Tag: Caribbean

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

Regional integration could mean moving to Guyana and Suriname

CARICOM, as is, is dead. It is going nowhere fast, what with all the dick-swinging, animosity, regional tension, economic tension and social tensions, CARICOM as is, is dead as it relates to harmonising and developing relationships throughout the region. The sad reality is that in spite of our common history and shared culture the distance is too great to overcome along with the population and economic disparities.

Trinidad & Tobago along with Barbados (despite the latter’s recent malaise) are streets ahead of every other nation in this bloc in terms of economics, and they flex their muscles much to the chagrin of the other nations in the regional bloc. Jamaica and Trinidad dominate in terms of population size (and therefore have a large labour pool) and we see where their nationals make up a large portion of the workforce in the other nations in the grouping, pressuring wages of the locals downwards (in some cases) while alienating/forcing out of work quite a few of the local populace.

The CSME (Caribbean Single Market & Economy) is non-existent, the ‘freedom of movement’ that CARICOM was supposed to have afforded us is nowhere to be found and ideas of political/legal integration seem to have been strangled in its crib if the CCJ is anything to go by. CARICOM it must be said again as is is dead in the water unless something drastic and earth-shaking takes place, and that event may very well have taken place (or is slowly taking place).

Global warming and the tectonic movements in my mind are going to be the driving force behind the region finally integrating, climate change may very well be the thing that saves this bloc. As seen with the recent hurricanes this season along with the precarious fault line that is between Jamaica and Haiti, the nations of this bloc could literally at any moment face a crisis that would bankrupt any one of the individual nations that make up CARICOM. Rivers and streams are drying up and islands that are used to importing water are now paying through the nose for the same commodity as a result, it cant continue, something must change.

The time for doing nothing has ended, that door slammed shut the minute Dominica got battered by the third category 4 hurricane of what has been a hellish nightmare that is this years hurricane season. Frankly, the door started closing during the five minutes of hell that Haiti endured (the 2010 earthquake). Simply put, stagnation at this point in time is akin to willfully signing our death warrants, the only way out of this mess is with true unification and integration.

CARICOM as a bloc has a population of just under eighteen million persons, almost all of them living on islands, except two. Guyana and Belize are on the continent and are (wait for it) actually underpopulated. If we as a regional bloc were serious about not only political integration but most importantly our peoples survival, then we would look into setting up a plan to get off the islands and move to the continent, the mainland which happens to be CARICOM members as well as being underpopulated and underdeveloped (like all of CARICOM in that regard).

Now, as I have pointed out, these nations are actually pretty underpopulated. Guyana with a land mass of 83,000 sq mi (making it number 83 in terms of country size) has a population of 773,303 as of 2016 (making it number 165 for population size) and therefore one of the least dense places on earth (ranked at number 8). Suriname is a bit smaller but still again a massive nation with a land mass of 63,252 sq mi (ranked at number 90) and with a population just above half a million. These are nations roughly the size of Great Britan (in the case of Guyana) and Greece (in the case of Suriname) and with a fraction of their population, in other words, there is ample room for population expansion. As it relates to the environment (which should be at the forefront of our minds if we even begin to plan this out), I believe that we (at least in this region anyway) have learnt our lessons and would look to do as little damage as possible to the magnificent beauties that make up Guyana-Suriname hinterland, forests and waterways, we wont be doing concrete jungles anymore I believe.

I am not pretending that this is either a roadmap or a policy piece on how to achieve this, that is for persons in a much bigger pay bracket than I can imagine. But it is something that we must at the very least be thinking about and hopefully, this will spark some stimulating conversation on the topic along with concrete actions. The way has already been somewhat paved by the  Guna people of Panama, these people live on the Caribbean side of Panama and as such are seeing their land slowly swallowed up by the ocean as the climate becomes more hostile. As a solution, they are all (within a specified timeline) moving to the mainland of Panama, showing that a solution is out there.

