CaribWorldNews, CANCUN, Mexico, Mon. Feb. 22, 2010: Caribbean leaders of the 15-member CARICOM bloc of nations kicked off their first official meeting with Mexico Sunday.
The Mexico-CARICOM summit got underway in Playa del Carmen today. Many leaders arrived in Cancun Sunday aboard a Mexican Air Force plane.
They included Prime Ministers Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts and Nevis, Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, Tillman Thomas of Grenada, Bruce Golding of Jamaica and David Thomson of Barbados. Haitian President Rene Preval also arrived Sunday.
The heads called for the earthquake disaster in Haiti to be a spur for the rebirth of the nation. `First on our agenda is Haiti,` said Roosevelt Skerrit, the prime minister of Dominica and leader of the Caricom (the Caribbean Community) until July. `We want to ensure reconstruction goes beyond immediate efforts. We have an opportunity to bring about the renaissance of Haiti, not just to return to where we were before the disaster struck.`
Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who formally opened the summit on Sunday afternoon, said Haiti would be a top priority, adding that the summit would also discuss boosting trade and growth across the Caribbean region, protecting and developing tourism, boosting regional security, and tackling climate change. He said that Mexico was committed to the region.
`Mexico is a nation that is Caribbean nation, powerfully Caribbean,` Calderon said. `As such Mexico takes on its responsibility of participating actively in the region`s development.`
During his speech, Haitian President Rene Preval said that as many as 300,000 people may have died in the devastating quake last month.
`More than 200,000 bodies have been recovered from the streets, (and) with those under the rubble that figure could reach 300,000, ` he said. Preval also thanked the host Mexico for all the aid it had provided for Haiti`s earthquake victims.
`Haiti`s friends realize that Haiti`s true development cannot be built on aid, but must be based on investment,` Preval said, adding that the nation needs `not rebuilding but refounding.`
`We need a more just nation that is not focused on Port-au- Prince where the political and economic elite live,` he stressed.
The leaders will also join the Group of Rio Summit set for today, Monday, Feb. 22 and tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 23rd.