A United States spokesperson has chided recent efforts to “divide the international community” following reports that a number of critical health supplies bound for Barbados were barred from leaving there.

Public Affairs Officer at the Barbados based, US Embassy Larry Socha was responding to rampant criticism of the Trump administration, which followed news that 20 ventilators donated for the fight against COVID-19 were “seized”.

Minister of Health, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey Bostic made the announcement during a press conference on Sunday morning. He later suggested that ‘seize’ may not have been the best word to describe the situation suggesting instead that the critical items may have been tied up in some kind of US export restrictions.

Nevertheless, there has been no further information about where in the US the challenges occurred, when the key pieces of equipment will arrive or what is preventing their arrival amid the worsening COVID-19 situation.

But the US spokesperson told Barbados TODAY that embassy officials only learned of the alleged situation when Bostic announced it on Sunday. Since then, the office, headed by Ambassador Linda Taglialatela, has been attempting to get more details about the situation.

“So far we haven’t received any updates from the Government of Barbados regarding the alleged incident, so we are awaiting those details and we will continue to work with our allies and partners to make sure that we can defeat this Coronavirus COVID-19 together,”

Soche promised.

Since Sunday’s announcement, the developments have been making waves across regional and international news with some deeming America’s actions as “modern piracy”. Reports out of Germany, France, Brazil and Thailand have also accused the US buyers of withholding the ventilators.

“I think that’s an unfortunate narrative that is being propagated by certain individuals and organisations to divide the international community. There is nothing more important right now than the international community coming together and those individuals and organisations that are promoting a narrative of division are doing the citizens of their own countries and other countries a disservice,”

Socha told Barbados TODAY.

To the contrary, he declared that no other country has contributed more to the Caribbean’s health infrastructure over the last 20 years than the United States of America. He recalled just days ago a donation of testing kits with supplies for 2,000 testing samples was handed over to local authorities.

“The United States is proud of the track record and will continue to work together with Barbados and other countries in the Caribbean to defeat COVID-19 to continue to develop the health systems of the region,” added the public affairs officer.

Numerous efforts to reach Bostic on Tuesday and Wednesday for an update were unsuccessful.

When contacted, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands said her office was not investigating the situation and suggested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would be better placed to provide an update.

However Minister of Foreign Affairs Senator Dr Jerome Walcott said he was otherwise engaged and could not immediately provide a comment.

Concerns about US overreach in international trade relations intensified last Friday when President Donald Trump invoked powers under the Defence Production Act allowing him to demand that corporations accept and prioritize contracts for services and materials deemed necessary to aid U.S national defense.

When asked directly whether the US Government seized the ventilators as part of those provisions, Socha replied: “I know the White House put out a statement on April 3rd - last Friday - regarding specifics about the Defence Production Act but I think the messages are consistent that what we will continue to do is work with our partners around the world to make sure that we all have - including the United States and including Barbados - the resources that we need to defeat COVID-19 together.” kareemsmith@barbadostoday.bb