President Obama Visits Jamaica on way to Summit of the Americas

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President Obama steps down on to Jamaican soil on April 8, 2015.

President Obama Visits Jamaica on way to Summit of the Americas

 News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Thurs. Mar. 9, 2015: U.S. President Barack Obama woke up in the Caribbean island nation of Jamaica this morning after touching down at the Norman Manley Airport in Kingston at 7:30 p.m. last evening on Air Force One. The President is being accompanied on the short trip to Jamaica by Jamaican-American Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke.

They were greeted on arrival by Governor General of Jamaica, Sir Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller along with CARICOM Chairman and Bahamian Prime Minister, Perry Christie; CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque.  

Others in the welcome party were: Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator AJ Nicholson; Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Micheal Peart; President of the Senate, Senator Floyd Morris; Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson; Commissioner of Police, Dr. Carl Williams; Chief Justice, Zaila McCalla; Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Professor Stephen Vasciannie and  Chief of State Protocol, Elinor Felix.

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President Obama with Jamaican American Congresswoman Yvette Clarke

After arriving at the airport, Obama embraced PM Simpson Miller and then traveled on the Marine One helicopter to the Jamaica Defence Force’s headquarters at Up Park Camp with Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. From there, he travelled by car to a hotel in Kingston for a meeting with US Embassy staff.He was also taken on a private tour of the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston last night, accompanied by aides including National Security Adviser Susan Rice. He was heard saying he still has all Marley’s albums.

Today, he will meet Prime Minister Simpson-Miller of Jamaica before meeting with governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to discuss “competitiveness, energy and security” at the University of the West Indies, Regional Headquarters. He will also lay a wreath at Jamaica’s National Heroes Park and join a Youth Forum for young leaders from across the region  at UWI. President Obama is expected to speak to PM Simpson-Miller “about our strong support for Jamaica’s work to deal with a debt crisis, with a physical crisis, and its strong performance over the last two years in working with the IMF, the World Bank, and others to address that, in support of the prosperity and security of her citizens.” CARICOM MEETING

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President Obama greets the SG of CARICOM as PM Simpson Miller looks on.

President Obama’s meeting with Caricom leaders come on the heels of US Vice President Joe Biden’s late January meeting with several in Washington DC at the Caribbean Energy Security Summit. The White House last night said it is an “important opportunity for us to meet with a significant number of our neighbors with whom we share interests both in the hemisphere, and bilaterally and multilaterally.

“ The U.S. has long been criticized for ignoring the region, its backyard, while China increases its economic presence there. It is expected there will be a number of concrete outcomes within the agenda of security, economic cooperation and energy coming out of today’s meeting.

President Obama will leave Jamaica this evening for Panama to attend the Seventh Summit of the Americas where he is expected to interact but not meet officially with Cuba’s Raul Castro. It is the second visit by Obama to the Caribbean and the second to Jamaica by a sitting US president. The first was by Ronald Reagan in 1982.

SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS AGENDA On Friday, the 10th, the President has a number of events that are associated with the summit, leading into the summit. First, in the morning, Obama will have a bilateral meeting with President Juan Carlos Varela of Panama, obviously a close friend and partner of the United States in the Americas.

He will then drop by a meeting of CEOs who are partnering with us on our 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative.  This is an effort to promote two-way educational exchange in the hemisphere, one of our signature people-to-people efforts in the world, and the priority in the hemisphere where many of the leaders have focused on the need to enhance higher education, including through exchanges, with more American students going to Latin America and more Latin American students coming to study here in the United States.

Following that meeting, the President will meet with the different Presidents of the SICA grouping of nations.  That’s the Central American nations, where we have a very significant $1 billion security and capacity-building initiative, which Ricardo can talk through with you.  Again, our focus there is on building the capacity of our partners in Central America as they deal with a range of security challenges and look to enhance economic development for their people, which is very much in our shared interests.

Following that meeting with the SICA Presidents, President  Obama will participate in a CEO Summit of the Americas.  He will be joined in an event, a moderated discussion by the Presidents of Panama, Mexico and Brazil, where they’ll be able to discuss their shared efforts to promote economic growth and job creation in the hemisphere.  And many of you who have covered our Latin America policy in the past know that promoting U.S. exports in the region has been fundamental to both our broader economic strategy and our approach to the region.

Following that CEO summit, he will attend a civil society forum.  This is an important initiative that the Panamanians are leading and hosting that brings together civil society from across the region to have a discussion about the different challenges civil society faces, but also the opportunities for governments to partner with civil society. The President will make remarks at that broader civil society forum.

Then he will participate in a smaller roundtable with civil society leaders from across the region.  He will be joined in that roundtable by the leaders of Costa Rica and Uruguay, again, speaking to the regional diversity of civil society and the shared commitment among different leaders within the hemisphere, to civil society and engagement.

That concludes the pre-program, if you will. And then that evening, President  Obama will attend the inauguration ceremony and leaders dinner associated with the Summit of the Americas.  And then on Saturday, April 11th, he will attend the various plenary sessions and leaders meetings.  And then he will conclude his visit with his traditional press conference to close the summit.

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