Bahamas foreign minister attends special interest meetings in Washington
Fred Mitchell, Bahamas minister of foreign affairs and immigration, spent a hectic two days in Washington, DC, last week participating in meetings at the US State Department and with members of Congress who serve on committees with oversight on matters of special interest to The Bahamas and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Mitchell, who arrived in Washington on Tuesday, April 8, on Wednesday morning met with William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs at the State Department to discuss security related matters affecting The Bahamas, and by extension, the wider Western Hemisphere region.
Underscored during the meeting was the long standing relationship between the United States and The Bahamas, marked by years of cooperation and engagement. The ongoing challenges of narcotics trafficking in the region, emerging trends of drug abuse and threats posed by the drug trade were also discussed.
The United States government is looking to further engage The Bahamas and other Caribbean countries in the area of security, through structural and continued dialogue.
The meeting followed the recent signing of an amendment to the letter of agreement on narcotics control and law enforcement (ALOA) between The Bahamas and United States governments, which provides $1,850,000 in US assistance under the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
Following discussions with Brownfield, a meeting was held between Mitchell and Luis CdeBaca, ambassador-at-large of the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (TIP).
The Bahamas government is currently in the process of drafting a national plan against trafficking in persons.
Later that day, the foreign minister met on Capitol Hill with Congressman Eliot Engel, representative for New York’s 16th Congressional District, the ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and who also serves on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The congressman reiterated support for ongoing and enhanced security cooperation between the United States and The Bahamas and commented on the particular success of the OPBAT programme.
On Thursday morning, Mitchell met with Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, representative for New York’s Fifth Congressional District, senior member of the House Financial Services Committee and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit. A member of the Congressional Black Caucus, Meeks also is a former chairman of the Subcommittee on International Monetary Policy and Trade.
Discussions during the meeting focused on greater United States engagement with the Caribbean region. Meeks, who sits on the Western Hemisphere Sub-Committee, noted the close geographic proximity between the United States and The Bahamas, alluding to the economic impact of the United States on Caribbean countries.
Both congressional meetings resulted in a commitment to dialogue on a more consistent basis and a conveyance of support for assisting the interests of The Bahamas.
Later that morning, Mitchell was back at the State Department for a meeting with assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs Roberta S. Jacobson, deputy assistant secretary for Central America and the Caribbean Francisco Palmieri, director of Caribbean affairs Juan Alsace, and Bahamas desk officer Gianni Paz.
In an effort to maintain open and consistent dialogue, Mitchell has ensured that, on each of his visits into or transiting the United States, he has interfaced with the senior authorities in the US State Department.
Mitchell took the opportunity to signal that relationship with the United States was generally very positive; however, there were several areas where cooperation between both countries could be enhanced for mutual benefit and that ongoing dialogue was fundamental to ensuring the relationship with The Bahamas, and CARICOM in general, continued to progress from strength to strength.
Mitchell further underscored the recent progress made by The Bahamas regarding the prosecution of an offence for trafficking in persons.