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The US and the Caribbean: a Mutuality of Interests | Sir Ronald Sanders

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON,
United States, Friday June 7, 2019
– Once again, I have drawn attention to the danger
posed to countries of the Caribbean by the withdrawal of correspondent banking
relations (CBRs) from regional banks by global banks in the US.

As lead speaker at the opening of a Legislative Forum in the US House of Representatives on Capitol Hill as part of “Caribbean-American Heritage Month” on June 5, I told an audience representing the US Congress, the US Government, diplomats and US and Caribbean businessmen, the following:

CBRs are the life blood of global
commerce and human development. They are as vital to the world as are air
and sea transportation, telecommunications and the internet, and the fight to
end communicable diseases.

Without CBRs, nations will not be
able to pay each other for purchases of basic things such as food and medicine
and ordinary things like busses, trucks and motor cars.

Without CBRs, the global financial
and trading system would come to a halt, and affected countries will collapse
into poverty from which recovery will be costly both in time and money, but
more importantly in human life.

This grave threat has been hanging
over the Caribbean now for almost half a decade; and it shows no sign of
abating, despite statements to the contrary.

Right now, in many parts of the
Caribbean, most banks are reduced to having only one correspondent bank, and at
an extremely high cost.

Not only have the fees for these
CBRs reached prohibitively high levels, they are taking longer periods of time
to deliver services because of heightened scrutiny. Where in the past a
cross-border transaction could take two days, it can now take as long as two
weeks from our smaller indigenous financial institutions.

The cost of doing business in our
region is escalating, even as we try to cope with high debt, incurred largely
to recover our countries from disasters that have increased in frequency and
intensity, as a result of global warming and sea level rise that point like
daggers at the heart of the existence of many of our island states.

It is claimed – wrongfully – that
Caribbean countries have weak anti-money laundering and counter terrorism
financing regimes, and this is the reason why global banks in the US are
withdrawing CBRs.

But, the two bodies, with the
authority to determine the quality and standing of the regimes in the
Caribbean, have judged most Caribbean countries to be in compliance with their
rigorous standards. 

Those bodies are the Financial
Action Task Force and the OECD Global Forum.  In some sectors of
financial services, Caribbean legislative and enforcement machineries have been
rated at a higher level of compliance than the US.

Nonetheless, the Caribbean faces
the real danger of being ‘de-banked’, and to be cut off from the world’s
trading and financing system, including not being able to pay for its imports
from the United States of America – the country that the region chooses as its
major source market.

I went on to point out that “if Caribbean economies diminish, the
consequences will be increased unemployment, enlarged poverty, increased crime
and the advent of economic refugees that will swell the numbers of those
gathering on the US Southern border”.

Earlier in the presentation, I had
stressed that while the United States suffers a trade deficit with many
countries and regions of the world, it enjoys a perennial trade surplus with
the 14 independent countries of the Caribbean Community collectively, that
increases every year.  In 2015, the value of the US balance of trade
surplus was $4.1 billion; in 2016, it rose to $4.6 billion, jumping to $5.5
billion in 2017, and escalating further to $7 billion in 2018.  That
money has provided profits for American companies and jobs for American people.

I also drew attention to the reality that, since the
1990s, US official development assistance to the region has steadily
declined. In 2017, a year in which the US enjoyed a $5.5 billion trade
surplus with CARICOM countries, the region, including Haiti, received a mere
0.9 percent of United States’ global allocation of official development
assistance.

These figures were not mentioned in complaint. For every country in the world has the right to decide to whom it provides assistance; to what extent it does so; and for what purposes. But, since the CARICOM region provides the US with an escalating trade surplus every year, the US should have an interest in the economic growth and prosperity of these nations.

In the final analysis, if
Caribbean countries are unable to maintain a stable rate of economic growth or
if they decline, they will no longer be able to purchase goods and services
from the US, and the trade surplus which the US has continuously enjoyed will
shrink and so too will the revenues and jobs that it generates in America.

Therefore, there is a symbiotic
and mutual interest in the US-Caribbean relationship that must be recalibrated
to ensure that, as the ‘third border’ of the US, the Caribbean remains a zone
of peace and a stable economic and political space.

That means that the US and Caribbean countries should set – and measure their relations – in the mutuality of their interests. All issues should be discussed, including the hot button ones for the US, such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and even the role of China in the region, but they ought not to be the single prism through which relations are evaluated.  

Today, most CARICOM countries are
stable; democracy and human rights are respected and upheld; the rights of the
individual and of businesses thrive; and the rule of law is maintained.

But these conditions are only
maintainable in conditions of sustained development.

Democracy, freedom and the rule of
law are fragile plants whose growth and strength must be watered and fed by the
nutrients of economic development.

The United States of America
cannot choose to move out of the neighbourhood any more than can Caribbean
countries opt to relocate elsewhere.

