Jamaican Prime Minister Michael Manley, a key figure in the Carter administration's efforts to put a new priority on U.S.-Caribbean relations, met with President Carter at the White House yesterday.
Manley's visit capped what State Department sources dubbed "Washington's Caribbean week" - one that also saw 30 nations and 15 international agencies meet here to discuss how to coordinate Caribbean economic cooperation.
These events were overshadowed by preoccupation with the Middle East situation. But, even with Israeli Prime Minister Menahem Begin on the list of White House visitors yesterday. Manley still had almost three hours of talks with Carter, Secretary of State talks with Carter, Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance and other top administration officials.
His high-level reception didn't deter Manley from voicing several opinions that either clashed with official U.S. policy or are likely to be greeted with hostility by large groups of Americans.
In talks with reporters, he defended Cuba's military intervention in Angola, urged the United States to restore normal relations with Cuba, and warned that a failure to ratify the Panama Canal treaties would be "catastrophic" for U.S. relations with the rest of the hemisphere.
Only a year ago, such attitudes, coupled with Manley's attempts to install a radical system of socialism within Jamaica, had caused the Ford administration to treat him with a coolness that bordered on hostility.
That policy was dramatically reversed by the Carter administration, which has made Manley the most prominent symbol of its live-and-let-live approach to the Caribbean. As long as a government respects the rights of its citizens, Carter has said, the United States will recognize its right to follow any political or economic system it chooses.
In Manley's case, the administration has given this policy concrete form by dispatching Rosalynn Carter and United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young on official visits to Jamaica and by increasing financial aid from $10 million to $63.5 million.
Administration officials deny trying to build Manley up as a leader of the Caribbean. But, they concede, he has been given special attention because of Washington's view that Manley wields considerable influence in non-aligned Third World circles.
In fact, these sources said, most of yesterday's talks at the White House involved not U.S.-Jamaica problems but the North-South dialogue and Manleys views on how the United States should deal with the developing countries.
Earlier, at a breakfast meeting with reporters, Manley said that Third World nations, dependent on raw materials exports for their livelihood, are "strangling on debt"and repeated his call for a new world economic system that will guarantee them stable and equitable prices for their products.
Focusing on commodities such as sugar, bauxite and cotton, Manley said he wanted to enlist U.S. cooperation in a consortium that would help Caribbean countries improve production, marketing and conversion into finished goods.
A possible first step toward such a consortium was taken Thursday when the countries and agencies meeting under the auspices of the World Bank agreed to form a Caribbean Group for Economic Cooperation by next spring.
The plan originated in a U.S. proposal for a mechanism to coordinate the aid-giving activities of various countries in the region. Although several Caribben nations want this mechanism expanded into an agency that would solicit and dispense financial aid, sources at the closed meetings said it is still too early to say what form the proposed organization will take.