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OUR CARIBBEAN – Marketing of America’s new ‘partnerships’

Rickey Singh

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SECRETARY OF STATE HILLARY CLINTON, who was scheduled to fly out from Grantley Adams International Airport last night, has been emphasising a common theme of “buiding partnerships” for social and economic progress during her brief three-nation visits to Ecuador, Colombia and Barbados. They followed her participation earlier in the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS) in Peru.
By the time you read this column, an expected official statement should have been released to indicate the outcome of the secretary of state’s informal discussions with Foreign Ministers of the Caribbean Community and Dominican Republic (the CARIFORUM group) on efforts to strengthen United States/Caribbean “partnerships”.
This “dedicated” informal meeting in Barbados between Clinton and CARIFORUM Foreign Ministers and others was preferred to one on the margins of the two-day OAS General Assembly in Peru. It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that the secretary of state would have had more than assurances of goodwill and commitment to offer in terms of Washington’s concept of new approaches to make a qualitative difference for improved US/Caribbean relations.
Secretary of State Clinton had declared in an address in Ecuador before arriving in Barbados that she “shares a strategic vision” with President Barack Obama to build “a network of partnerships for expanding opportunity and increasing social mobility . . .” .
That is a welcome assurance from the world’s sole superpower. But Washington’s “partnerships” concept seems more a renewal of spirit in 2010 than something significantly new. After all, before Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, there were Bill Clinton and then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
They were in Babados 13 years ago for the historic May 1997 US/Caribbean Summit that produced the accord known as Partnership for Prosperity and Security. It may be quite useful to have a serious assessment of the progress and deficits in the implementation of that Bridgetown accord of 1997.
Not to be forgotten, is that 36 years before the “accord on Partnership for Prosperity and Security, there was the famous Alliance For Progress, that much hailed initiative of then President John Kennedy, to battle poverty, foster social justice and democracy and keep the threat of “international communism” at bay.
That “alliance” was forged against the backdrop of the Fidel Castro-led Cuban revolution two years earlier . . . . Today the Barack/Hillary shared “strategic vision” for engagement in the Latin American/Caribbean region is very much occupied in monitoring the politics and dynamics “change” under left, left-of-centre and centrists administrations in Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia.
Secretary Clinton noted in Ecuador on Tuesday that next year “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 there to “celebrate?”
For now, we must assess the assurances/decisions from Hillary Clinton’s meeting yesterday with CARIFORUM representatives.
* Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.