On Friday, President Trump will meet with leaders from five Caribbean island nations at his Mar-a-Lago resort here in Florida. A big question is: what will Trump do for them in return for what they’ve recently done for him?
Back when the U.S. began mustering support in the western hemisphere against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, a big obstacle was the Caribbean.
Venezuela was then selling oil to Caribbean countries on generously preferential payment terms. Because of that program, called Petrocaribe, those countries didn’t want to anger Maduro’s authoritarian socialist regime. But that was then. Thanks to Venezuela’s economic catastrophe, Petrocaribe is all but history.
And many Caribbean governments are now reconsidering their neutral Venezuela stance. Among them are the Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and St. Lucia.
Those countries either do not recognize Maduro’s disputed re-election last year – or they’ve decided to join the U.S. and recognize Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate president. As a result, President Trump invited the leaders of those five Caribbean countries to meet with him at Mar-a-Lago on Friday.
They also represent energy-starved economies - Haiti is virtually running out of fuel this year - and hope the U.S. will now aid them with the sort of low-cost fuel they no longer get from Venezuela. The White House says that will be discussed.
What those leaders most likely won't get from Trump is an apology for reportedly calling impoverished nations like Haiti "sh--hole countries" last year. He has denied making that remark.