OUR CARIBBEAN – Reviewing us, caricom ‘cooperation’
THE FLEETING three-nation visit by United States Assistant Secretary of State Arturo Valenzuela should serve as a good reminder that when it comes to vital issues of security and crime, the initiatives and determination continue to originate with an administration in Washington with expectations of compliance by CARICOM. The visit to The Bahamas, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago culminates in Port-of-Spain today. Valenzuela was due to meet Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday.When Valenzuela’s boss Secretary of State Hilary Clinton came to Barbados last month, it was arranged for her to sign with CARICOM Foreign Ministers a Commitment Of Bridgetown Accord On Partnership For Prosperity And Security.The accord embraces three documents earlier adopted (on May 27) at a Caribbean-US Dialogue On Security Cooperation In Washington with reduction in serious crime (read trafficking in drugs and guns) and violence (read murders) very much the priority.As is often the case, the details are reserved for “expert strategists” and “decision-makers” – with expedient involvement, at times, with the media – while the public at large are generally kept in the dark about what’s being implemented in their interest.While, therefore, CARICOM governments and a Washington administration talk, incessantly and boldly, about “commitment” to combating narco-trafficking; gunrunning; trafficking in persons and of being on alert against terrorism, the reality is that too often we seem to learn more about what the United States authorities want this region to deliver than how they are responding to our specific priority needs.When Clinton departed Barbados after signing the Commitment Of Bridgetown, the region’s people were still none the wiser about what significant progress had been achieved in implementation of the historic Partnership For Prosperity And Security In The Caribbean that her husband President Bill Clinton had signed 13 years earlier with regional heads.Sensitive issues like the controversial regular deportations of CARICOM nationals for crimes allegedly committed in America; failure to have an effective witness protection programme in place; one-sided and often grossly distorted human rights reports on the Caribbean, compiled and circulated by the United States State Department, continue to be the norm. The United States is reputed to be the world’s single biggest consumer of illegal drugs, as well as the front-runner source in an expanding illicit arms trade with nations of the Caribbean and Latin America. Question: has Washington shared with CARICOM, as a “partner” in the battle against crime and violence, and the “strengthening of security”, how it’s coping with domestic challenges, and offered practical guidelines for adaptation by this region?Further, is there a common policy by CARICOM governments in relation to compliance with extradition of Caribbean nationals wanted for alleged crimes by a foreign nation? Or is it that regional governments are too timid to show more confidence in their own justice administration system and avoid the routine shipping out of CARICOM nationals wanted by foreign authorities?