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Selling or Saving the Soul of the OAS | Sir Ronald Sanders

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON,
United States, Friday April 12, 2019
The
Organization of American States (OAS), already a broken institution, was
shattered even more on April 9 at a meeting of its Permanent Council. It
is now an organization whose membership is deeply divided and amongst whom
mistrust, and bitterness now predominates.

How this huge problem will be
fixed – if it can be fixed at all – is the paramount challenge that now
confronts its 33 and-a-half members. I will return to the half-member
later in this commentary.

Nothing that I say in this commentary is a secret. The
Permanent Council meeting of April 9 was played out in a live webcast on the
OAS’ website. 

The meeting was held, after weeks of efforts by the United States
and most of the members of the so-called Lima Group, to secure the adoption of
a resolution that would unseat the representative of the Nicolas Maduro
government and replace him with the nominee of Juan Guaido. Guaido is the
self-proclaimed “Interim President” of Venezuela, so recognized by roughly 50
of the more than 200 governments in the world.

The manoeuvrings behind the scenes had a single purpose and that
was to procure 18 votes, constituting a simple majority of the 34 member states,
to impose Guaido’s nominee as Venezuela’s representative.  

It took some time for the core 14 countries to woo the support of
4 others, not least because the manner of pushing the resolution through the
Permanent Council defied international law and the Charter and rules of the
OAS. Governments had to dig deep to balance disregard for the integrity of
the OAS as an institution and a desire to help those countries that were
determined to seat Guaido’s representative.

The meeting was summoned for high noon on April 9 and all
delegations were cautioned to be on time for a prompt start. As it turned
out, delegates were forced to wait until after 1 pm to start the meeting
because, at the last minute, Jamaica – one of the faithful 18 – insisted on new
language, causing commotion among the group and threatening to derail its
entire effort.  

Even when the resolution was
presented to the Permanent Council Meeting and was being debated, it was
unclear what text was being considered. What was before the meeting was
the original text, omitting the Jamaica language. A request from me, as
the representative of Antigua and Barbuda, for clarification, resulted in a
break in the meeting’s proceedings to produce the final text of the resolution. Its
main purpose remained to accept the appointment of “the National Assembly’s
designated Permanent Representative”.

There was much solemn and serious debate about the entire
proceedings, but in the end, 18 countries, using their razor-thin majority,
forced the vote through.  

Some self-interested governments have characterized the April 9 meeting
as a clash of support for or against the contending forces in Venezuela. Sections
of the media have followed that line.

But, far from being about Maduro/Guaido and Venezuela, the meeting
was about selling or saving the soul of the OAS; it was about disregarding
international norms and ignoring the institutional framework of the organization
for the short-term political purposes of a few; and it was about arguing for
the retention of the OAS’ integrity. 

At the end of the vote, passed by a simple majority, the
Ambassador of Mexico, Jorge Lomónaco Tonda, summed-up the meeting well. He
said: “There were no winners or losers; only losers”. And the biggest
loser was the OAS itself.

Nowhere in the Charter of the OAS, or in its rules, does the
Permanent Council have the authority to decide on the recognition of a
government. Further, as was stated repeatedly at the meeting, the
recognition of a government is the sovereign right of states and cannot be
determined or imposed by a multilateral organization. At the very least,
the matter, given its high political importance, should have been considered by
a special session of the general assembly, the highest organ of the OAS.

What the hasty, ill-considered process succeeded in doing is
damaging the OAS as an institution, tainting its structure and governance,
harming relations between its member states and rendering it unfit for anything
but achieving the purposes of a wilful majority of 18 countries.

The vote on recognition of the National Assembly’s representative
was really about the de-recognition of the Maduro government’s
representative. While that may have been achieved within the OAS, it has
changed nothing in the international community.  Countries that
recognise Maduro or Guaido as President of Venezuela continue to do so. 

Nothing has changed in Venezuela either. This vote has
achieved no new negotiations and no solution to the humanitarian situation. If
anything, it has served only to harden the opposing sides in the political
conflict, closing the door to solutions.

To return now to the 33 and-a-half members of the OAS. The
national assembly’s representative may be seated in front of the Venezuelan
flag, but he cannot speak for the government that is in charge of Venezuela. A
vital test of recognition of a government, in international law and practice,
is whether it exercises effective control of the affairs of the country. The
National Assembly does not have effective control of Venezuela, and its
representative cannot speak, in the OAS, for the de facto government.

There is a further question regarding the authenticity of the
representative’s credentials which appear to have been overlooked, deliberately
or otherwise by the OAS Secretariat. 

