US-Caribbean Relations in Biden Administration Year 1

This paper was initially presented at the April 28, 2022 webinar on “US-Caribbean Relations in Biden Administration Year 1” (Florida International University/LACC and the Caribbean Policy Consortium). Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States and the Organization of American States as well as non-resident High Commissioner to Canada.

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When Joseph R Biden became the President of the United States, on January 20, 2021, he inherited a reactionary and indifferent policy toward the Caribbean. To the extent the policy had any meaning, it was based on the determination of his predecessor, Donald Trump, to secure the votes of Latin American and Caribbean exiles and disgruntled persons, especially in South Florida which he calculated he had to win to be re-elected President in 2020. In this connection, Trump had developed a virulent anti-Cuba posture and an equally hostile attitude to Nicolás Maduro, the President of Venezuela. The latter stance led to his denunciation of Maduro as the President of Venezuela and the US government’s recognition of the then President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, as the “Interim President of Venezuela”.
Trump’s interest in the rest of the Caribbean nations was only to secure their support for his position on Venezuela. Hence, he hosted a meeting at his Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, on March 22, 2019, with five Caribbean leaders, four of whom were Prime Ministers of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, to urge them to side with his government, in opposition to other Caribbean countries, to recognize Juan Guaidó and to seat his nominee at the Organization of American States (OAS) as the representative of Venezuela. This meeting was regarded by several Caribbean leaders as “mischief that some persons may be up to seek to divide us in a manner which we ought not to be divided and therefore reduce the extent of the efficacy of our work”, Two weeks later, on April 9, 2019, the five countries joined in giving a narrow majority vote at the OAS to seat Guaidó’s representative much to the chagrin of other CARICOM member states of the OAS.

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