Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have reached consensus on several critical issues, including their next step on Venezuela and measures to strengthen the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) as they ended their 38th annual summit in Grenada yesterday evening.
Chairman of the 15-nation grouping, Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, confirmed that leaders will formally offer their help to President Nicolas Maduro to help mediate the long-running, bitter impasse with Opposition forces, which has resulted in more than three months of violent unrest.
Dr Mitchell told the closing news conference that leaders have settled on sending mission to Caracas.
Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit had proposed a mission to include some leaders which he said could help clarify CARICOM’s understanding of the issues.
“CARICOM heads of government call for all parties to commit to engage in a renewed dialogue and negotiation leading to comprehensive political agreement with established timetables, concrete actions and guarantees to ensure its implementation. CARICOM heads of government offer their good offices to facilitate this dialogue,” Mitchell said.
The CARICOM chair also reported that efforts were being strengthened to breathe new life into the CSME.
Officials will identify the roadblocks that have hindered the progress of the CSME and an implementation plan will also be formulated to ensure the outstanding measures are addressed.
The high cost of regional travel was also a major talking point at the summit, with leaders trading words on punches on the operations of LIAT even before the official talks began on Wednesday, following comments made by Mitchell at the opening ceremony the evening before.
Prime Minister Mitchell had called on his colleagues to ease aviation taxes as he complained that it was easier for CARICOM people to travel abroad than move around the island chain.
The heads have agreed to ask the Caribbean Development Bank to finance a study on the impact of aviation taxes on the economies of member states.
They also committed to the implementation of measures to facilitate ease of travel in the region and issued a call for Government-owned airlines to continue to work towards increasing their level of collaboration and coordination.
The growing epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) is also a major concern for heads.
The summit received a report that evaluated the implementation of the CARICOM Heads of Government Port of Spain Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) Summit Declaration.
The report warned that the Caribbean had the distinction of having the highest mortality rate from NCDs in the Americas. Over 40 per cent of those deaths are premature.
Leaders underscored the need for fresh efforts to curb the ravages of NCDs like diabetes through legislation and intensified public education activities. (Caribbean360.com)