January 21, 2001

Canada, Caribbean divided on Cuba

                  MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica (Reuters) -- Leaders of Canada and the Caribbean
                  Community (CARICOM) ended a meeting in Jamaica divided over whether
                  communist Cuba should take part in the upcoming Summit of the Americas in
                  Quebec City, Canada.

                  Canada's Prime Minister Jean Chretien, speaking at a news conference late
                  Friday, made it clear that Cuba would not be invited to the summit set for April

                  Noting that Cuban President Fidel Castro was not invited to the inaugural Summit
                  of the Americas in Miami in 1994, he said this was because the intention was
                  that all participating countries should have democratically elected governments.

                  While acknowledging that some countries wanted Castro at the summit, he said:
                  "We operate on a consensus basis and some are opposed so we cannot proceed.
                  Even if I wished, I cannot."

                  Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, the current CARICOM chairman, told
                  reporters the organization strongly disagreed with Cuba's exclusion.

                  "The notion of having a hemispheric process that involves economic and other
                  forms of cooperation that presumes that Cuba will indefinitely be excluded from
                  hemispheric relationships is unreal and unrealistic," Arthur told reporters.

                  He said that Cuba has normal relationships with 33 of 35 countries in the
                  Americas and that a process of constructive engagement with Cuba should be
                  part of the way forward.

                  Caribbean governments have often earned the ire of the United States in
                  particular in their defense of Cuba's right to participate in hemispheric and
                  multilateral movements.

                  They provided strong support for Cuba's inclusion in the latest trade agreement
                  between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP)
                  group of developing nations.

                  The Sixth Canada-Caribbean Summit in Montego Bay focused in part on the
                  agenda for the Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Quebec City in

                  That summit will focus on negotiations towards establishing the Free Trade Area
                  of the Americas, the OECD Initiative on Financial Centers, crime, drugs, small
                  arms and the HIV/AIDS crisis in the hemisphere.

                      Copyright 2001 Reuters.