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    October 23

  • 09:49 PM

US-Caribbean renewal?

Rickey Singh,

Added 13 June 2010

AN INFORMAL MEETING in Barbados last Thursday between United States Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and foreign ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Dominican Republic (except for Trinidad and Tobago and Suriname) climaxed with a Commitment-of-Bridgetown Statement On Partnership For Prosperity and Security. It was a meeting held on the initiative of Clinton and an agenda largely determined by the United States State Department. The discussion followed her participation in last week's meeting of the OAS General Assembly in Peru and brief official visits to Ecuador and Colombia. Thirteen years ago, a mutually structured United States-Caribbean Summit between then President Bill Clinton and Heads of State and Government of CARICOM and Dominican Republic was held in Barbados. The official agenda was shaped by prior intensive bilateral meetings of top officials and relevant ministers, had produced what came to be known as the Bridgetown Accord on Partnership for Prosperity and Security. A critical assessment of the benefits of that summit in Barbados on May 10, 1997, is yet to be made. But last Thursday's informal few hours of discussions between Hilary Clinton and the region's foreign ministers and officials chose to continue the central theme of Partnership For Prosperity and Security of the earlier historic event 13 years ago. The Commitment of Bridgetown gives the assurance that to "meet the common pledges of the 21st century, we (foreign ministers) declare our intention to act in concert to improve the social and economic well-being of our peoples, to ensure the safety of all our citizens to advance towards a secure and clean energy future, and to defend and strengthen our democratic institutions . . . ." It may, therefore, be quite useful to now have a serious assessment of the progress and deficits experienced in the implementation of that Bridgetown Accord.of 1997 in the light of the current harsh realities of social and economic dislocations and rampaging crime and violence in the Caribbean. While precious little more than the outlines have been referenced in statements by some CARICOM ministers responsible for security, the Commitment of Bridgetown Statement in pointing to promised United States-Caribbean security cooperation, states: "We celebrate (celebrate?) the launching and reaffirm the commitments made at the recently concluded Caribbean-United States Dialogue on Security Cooperation (CBSI) in Washington on May 27, 2010 including the adoption of three key documents that guide our new security partnership": The referenced listed documents on security focus are: A Declaration of Principles that reflects our joint political will to address our shared security priorities and responsibilities to our citizens and to work together to substantially reduce illicit trafficking, advance public safety and security, and promote social justice. Plan of Action on Security Cooperation that establishes the concrete and practical ways we plan to partner in reducing crime and volence and in strengthening our institutions; and The Joint Caribbean-United States Framework for Security Cooperation Engagement that defines how we plan to partner with each other to effectively address our strategic security priorities. While awaiting the unfolding of the agreed principles, plan of action and framework arrangements, it is quite relevant to recall here what happened 13 years ago between the United States and CARICOM governments under the watch of then President Bill Clinton whose wife, Hilary, was also part of the United States delegation to Barbados. I reference here the much "celebrated" (to use a word in current usage) Partnership for Prosperity and Security, as outlined in the Bridgetown Accord of May 1997 that devoted the substantial part - one third of the relevant 32 pages - to Justice and Security: The issues covered then certainly remain of interest to Caribbean citizens - in particular Jamaica (at this time of crisis spawned by moves to extradite the "baron of Tivoli Gardens" Christopher "Dudus" Coke - as well as other crime-plagued jurisdictions (Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, for example). They included: An Arms Traficking Control Regime for the Caribbean; illicit drugs - reduction, education, rehabilitation and eradication; combating money laundering. Criminal Justice Protection Programme (including personal security of witnesses, jurors, judicial and law emforcement personnel) in cases of murder related to drug trafficking, gun-running and human trafficking); and Strengthening of regional security forces; combined and cooperative interdiction efforts, and collection, analyzing and sharing of information. Consequently, the need for an independent assessment to determine the progress and failures in the implementation of the Bridgetown Accord of 1997. The moreso now. in the context of the June 10, 2010 two and a half-page Commitment of Bridgetown Statement on Partnership for Prosperity and Security, that speaks to "celebrating the launching" and reaffirmation of commitments made at a Caribbean-United States Dialogue on Security Cooperation. Very little was made known to the public by the governments concerned) prior to and after that dialogue in Washington. Not to be forgotten also, and of much relevance to current United States initiatives on Latin America/Caribbean region, is that 36 years before the Bridgetown Accord on Partnership for Prosperity and Security, there was the famous Alliance for Progress. It was the much hailed initiative of then President John Kennedy, to battle poverty, foster social justice and democracy and to keep a perceived threat from international communism at bay. The Alliance for Progress was forged against the backdrop of the Fidel Castro-led Cuban revolution two years earlier. Today, the Barack Obama/Hilary Clinton shared "strategic vision" for engagement in the Latin American/Caribbean region (as alluded to last week by Mrs Clinton in Ecuador), is very much occupied in monitoring the politics and dynamics of "change" under left, left-of-centre and centrist administrations in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Peru. Secretary Clinton had also noted in Ecuador that next year (2011) "we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Alliance for Progress". Critics of United States policies and programmes in Latin America and the Caribbean may well ask: What is here to celebrate? The plundering of vital resources by America's multinational corporations and the endemic poverty, illiteracy and diseases across Latin America as well as in a Caribbean nation like Haiti, while Washington continues its mixed messages on Cuba and, differently, on Venezuela? The late Eric Williams, Trinidad and Tobago's historian prime minister, has recorded how Fidel Castro, fresh from his successful inauguration in January 1959 of Cuba's revolution, was ridiculed at a summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina, when he proposed a US$30 billion aid programme for Latin America over ten years, and the creation of a Latin America Common Market. Williams has noted in his epic work From Columbus To Castro - A History Of The Caribbean (1492-1969) that "Castro's opponents (at the conference), especially the United States, sneered. But two years later President Kennedy proposed his Alliance for Progress with US$10 billion over ten years. "In 1967", wrote Williams, "the Organisation of American States, excluding Cuba which had by then been expelled, voted unanimously at Punta del Este in Uruguay for the establishment of a Latin American Common Market . . . ." Ironically, at last year's Fifth Summit of the Amerias in Port-of-Spain, hosted by then Prime Minister Patrick Manning, Venezuela's controversial president, Hugo Chavez, used the televised official opening ceremony to make a dramatic presentation to Obama of the internationally famous book Open Veins Of Latin America. It is a monumental work by Uruguayan journalist, Eduardo Galeano, that chronicles the savage exploitation of the natural and human resources of Latin America by the corporate interests of the United States. Now, let's see how the apparent renewal of a pledged partnership for prosperity and security between the United States and CARIFORUM states (CARICOM plus Dominica Republic) will really work for the people of this region that bridges the two Americas.

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