The National Assembly nominated a “special” representative to the
OAS, but there is no such category of representation. Further, as pointed
out in the meeting by the Ambassador of Guyana, Riyad Insanally, the letter to
the Secretary-General from Mr Guaido, signed as “Interim President of
Venezuela”, designating the “Permanent” representative, was dated January
22, 2019. But his proclamation as “Interim President” took place on
January 23, 2019. In other circumstances, these discrepancies would not
have been accepted.

The OAS is now in many ways a sadly compromised organization. The
fight on April 9, 2019 to sell or save its soul defines it now and can limit
its effectiveness in the future.

Why should we care? Because it is the only hemispheric organization in which all countries (except Cuba) sit, and which had the mandate and the opportunity to keep the region peaceful and to pursue cooperation that could make a difference to the lives of all its people. All that is now corrupted.

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How One Entrepreneur Weathered the Storm and is Building Back Bigger and Better

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ROSEAU, Dominica, Thursday May 23, 2019 – When Hurricane Maria, a deadly Category Five hurricane, devastated Dominica in 2017, the island coined a phrase Dominicans were determined to achieve – “Build Back Better”, and it’s at the heart of the Dominica Tours story.

In 1974,
Yvonne Armour Hill’s parents, recognized as pioneers in Dominica’s tourism
industry, founded Anchorage Limited, a tourism business which included a hotel,
a land-based tour company, and a whale watching and dive centre.

Dominica
Tours, which Armour Hill operated, coordinated the experiences of their guests.
But the hurricane destroyed three properties under the Dominica Tours umbrella,
making the tour company virtually obsolete.

Yvonne Armour Hill

Armour Hill, however, is not a quitter, and motivated by a desire to help get the entire island’s tourism industry back on its feet, she decided to rebrand and redevelop the company.

“Instead
of continuing to focus solely on our properties, we are now working on offering
a level of quality support to hoteliers and other providers in the tourism
industry to enhance the integrity of their products and services,” she said.
“And our focus is on promoting the Nature Isle experience.”

Even
after a natural disaster as destructive as Hurricane Maria was, Yvonne’s plan
works, because visitors to Dominica aren’t there merely for the hotels.

“We’re
the Nature Isle of the Caribbean,” Armour Hill said. “They come here to hike,
dive and experience the world’s only indigenous Kalinago territory, home to the
indigenous people of Dominica. We attract the fit and energetic, people who
want adventure and off the beaten track experiences in one of the Caribbean’s
most authentic and best kept secrets,” she said. “So, we still have a lot to
offer.”

As a
tourism and hospitality consultant, Armour Hill was well placed to provide
management support and training to hoteliers on the island. She’s been in the
industry for over 35 years, and has worked locally, regionally and
internationally, including as a consultant with the Caribbean Tourism Organization.

She
combined her industry knowledge and expertise with support from the Caribbean
Export Development Agency. Through their new Women Empowered Through Export
(WE-Xport) programme, which is designed to support Caribbean women in business
to start exporting, or increase the exports of their products and services, Armour
Hill, one experience at a time, is working to ensure Dominica is the number one
choice for nature lovers. With a firm reach in the French Caribbean islands of
Martinique and Guadeloupe and in France, she is focused on significantly
increasing the export of her services to Europe, North America and the African
Continent. And one untapped market she’s also focused on bringing in is the
diaspora – Dominicans living abroad.

“This
isn’t country specific,” she said, “But it’s definitely a market we should be
going after. We want them to revisit the natural beauty of their homeland.”

Armour
Hill is undoubtedly brimming over with ideas to help rebuild and expand
Dominica’s tourism industry, but its long-term success will be dependent on
creating a model that is sustainable. To achieve this, she has established
Ayahora, a registered non-profit, designed to support the development of
inspirational leadership institutes, which are focused on pre-primary,
Montessori education and adult skills training. The foundation promotes
sustainable development principles and practices through the delivery and
support of quality, environmentally sensitive, culturally relevant educational
programmes and initiatives.

“Ayahora’s
work will support the development of the tourism industry by helping to mould
responsible, thoughtful, good-spirited, productive global citizens,” Armour
Hill shared. “So the foundation really is looking to address the needs of the
industry in terms of the skills, and in trying to inculcate from a very early
age, sustainable development principles and practices, so that in 15, 20 years,
we have a workforce that totally and truly understands what Dominica, the
Nature Isle is trying to do.”

Armour
Hill’s plans for Dominica Tours and Ayahora exemplify Dominica’s determination
to build back better, and are a testament to the entrepreneurial spirit.

