Guyana Chronicle
July 6, 2003

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FOR ALL the real and imagined difficulties of the Caribbean Community, it was encouraging to note the wealth of goodwill demonstrated regionally and internationally during last week's 24th annual Heads of Government Conference in Montego Bay which concluded last evening.

Coinciding with the 30th anniversary celebrations of CARICOM was the summit meeting in Montego Bay that attracted more than representation from leading regional and international academic, financial and economic institutions and organisations.

There were personal messages from United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and President Fidel Castro, both of whom regretted they could not be present in Montego Bay as was originally expected.

The President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, was centre of attention as distinguished special guest for the opening ceremony which he addressed. He used the opportunity to invite Caribbean leaders and other representatives to participate in South Africa's celebration next year to mark the tenth anniversary of the end to the dehumanising policy of apartheid.

Goodwill wishes and expressions of solidarity also came from President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and the President of Chile, Ricardo Lagos, the latter turning up with a delegation in time for the ceremonial opening of the four-day summit.

Lagos, of course, had an additional reason for being present beyond the significance of the 30th anniversary event in Montego Bay. Chile is currently engaged in lobbying efforts in support of its bid for a Chilean successor to outgoing Secretary General of the Organisation of American States (OAS) Cesar Gaviria.

The Chilean President's appearance signalled the start of a new campaign for the top post of the OAS where, it seems, that a Caribbean national cannot rise beyond the number two post of Deputy Secretary General. Other countries likely to be involved are El Salvador and Costa Rica.

But apart from the attendance by the OAS Secretary General and a special envoy of the UN Secretary General, it was also an occasion for exchange of views with the Director General of the World Trade Organisation and the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Don McKinnon.

The hope is that the goodwill shown during the summit and the pledges of cooperation that came from hemispheric and international organisations as well as the leaders of South Africa, Cuba, Venezuela and Chile, will bear fruit as the governments of our Community strive to better promote bonds of friendship in the face of ever increasing challenges for survival.

In the meantime, the governments of the Community can expect more careful scrutiny in the implementation of their decisions and the urgency with which they respond to burning social and economic problems being experienced right across the Caribbean region.