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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Lawmaker’s China remarks draw rebuke from Antigua and Barbuda official

Antigua and Barbuda Foreign Minister E.P. “Chet” Greene (Wikipedia)

By John McPhaul

The foreign minister of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda reacted indignantly earlier this week to comments made by veteran New Progressive Party lawmaker José Aponte Hernández that were reported by the STAR last week to the effect that China is building facilities, including docks and an airport to be used for military aircraft, in Antigua and Barbuda, creating a situation that moves Puerto Rico back to the center of U.S. geopolitics.

“Stop maligning Antigua and Barbuda to promote your selfish political interests,” said E.P. “Chet” Greene, the foreign minister of Antigua and Barbuda, in a written statement received by the STAR on Tuesday.

“In a recent outburst, José Aponte Hernández launched unfounded and false allegations against the sovereign nation of Antigua and Barbuda, claiming that our infrastructure developments are part of a military strategy by China, particularly alleging that our airport is used for the landing and take-off of Communist Chinese bombers,” Greene’s statement said. “His statement is not only baseless, but it also appears crafted to promote his long-held and unsuccessful desire to annex Puerto Rico to the United States as a state.”

“Antigua and Barbuda is a world-renowned tourism destination,” the foreign minister added. “Our airport and seaport welcome many of the world’s leading airlines and cruise ships, bearing hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens annually, including officers of the U.S. Embassy. Not one of these entities or individuals has ever corroborated Mr. Aponte’s outrageous and highly malicious claims.”

“These assertions by Mr. Aponte are grounded in a sensationalist article written by a known ardent anti-China advocate in the publication Newsweek,” the statement added. “Aponte demonstrated a profound disregard for the truth by not seeking to ascertain the facts before uttering his falsehoods against a neighbouring country, thereby calling into question his credibility as a responsible leader in Puerto Rico.”

Aponte Hernández, a former speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, said in a written statement last week that “[t]he creation of dual infrastructure on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda, because the docks and, in particular, the airport, are being developed for the purpose of being used for the landing and take-off of Communist Chinese bombers, is the greatest threat to our nation since the Soviet Union established a robust military presence in Cuba in 1961.”

“I doubt that Mr. Aponte will be decent enough to apologize but, as the Foreign Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, I am compelled to demand that he cease using unfounded and libelous statements against our sovereign nation,” Greene said. “We urge him to focus on constructive and truthful discourse, rather than propagating falsehoods that serve no purpose other than to promote his political ambitions at the expense of the people of Antigua and Barbuda.”

“Our country remains committed to stability and prosperity in the region, fostering relationships based on respect and mutual benefit,” the foreign minister added. “We stand strong against any efforts to undermine our nation through deceit and manipulation and will continue to uphold our values of democracy and freedom.”

Aponte Hernández responded to Greene’s statement on Wednesday, saying “I will not engage in petty disputes with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda.”

“I am accountable to the people of Puerto Rico and the United States, our nation, where my loyalty lies,” the pro-statehood legislator said. “My primary focus is on our security. I am committed to defending our nation and our people against any threat, internal or external, without resorting to confrontations or rude behavior. There’s no room for such disputes in my duties. As a public official, I have sworn to uphold this commitment and I will not hesitate to honor that oath.”

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