM Simpson Miller and then traveled on the Marine One helicopter to the Jamaica Defence Force’s headquarters at Up Park Camp with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. From there, he travelled by car to a hotel in Kingston for a meeting with US Embassy staff.He was also taken on a private tour of the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston last night, accompanied by aides including National Security Adviser Susan Rice. He was heard saying he still has all Marley’s albums.
Today, at 10:45 a.m. EST he will meet Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of Jamaica before meeting with governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to discuss “competitiveness, energy and security” at the University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters at 1:20 p.m.. He will also lay a wreath at Jamaica’s National Heroes Park at 5.15 p.m. after joining a Youth Forum for young leaders from across the region at UWI at 3:30 p.m.. President Obama is expected to speak to PM Simpson-Miller “about our strong support for Jamaica’s work to deal with a debt crisis, with a physical crisis, and its strong performance over the last two years in working with the IMF, the World Bank, and others to address that, in support of the prosperity and security of her citizens.”
President Obama’s meeting with Caricom leaders come on the heels of US Vice President Joe Biden’s late January meeting with several in Washington DC at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit. The White House last night said it is an “important opportunity for us to meet with a significant number of our neighbors with whom we share interests both in the hemisphere, and bilaterally and multilaterally.”
The U.S. has long been criticized for ignoring the region, its backyard, while China increases its economic presence there. It is expected there will be a number of concrete outcomes within the agenda of security, economic cooperation and energy coming out of today’s meeting. President Obama will leave Jamaica at 6 p.m. this evening for Panama to attend the Seventh Summit of the Americas where he is expected to interact but not meet officially with Cuba’s Raul Castro. It is the second visit by Obama to the Caribbean and the second to Jamaica by a sitting US president. The first was by Ronald Reagan in 1982.
SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS AGENDA
On Friday, the 10th, the President has a number of events that are associated with the summit, leading into the summit. First, in the morning, Obama will have a bilateral meeting with President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama. He will then drop by a meeting of CEOs who are partnering with on the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative.
Following that meeting with the SICA Presidents, President Obama will participate in a CEO Summit of the Americas. He will be joined in an event, a moderated discussion by the Presidents of Panama, Mexico and Brazil.
The President will make remarks at that broader civil society forum. Then he will participate in a smaller roundtable with civil society leaders from across the region. He will be joined in that roundtable by the leaders of Costa Rica and Uruguay, again, speaking to the regional diversity of civil society and the shared commitment among different leaders within the hemisphere, to civil society and engagement.
And then that evening, President Obama will attend the inauguration ceremony and leaders dinner associated with the Summit of the Americas. On Saturday, April 11th, he will attend the various plenary sessions and leaders meetings. And then he will conclude his visit with his traditional press conference to close the summit.