By Jacqueline Charles

The leaders of five Caribbean nations sympathetic to the Trump administration’s hard line on Venezuela spent Friday discussing the South American nation, as well as how the United States can be a better partner, with President Donald Trump at his private Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.

“I have a feeling Venezuela will come up,” Trump said at the onset of the discussions, adding that he looked forward to “spending a lot of time together this afternoon and discussing ways that we can be beneficial to you and you can be beneficial to us.”

Caribbean leaders said most of the talk centered around trade and investments, and the U.S. has committed to sending a representative from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation to visit each of their nations — the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica and Saint Lucia

“It’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk, that there will be real investments; investments that will benefit the region and benefit your country as well,” Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness said, addressing the press at the conclusion of the two-hour meeting.

“The message from this meeting was that the United States wants to encourage and promote a stronger relationship with the region,” Holness said. “We’re very happy with that message. We feel that it’s a message that is long in coming. … We’re satisfied that there will be instrumental action with that message.”

Allen Chastanet, prime minister of Saint Lucia and the incoming chairman of the 15-member Caribbean Community, said there hasn’t been this level of engagement since Ronald Reagan engaged with former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga in the early 1980s.

“It’s been a really long time since leaders of the region have been invited to meet with the president of the United States of America and we think this is the beginning of a much broader initiative by America to the Caribbean,” Chastanet said. “This meeting was really about President Trump’s vision to re-initiate dialogue with the Caribbean.”

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