357. Telegram From the Department of State to Certain Diplomatic Posts1

235978. State/AID From Newsom/Gilligan for Ambassadors. Subject: Caribbean Policy.

Mission Directors and AID Representative.

1. We were encouraged by successful first meeting of Caribbean Group for Cooperation in Economic Development, held at the World Bank, June 19–24, but concerned that more attention and emphasis be given to developing a multilateral and regional approach to problems of the region. While preliminary regional analyses had been undertaken of agriculture, transportation and industry and were discussed at the CG meeting, there was little progress on evolving specific regional programs in these or other areas. The principal topic of discussion was the Caribbean Development Facility, which is essentially a framework under the umbrella of a regional title for donors collectively to assist individual countries to overcome their short term economic problems. We are concerned that the Caribbean Group not become regional in name only, or only a consultative mechanism to coordinate bilateral approaches. This was not the President’s intention when we made decisions in early September for Caribbean policy.2 U.S. objective is to encourage national governments in the Caribbean to develop, to the extent possible, regional responses to their individual problems. Chances of assistance to the region will be enhanced if this objective is being effectively pursued. Conversely, these chances might be adversely affected if this objective is not effectively pursued.

2. Would appreciate your help, as you develop further projects, first, in identifying and developing potential regional projects or projects that involve cooperation among two or more Caribbean states and, second, in encouraging host country officials to think of local or national [Page 885] projects within broader regional context, i.e., how a national project could relate to a regionwide sectoral plan. In addition, you may want to encourage appropriate officials to think about developing a cooperative approach to development of the region as a contribution to the next stage of the Caribbean Group’s work. Also, we would appreciate your views on whether a “regional orientation” would be facilitated by the drafting of a regional development plan, or whether this would be an over-ambitious goal at this stage. Should we suggest that the next meeting of the Caribbean Group be devoted primarily to “regionalism”, both regional projects and programs and possibly a discussion of a proposed regional development plan?

3. Would also appreciate Missions’ views as to desirability of periodic meetings of the Caribbean Mission directors and Embassy officers to explore opportunities for regional projects and encouraging regional cooperation. Given the importance of this undertaking, would a fall 1978 meeting be feasible?

4. An important element in the President’s decision on the Caribbean policy was the long-term goal of relating the Caribbean to Central America and to other Basin countries.3 We do not need to pursue this goal next year, but we should begin thinking of ways to relate the nations in the Caribbean with the nations around the Caribbean, possibly through joint investments or trade arrangements or other means. We would appreciate your views.

5. We would appreciate it if you could send your preliminary views on the merits and means of pursuing a regional approach to Caribbean development by October 15, 1978 to permit us to plan for the next budget cycle.4

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780378–0852. Confidential. Drafted by Pastor and in LAC/CAR; cleared by Hewitt, Bushnell, Vaky, and in DAA/LAC and AA/LAC; approved by Gilligan and Newsom. Sent to Georgetown, Port au Prince, Bridgetown, Santo Domingo, Kingston, Belize, and Port of Spain; and repeated for information to Caracas, Bogota, Panama, San Jose, Managua, Tegucigalpa, and Guatemala.
  2. In telegram 2560 from Bridgetown, September 12, the Embassy discussed the decision to reduce aid for the Caribbean, stating, “understand latest proposed A.I.D. budget in the Caribbean for FY80 has eliminated or largely reduced major projects in support of Caribbean regional cooperation and productive employment in agriculture. Unless Caribbean assistance strategy has been revised to downplay these objectives, we urge reconsideration of proposed budget submission.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780371–0041)
  3. Possibly a reference to Document 351.
  4. One month later, Vaky summarized the responses to the telegram in an undated briefing memorandum to Newsom. Although many of the respondents agreed that “there is an inescapable reason and logic in pursuing increased regionalism in Caribbean development,” Vaky reported, they pointed out numerous obstacles in the path to regionalism, such as the geographic fragmentation of the Caribbean, the political differences between Caribbean leaders, the failure of the British to institute a policy of regionalism, and the perception among Caribbean leaders that bilateralism would yield strong benefits in the short-term. The respondents uniformly stated that there were “enough difficulties to achieving regionalism within the Caribbean itself without seeking to involve Central America or establishing some Caribbean basin concept.” (Carter Library, National Security Affairs, Staff Material, North/South, Pastor, Country, Box 5, Folder: Caribbean, Chiefs of Mission and AID Directors Meeting 1/22–24/79 in Santo Domingo, 1/79) In telegram 293707 to certain diplomatic posts, November 18, the Department concluded that, nonetheless, “there is no real alternative to increased regionalism if foreign assistance flows into the Caribbean are to be maintained at or near current levels.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780476–0652)