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Feb 5, 2002

CARICOM, C.A. leaders wind up historic summit

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The historic summit between CARICOM and Central American leaders swept through Belize almost as quickly as Hurricane Iris. But instead of a path of destruction, the meeting ended with a ray of hope. News 5′s Janelle Chanona reports from the Princess.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting

As the thirteenth Inter-sessional meeting of the CARICOM Heads of Government ended today, chairman of the community, Belize’s Said Musa called the event a success. By all accounts, plans are now in full effect to combat crime in a concerted effort and move the idea of the single market and economy forward.

But while such progress is important, February fifth will go down in history as the day when the leaders of the CARICOM countries met for the first time with the Presidents of Central America.

As the heads of state prepared to discuss the problems facing the region, Prime Minister Musa already had his agenda in mind.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“One is of course the whole question of sustainable development. As we’re all small states, faced with the whole globalisation, the free trade issue, and we believe there’s a need for greater co-ordination and collaboration between CARICOM and SICA on this matter.

Secondly, the issue of sustainable development from the environmental standpoint. Again, we share borders, we share the Caribbean Sea and we want to work towards sustainable development of this area together.

There’s the whole question of collaboration in terms of fighting drugs, in protecting the environment, in illegal firearms. And also to set in place we’re hoping, a framework for us to pursue trade agreements as two sub-regions. We believe that this is the way forward for the two sub-regions to come together to work out trade agreements between us.”

Trade and further relations between SICA and CARICOM was also a concern for Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo.

Bharrat Jagdeo, Guyanese President

“We have to be careful that we jointly, CARICOM and Central American countries, have a co-ordinated position to strongly advocate that these matters remain on the international agenda. Development matters, matters that we have fought for, for a very long time to get on the international agenda, issues of financing, debt relief etcetera, technical assistance. so it’s very important to look at the long term impact of September eleventh, too and it’s consequences, and to have a position on that.”

While the presence of all the prime ministers and presidents were aptly appreciated, the attendance of the Guatemalan President, Alfonso Portillo, was not lost on the audience. This is the first time a Guatemalan Head of State had set foot on Belizean territory

in fifty years. According to Portillo, trading with Belize and the rest of the Caribbean is something his government wants to do.

Alfonso Portillo, Guatemalan President

“We are prepared to do so. Today in my speech, I said that the same way that we expect the markets to open for us, we will open our markets for everyone. We will not be able to build exclusive economies that would risk social peace and democracy we will build economies that will incorporate the people. Economies that not only focus on fiscal stability and gains, but that will take into consideration the people then we will be able to deal with challenges before us.”

Portillo is cognisant of the fact that the ongoing dispute between his country and Belize needs be resolved quickly.

Alfonso Portillo

“I have many hopes and expectations. It’s a situation that we need to resolve urgently and one that we will resolve this year. I’m hoping for a proposition from the facilitators by May and I feel that we’re on the right track, above all because there is good faith, good initiative and interest towards globalisation, working together. There are so many things Guatemala and Belize can do together, mutual projects.”

While specific projects have yet to be identified, joint trade agreements between SICA and CARICOM have already had full endorsement by both sides of the table.

Prime Minister Said Musa

“One of the most important points that was agreed upon in the discussion, was that there is an absolute need for the two regions to strengthen the ties of co-operation. That would provide the guidelines for the consideration of the negotiation of enhanced trade relations, trade arrangements between out two regions, consistent with the fundamental objective of the hemisphere to become a free trade area of the Americas by 2005.”

Reporting for News 5, I am Janelle Chanona.

The summit ends tonight on a social note with the official opening of the Museum of Belize at the old Belize City prison.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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