This type of regional cooperation and integration I admit is at this moment very much a pipe dream and honestly seems laughably impossible, however, the alternatives are also just as, if not more so, impossible. Option one is, hope, pray and cajole the nations of the world to meet and surpass (because the current targets will mean the regions extinction) the goals set at the Paris climate talks (a tall order especially with the US pulling out). Option two is, we as individual nations try and make the best of it, build dykes as tall as skyscrapers to keep the water out (see King Canute) and then die (not very pleasant what with these hurricanes, heat etc). Option three is, we all vacate the region and go to the former colonial masters, something that just sounds mad when one looks at current events (see Trump and all of Europe). None of these options are likely or realistic, the truth is we in the region have been left to fend for ourselves, to act as the test case in how well/long humans will live in the front lines in the era of global warming, at this point it is really either swim together or die a slow death for the nations of this region because we are not going to get any outside help.

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Jamaica: Shirking its role as a voice against global injustice

Jamaica has never been a shrinking violet on the international scene. Far from it, we have historically punched above our weight and even led campaigns against the injustices that were taking place. Even when our nation was going through great turmoils like the 70’s and the 90’s we were always leading the charge or in full support in calling out the global injustices, be it Southern Africa, Greneda or Cuba we have always had a strong voice and compelling opinions on these issues.

All that seems to have changed however, as over the past thirteen years (when we helped Aristide escape the US backed coup) we have been silent on the pressing issues facing us all. We have shirked our responsibility and forgone our history in order to remain silent and try to suck at the teet of high finance and political power.

Examples of our deafening silence are many and would put persons who left the nation in the 70’s-80’s and those who remember our vocal attitude to shame. We have done nothing for almost twenty years as the world burns around us and as injustices continue to be meted out. A prime example of this and one that we as a nation should be profoundly disappointed with can be found in how we deal with Africa and more to the point Congo (the DRC). This is a nation that has been at constant internal conflict since independence but which has seen the conflict become more heated and brutal in the past few decades. With wanton raping, destruction of villages, the virtual (and sometimes literal) slavery that is the norm in the precious metals and stones mines and the (now common) use of child soldiers we see where we have foreign ministers (from both parties) who are silent on this issue, yet they like to speak of black solidarity, how sickening.

Taking a look a little closer to home and we see the same thing being done by the Jamaican government. The coup of 2009 in Honduras which was condemned by almost all of the world (and admittedly the OAS) was met with a tepid reply of support for the recently ousted president by the Jamaican government and opposition. The political and social situation in Guyana is devolving at a frightening pace (although their economy is doing ok) to the point where we now have a political party, centered around race openly calling for the abandonment of CARICOM among some other radical reforms. The same thing plays out in the nation that should have been a beacon of anti-imperialism but which instead was and still is being destroyed by imperialist and neo-colonial powers, Haiti. As the nation endured (and still does endure) economic devastation persons crossed the border to the Dominican Republic to find economic refuge. To cut a long story short, the descendants of those immigrants are now being (and have been historically) systematically oppressed, arrested and deported. These persons are being held in squalid conditions in detention centers and daily face racist abuse and physical abuse until they are ‘deported to their country of origin’ all for the crime of being black, poor and therefore not having ‘proper’ identification of citizenship. Again we got the same tired and lame condemnations from the opposition and government,but no concrete steps were taken to shame let  alone sanction the Dom Rep government. Again we were silent and are silent as we do business with them as they continue to carry out those atrocities, we have become whores for a few cents and sold our soul in the process.

In Asia the same thing plays out, we readily accept money from the Chinese and never once have we called them out on some of their practices that are nothing short of reprehensible (and incidentally sometimes totally against the ‘orthodoxy’ the CPC preaches). We are silent as Myanmar cum Burma is still embroiled in civil war and ethnic cleansing and instead of calling them out or at least making vocal our displeasure we say nothing at all. Even in the ‘conflict of our times’ the war against ISIS and Islamic militancy our government and opposition only come out of the woodwork’s when a bombing happens as in London (but strangely never when it happens in Nigeria) showing just how much of our once proud heritage of being vocal and active on the international scene has been withered like a grape on the vine.