“When you suffer such devastation and loss, you have to ask yourself what’s the lesson to be learned; how can I turn this to my advantage,” Armour Hill said. “You have a choice. You can either wallow and not move on, or you can make a choice for survival.” (Caribbean Export)

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Jamaican Financial Services Provider Buying Stake in Company That’s Replacing Sagicor

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KINGSTON, Jamaica, Thursday May
23, 2019
– Jamaica-based
integrated financial services provider Jamaica Money Market Brokers (JMMB)
Group Limited will own at least 20 per cent of the new entity that will be
formed when Sagicor Financial Corporation (SFC) is taken over by a
Canadian-based special purpose acquisition corporation.

A
statement from JMMB said it is investing a minimum of US$200 million to have a
stake in Alignvest Acquisition II Corporation which is set to acquire all SFC’s
shares.

Upon completion
of Alignvest’s acquisition of SFC, the two will collapse into a new single
entity, New Sagicor.

“JMMB’s
acquisition of a minority stake in New Sagicor is a major investment, and will
give JMMB a unique opportunity to participate in the future growth of a market
leader in the Caribbean insurance and asset management sectors,” the Jamaican
company, a leading broker-dealer with operations in Trinidad and Tobago and the
Dominican Republic, said.

New
Sagicor will become an associated company of JMMB Group and, as part of the
agreement; JMMB will have the right to nominate two eligible and qualified
directors to serve on the board of directors of New Sagicor. Those nominees are
initially expected to be Keith Duncan, the Group CEO of JMMB, and Archibald
Campbell, the chairman of the board of directors of JMMB Group.

Additionally,
subject to certain exclusions, JMMB will receive participation rights in future
offerings of common shares for New Sagicor, or securities convertible or
exchangeable for common shares of New Sagicor, for up to five years following
the closing of the transaction, once it continues to own at least 20 per cent
of the common shares in New Sagicor.

Duncan
said JMMB was excited about the prospects of what its stake in Alignvest will
present for JMMB.

“As a
pioneering financial institution, we are always seeking out opportunities that
will add value to our stakeholders. In that vein, we are confident that having
such a stake in a regional market leader, will auger well for the future growth
and financial performance of the JMMB Group,” he said.

President
and Chief Executive Officer of SFC Dodridge Miller said JMMB’s planned
investment was “a significant vote of confidence in the strategic direction of
Sagicor, and a strong conviction of our ability to continue to grow the company
while delivering attractive returns to shareholders”.

The closing of JMMB’s subscription is conditional on the completion of the transaction and the approval of the Toronto Stock Exchange on which Alignvest is listed.

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The Philippines Eyeing Investments in Guyana’s Sugar and Energy Sectors

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President David Granger being greeted by the new Philippine Ambassador to Guyana, Marichu Mauro.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Thursday May
23, 2019
– The Philippines’
new Ambassador to Guyana, Marichu Mauro, says her government will be looking at
possible investments in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nation’s sugar and
energy sectors.

Presenting
her letter of credence to President David Granger yesterday, she explained that
the move is part of her government’s efforts to improve bilateral relations
with Guyana, especially in the area of investments.

“The
Philippines’ sugar producers will look at possible investments in the Skeldon
Sugar Estate. This is something we can further explore….My Government admires
Guyana’s expertise in hydro electrical technology and its ability to include
local communities and other stakeholders in its development. So, we are very
interested in pursuing a corporation project in hydroelectric and hydropower
technology with Guyana,” Ambassador Mauro said.

She added
that a company in the Philippines, International Container Terminal Services,
has also expressed interest in investing in Guyana.

“We hope
it would be successful in establishing another connection between the two
countries,” the diplomat said.

On multilateral
affairs, the Ambassador said her government looks forward to working closely
with Guyana in achieving the countries’ common aspiration and shared interest
through our cooperation within the United Nations (UN) and the Non-Aligned
Movement.

President
David Granger said Guyana is grateful for the expertise of the more than 100
Filipinos working in Guyana, in a wide range of fields including education,
forestry and health. He also looks forward to continued cooperation with the
country, particularly in the areas of agriculture, commerce, environment,
fisheries and marine development.

Granger
added that the countries share a common interest in the peaceful settlement of
disputes and in ensuring respect for settled territorial and maritime
boundaries.

“Guyana
and the Philippines have founded their relations on the bases of mutual respect
for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, mutual non-interference
in each other’s internal affairs, cooperation for mutual benefit, respect for
treaties and international law and the maintenance of regional peace and
security,” the President said.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Guyana were established in September 2008.

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