Wed | Sep 30, 2020

UPDATED | Visits by US secretaries of state mark election years - Pompeo lands Tuesday, ahead of expected 2020 poll; Clinton travelled to island months before Golding resigned and Holness last called the date

Published:Sunday | January 19, 2020 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue - Senior Sunday Gleaner Writer
AP United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

United States (US) Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will arrive in Jamaica on Tuesday for a two-day working visit with Jamaican government officials, the third US holder of that office to do so in eight years.

Pompeo is coming to Jamaica in 2020, months before the country is expected to hold general election as speculation now shifts to May – the birth month of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga who died on his birthday last year – as the date for the polls.

Pompeo, the 70th holder of the office of Secretary of State, also comes to Jamaica months before his country’s presidential elections in November. He arrives the day the Senate trial of his boss, impeached US President Donald Trump, is expected to begin, following the vote of Congress last year.

Pompeo follows the 67th holder of the office, Hillary Clinton, who also made an official stop on Jamaican shores in an election year, and his immediate predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who made a three-hour stop in the island for bilateral talks in 2018.

Clinton visited Jamaica in July 2011 and Jamaicans later went to the polls on December 28, 2011, after former Prime Minister Bruce Golding’s September resignation. His successor, Andrew Holness, called the date.


The former secretary of state, who served under President Barack Obama, was in the island a year after the deadly May 2010 joint police-military operation in West Kingston that sought to capture reputed gang leader Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke, for whom the US had submitted an extradition request, and resulted in the deaths of more than 70 individuals. Bruce Golding had engaged Jamaica in a lengthy stand-off with the US over the extradition request before bowing to public pressure.

Now, Pompeo comes to Jamaica at the height of regional tension, a split in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), increasing concerns over China’s role in the region and especially Jamaica, and the unstable political climate in Venezuela, the oil-rich country viewed as a friend of the Caribbean but an enemy to Washington.

A former US army officer who rose to the rank of captain, Pompeo was director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from January 2017 until April 2018, after then President-elect Trump announced on November 18, 2016, that he would be the nominee for the job. He was confirmed by the Senate on January 23, 2017, with a vote of 66–32, and sworn in later that day.

However, he would not occupy the position as intelligence boss for a long time.

Trump nominated him as Secretary of State in March 2018, and he was confirmed by the Senate on April 26, 2018, in a 57–42 vote. He was sworn in the same day.

Pompeo replaced Tillerson, who was fired by the president.

The 56-year-old Republican, also an attorney-at-law, was born December 30, 1963. He served as a member of the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2017 and represented Kansas’ 4th congressional district. He was that state’s representative on the Republican National Committee and member of the Italian American Congressional Delegation. Pompeo is said also to be a member of the Tea Party movement within the Republican Party.

The married father of a son, he is fourth in line to the office of the presidency behind Vice President Mike Pence, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate President Chuck Grassley.


(EDITOR'S NOTE: This article was amended to reflect the visit of Rex Tillerson in 2018.)