Nothing though shows the Jamaican government (and opposition’s) total lack of morals and humanity than the recent visit of our Prime Minster to Israel, an act I will always and forever decry and oppose. During this trip, never once did he the head of the Jamaican  government come out publicly and denounce and condemn what Israel has done and continues to do, instead we got a photo-op and cushy smiles while Palestinians were being oppressed. No, we didn’t condemn them or tell them off as we did their spiritual predecessor apartheid South Africa, instead we fawned over their (albeit impressive) technological systems and irrigation systems, ignoring the fact that it was literally built on and watering stolen Palestinian land. And while that oppression continues unabated (and still ratcheting up) we have a government and opposition say nothing, while Palestinian men and women are being killed protesting access to their religions third most holy site we have a government putting machinery in gear to welcome the war criminal, war hawk and Zionist expansionist Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Jamaican government has lost its soul, it has been that way for some time that much is clear. They will do anything for a buck and will stay silent when the most oppressive things take place even in their own backyard and that is sad. We have lost our voice, have shirked our responsibility as a vocal proponent of international justice and human rights and that needs to change. The people of Jamaica are very knowledgeable of foreign affairs and for the most part are disgusted by what is happening, so why isn’t our government speaking on our behalf as our representatives instead of having disgusting public brawls over garrison seats? We must demand a change, we must insist that our representatives call out international crimes and oppression and uphold our proud heritage, and not just because we used to do it but because it is the right thing to do and history will rebuke us if they don’t.

Stand with Venezuela or be torn apart alone

Venezuela is in flames, with almost daily protests both for and against the government, severe food shortages and an economy in free fall we see a once proud and strong nation now on its knees. We see where a democratically elected president is being called a dictator (with one year in office left) and we see where both sides are getting rather testy and irritated with the apparent status quo that has emerged (with the failing and the government at a deadlock), we also see where the OAS has roundly condemned the Venezuelan government for their ‘excesses’ against the protesters and demand that president Maduro be removed. To some it may seem like an internal matter that should be left alone to the Venezuelans, while others believe that Maduro should go and that he is nothing short of a dictator as the OAS head likes to say, that however would spell doom for the rest of the region and the Caribbean in particular.

What we are seeing play out in Venezuela is not a new phenomenon, we have seen this drama played out in Latin America and the Caribbean before. One only needs to look at Chile in the 70’s to see the parallels between then and now. Then as now we had a socialist leader (democratically elected) who was intent on nationalizing key industries and spreading the nations wealth in a more equitable way. Then as now we see where the vested interests in those nations protest, then as now we see the influence of that insidious group USAID as it feed/s the opposition parties. Then as now we see where the same USAID holds workshops with the opposition on how best to attack the government and then as now we see where that same USAID has close links to the opposition protesters on the streets.

It can’t be stressed enough that what we are seeing in Venezuela now is an attempted coup. We are witnessing the opposition in that country at its highest ebb in years trying to roll back the hard won changes and social reforms that were won during the Bolivarin revolution. Now that president Maduro is not Chavez is obvious, he lacks the charm of Chavez and tends to be more blunt in his pronouncements, but a dictator he is not. How many dictators are democratically elected, with the eyes of the world on your nations elections which were called free and fair? How many dictators when faced with an obvious external push to oust them along with concerted violent opposition protest in the streets would tell the forces to use as little force as possible? How many dictators would use the constitution to call a peoples assembly to write a new constitution to put an end to the political impasse that the nation faces? These are not the actions of a dictator, but since we take our orders from Washington we are coming down hard on the rough around the edges Maduro, the man who just looks like a tele-novella villain, but we must get over looks and get to the substance.

The US has been looking to kill before birth the idea of a united Latin America and key to this has always been the downfall of socialists Venezuela, the nation that has been the beacon of social justice and a vocal proponent of integration in the region. Looking about Latin America one cant help but being  depressed as one sees progressive governments fall to the wayside of US interest. But take heart for while the left-wing may be under threat (as seen in Venezuela) many persons are beginning to wake up and realize that this system is not for us and that we cant go it alone. Love him or loathe him, Maduro is the democratically elected president and if they (the people who dislike his policies) and we especially in the Caribbean must stand firm and together with Venezuela as it goes through a tumultuous time.