They each, therefore, have an obligation to recognize their mutuality of interests and to act on it.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.

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Death By Drowning: Italian Authorities Say No Foul Play Suspected in Case of Bahamians Pulled From River

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Bahamians Alrae Ramsey (left) and Blair Rashad Randy John

TURIN, Italy, Monday June
24, 2019

Autopsies on two Bahamian men whose bodies were pulled from a river in Turin,
Italy earlier this month have concluded that they died from accidental
drowning.

But the father of 28-year-old psychology Ph.D. student Blair John –
who had met up in the Italian city with his college friend Alrae Ramsey, a Bahamian
Foreign Service Officer who was the other man found in the Po River – does not accept
his son drowned.

According to Italian news outlets, preliminary results determined
the deaths were accidental and no foul play had been uncovered. Additional details
in the report indicate that both men had alcohol in their system before somehow
falling into the river but the toxicology report indicated that their alcohol
levels were not high enough for them to have been drunk.

Investigators suggest that it’s possible one of the men slipped or
jumped into the water and the other went to save him and they both drowned.

But John’s mother Cathleen Rahming told local media after his body
was found on June 5, a day after Ramsey’s, that he was fit and a strong
swimmer. Now the autopsy has been released, his father, Randolph John is
adamant his son could not have drowned.

He told the Bahamas Tribune that if the men did drown, it meant they
were “incapacitated” before being tossed in the river. He also rejected the
idea that his son or Ramsey did drugs.

“If I was born three times again I wouldn’t accept that. If it was
in fact a drowning then it means that they were incapacitated prior to being
thrown in the river. That’s what it would mean,” he said.

“I know my son and I know his friend. They probably might drink a
little bit of alcohol but these are civilized persons with their heads screwed
on right. Do you reach that point in your life at that age, if you’re not
focused?”

John, a St Augustine’s College graduate of Class of 2009 who was
near completion of his Ph.D. in Psychology at Saint Mary’s University in
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, had travelled to Turin to present an academic
paper at a psychology conference.

Ramsey was employed with his country’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs
from December 2013, and was formerly posted at the Bahamas Embassy in
Port-au-Prince, Haiti as third Secretary/Vice-consul in 2016-2017. Last year,
he was granted an In-Service Award to pursue a one-year Postgraduate Diploma
programme at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna in Austria for the September 2018
to June 2019 period. But sometime last week, he went to Turin.

The men both attended the same high school, Saint Augustine’s
College in New Providence.

Their bodies are to be returned to The Bahamas for burial. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was working assiduously with funeral homes in Turin and Nassau to have the bodies repatriated to The Bahamas as quickly as possible, so that they can be turned over to their families.

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Illegal Haitian Migrants Apprehended in The Bahamas

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NASSAU, The Bahamas, Monday June 24, 2019 – A joint operation by
the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) and Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT)
with the support of Bahamas Immigration Department has resulted in the
apprehension of a Haitian sailing vessel with 100 undocumented Haitian nationals.

The vessel was
intercepted approximately 30 nautical miles northwest of Inagua around 2:20
p.m. last Thursday, accoding to the RBDF. 

The OPBAT
helicopter spotted the vessel and the Defence Force interceptor stationed in
Inagua subsequently apprehended it. The vessel was later assisted by HMBS
Livingstone Smith.

The migrants – 89 males, 11 females – were transported to Inagua where they were handed over to Immigration authorities for processing.

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Guyana President and Opposition Leader to Meet on CCJ Ruling

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President David Granger (right) meeting with Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo earlier this year.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Monday June 24, 2019 – President David Granger has invited Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo to meet with him to discuss the political situation in Guyana resulting from last week’s decision of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) that the no-confidence motion passed against the coalition government last December was valid and the appointment of the chairman of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) was unconstitutional.

The two are
expected to meet at the Ministry of the Presidency after today, when the CCJ makes
the consequential orders arising from its ruling last Tuesday.

The invitation to
Jagdeo was made in a letter dated June 20, sent on behalf of Granger by Director
General, Ministry of the Presidency, Joseph Harmon.

Harmon said that
the letter serves to demonstrate President Granger’s commitment to “engagement
and dialogue” with the Opposition Leader in the interest of the development of
Guyana.

According to the
letter, the meeting will be held at the Ministry of the Presidency “at a time
convenient” to both parties “after Monday, June 24, 2019”.

The CCJ will today
hear from all parties on what should happen next after the court ruled that the
December 21 no confidence was properly passed with 33 votes in the 65-seat
National Assembly, and that President Granger acted outside the Constitution
when he unilaterally appointed retired Justice James Patterson as GECOM
chairman.

The CCJ had urged
the parties to consult with each other on what the consequential orders should
be, in an effort to reach consensus.

Under the Guyana Constitution, elections should be held within three months of the passage of a no-confidence motion unless an extension is granted by a two-thirds majority vote of the National Assembly.

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