OUR CARIBBEAN: Facing realities after the Obama, Romney debates
At the conclusion last Monday of the third and final presidential debate as part of the lead up the election for a four-year tenancy at the White House, some well meaning callers, including professional colleagues, expressed surprise at the absence of any reference to the Caribbean region by both President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Put that down to perhaps a little disappointment more than surprise. After all, the Greater Caribbean region in general has long lost its “stripe” as a “vital ideological/security bridge” between the two Americas (north and south).
Two related primary factors would be the disappearance of the old Soviet Union and subsequent recurring adjustments by successive Washington administrations in coping with the painful reality of half a century of failures to dislodge the Cuban Communist Party from control of state power.
A defiant Cuba has always been a factor of relevance in American foreign policy for Western Hemisphere nations.
From President Jack Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress in the 1960s and President Ronald Reagan’s Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (better known as “CBI”) in the 1980s, to George W Bush’s so-called “Third Border Initiative” (TBI), the countering of Castro-led Cuban influence in the Caribbean has always been an obsession that determined aid and trade considerations for our region by either a Democratic or Republican tenant in the White House.
For the Obama/Romney debates on foreign policy, the Caribbean region was non-existent in a final round dominated by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as virtual competition to show loyalty to Israel and punishment for Iran.
Even after Obama had referred to threats to America’s national security from international terrorist networks as a major priority in contrast to Romney’s obsession with Iran, neither bothered to allude to the ghastly human tragedies and social and economic consequences for even a vital border neighbour like Mexico.
As some media commentators were left to observe, Latin America as a whole was simply ignored. In that context, the Caribbean region was a non-starter for both men. Yet, for what it is worth, and without having a vote, I declare a clear preference for a second-term Obama presidency.
It would be a great pity if, as the first African American president of the United States, Obama falls victim to the “red meat” politics of the influential Tea Party Republicans in being restricted – like three other former presidents since the end of World War II – to just one term.
• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.