KINGSTON – Jamaica’s foreign minister says his country should adopt Spanish as a second official language to foster expanded trade and cooperation with its neighbors in the Caribbean and Central America.
Growing ties between the Caribbean Community and Latin America, the Dominican Republic’s desire to join Caricom and the fact that Jamaica is surrounded by Spanish-speaking countries make it imperative for Jamaicans to become proficient in Spanish, Kenneth Baugh said.
“There is no question in my mind now that Jamaicans have to acquire the ability to speak other languages: Spanish, French and Portuguese, certainly beginning with Spanish,” the foreign minister said.
Noting that Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia are anxious to do business with Jamaica, he said Caricom aims for integration with Latin America as a step toward an eventual Western Hemisphere single market.
Jamaica is playing host this week to a three-day conference of Caribbean and Latin American foreign ministers and to a preparatory meeting for the 24-member Rio Group’s February summit in Mexico.
Kingston already takes part in the Rio Group as the representative of Caricom, and the gathering that began Wednesday in the resort town of Montego Bay is expected to ratify Jamaica’s application for membership in its own right.
“One has got to accept that the wider horizon of Latin America and the Caribbean integrating economically and in trade, is offering a much larger opportunity to Jamaica. It means that enterprises in Jamaica will need to expand and increase exports that will increase revenues for the country,” Baugh said.
“I think all Jamaicans, all schools and teachers, have to become conscious that there is a desperate need for us to become Spanish speaking,” he said. EFE