BELIZE CITY, Wed. Apr. 8, 2015–Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow is leading a delegation to the Seventh Summit of the Americas, being held in Panama City, Panama, later this week. Barrow’s delegation includes his wife, Kim Simplis-Barrow; Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Wilfred Elrington; Belize’s Ambassador to Guatemala, H.E. Alexis Rosado; and Belize’s Permanent Representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), Ambassador Nestor Mendez, who also appears at the OAS-led summit as Assistant Secretary General Elect for a presentation to youth representatives attending the triennial hemispheric gathering.
This is the first time that Cuba will be participating in the summit, the largest political forum for the Americas, being held under the theme: “Prosperity with Equity: The Challenge of Cooperation in the Americas.” Cuba’s participation brings the total number of participating states now to 35.
Cuba’s inclusion in the summit follows a successful vote at the last Summit of the Americas held in Colombia in 2012, as well as the recent normalization of relations between the US and Cuba, which is to be represented in Panama by President Raúl Castro Ruz.
It is expected that this year’s summit will be marked by this historic turn of events, but there are fears that the tone of the gathering could, at the same time, be dampened by the rift between Venezuela and the United States, following sanctions imposed by the US on 7 Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations, as well as the United States’ characterization of the situation in Venezuela as a national security threat just last month – a position from which the US has apparently retracted, saying that this is merely how such executive orders are worded.
Security is expected to be one of the leading topics of interest discussed at the summit, alongside trade and economic integration.
Already, Panama is hosting a series of pre-meetings leading up to Saturday’s main summit agenda, including forums with youth, civil society and the private sector.
At 4:35 p.m. tomorrow, Thursday, April 9, Prime Minister Barrow, who departed Belize for the summit on Tuesday, is slated to deliver a head of state presentation at the Second CEO Summit, under the theme “Bridging the Americas: Productive Integration for Inclusive Development.” This CEO Summit is organized jointly by the state of Panama and the Inter-American Development Bank, to bring together heads of state with hundreds of business leaders from the region.
Barrow will also attend a SICA-US Summit while in Panama. Meanwhile, Elrington is due to join the Belize delegation in Panama after attending the CARICOM-US Summit being held in Jamaica today, April 8.
The Seventh Summit of the Americas will be officially opened on Friday night in Panama City right before a state dinner, to be hosted by Panama President Juan Carlos Varela Rodriguez, and it is scheduled to close after 5:00 on Saturday.
Organizers say that the Summits of the Americas, the first of which was held in Miami, Florida in 1994, “are institutionalized gatherings of the heads of state and government of the Western Hemisphere where leaders discuss common policy issues, affirm shared values and commit to concerted actions at the national and regional level to address continuing and new challenges faced in the Americas.”
Prime Minister Barrow is scheduled to return to Belize on Monday, April 13, 2015. Deputy Prime Minister Hon. Gaspar Vega, who represented Belize at the last Summit of the Americas held in 2012, will act as Prime Minister until Barrow’s return.