[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

18065: Leiderman: "Haiti remains a basket case..." (fwd)

From: Stuart M Leiderman <leidermn@cisunix.unh.edu>

Date: Wed, 21 Jan 2004 17:34:10 -0500
From: David E. Lewis <DavidLewis@manchestertrade.com>


Stability in Caribbean crucial to U.S. security interests
by John Collins
http://www.puertoricowow.com - Dec 25, 2003
http://www.CaribbeanInvestor.com - Dec 27, 2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Dec. 27 Caribbean INVESTOR -- As the year 2003
comes to an end, it was obvious to regional observers that the
administration of President George W. Bush is reassessing the Caribbean
and its shared relationship with it, in the context of the Iraq War as
well as its security interests to the U.S. Bush administration relations
with region cooled after Iraq War and other problems complicated them;
there are now clear indications that the situation is being reassessed

In the opinion of numerous regional observers, U.S. relations with the
Caribbean during most of the first year of the Bush administration were
marked essentially by benign neglect as the new administration was
preoccupied with troubled spots in other parts of the world. Because of
its relative stability it did not get much attention as Washington left
posts responsible for the region and ambassadorial positions vacant.

All of that changed as the result of the 9/11/2001 terrorist attacks and
the tightening up of Fortress America with security measures felt
throughout the Caribbean, in travel, tourism, commerce, shipping and

But as the fall out from 9/11 and the Iraq War continue to impact the
region, the situation in some of the troubled spots has worsened and
others have developed.  Collectively, the Caricom bloc declined to
support the invasion of Iraq led by the U.S. and the United Kingdom. As
the coalition formed in support of the action, there was only one member
in the Caribbean -- the D.R. -- and only four in Latin America --
Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. Caricom stuck to its
position but Bush administration officials privately have reiterated that
those who stood with the U.S. on Iraq will always be remembered.

Among the other issues dividing the U.S. and Caricom is the
International Criminal Court (ICC) which Washington opposes and Caricom
supports. Two Caricom states -- Antigua & Barbuda and Guyana -- have
broken ranks and signed agreements with the U.S. on the controversial
handing over of U.S. troops for prosecution for war crimes by the ICC.
But it is considered unlikely that many more will follow.

Security restrictions tightening up

As the U.S. becomes much more security-conscious, its reach into the
region is being felt in numerous ways.  It is increasingly difficult to
get visas to visit the U.S. as Washington announced that effective Dec.
31 all visitors to the U.S. will be fingerprinted. In what appears as a
tit-for-tat reaction Barbados has announced that U.S. visitors to that
tourism Mecca will now require passports instead of the customary
drivers' licenses and birth certificates. How many other destinations
will follow suit remains to be seen, but travel industry sources
indicate it will be a definite inhibitor to U.S. travel to the region
since the majority of Americans don't possess passports.

The region remains friendly towards Castro's Cuba

In the Caribbean most of the countries have diplomatic relations with
Cuba, trade with it and have various forms of other relations.
Washington is not happy about these relations but has chosen to look the
other way.

Castro has been in power in Cuba for four decades. Now it is obvious
that the embargo is increasingly being challenged by agro-industrial
business in the U.S. wanting increased exports to Cuba and travelers and
tourism interests who want to see Cuba opened up to U.S. travelers.

Haiti remains a basket case even after the Clinton administration
invaded the country, put President Jean Bertrand Aristide back in office
and pumped more than $3 billion into the place with very little to show
for it. Not only doesn't the situation improve but it continues to
deteriorate daily, causing increased concern in Florida, a veritable
release valve for the powder keg, as are the nearby Bahamas islands.

Although the Congressional Black Caucus, controlled by Democrats and the
Caribbean Community (Caricom) remain supportive of Aristide, there are
indications of growing disenchantment among his few friends with the
rampant corruption and a reign of terror that has developed in Haiti as
it prepares to observe the 200th anniversary of its founding.

The neighboring Dominican Republic, a showcase of economic development
in Latin America and the Caribbean, clings on wracked by severe economic
instability, social unrest and political division in the ruling
Revolutionary Party. With elections May 16, 2004 President Hipolito
Mejia insists on his being a candidate for re-election even though he is
opposed by a number of leaders of his own party.

A number of reputable commercial observers, including Standard & Poor's,
Bear Stearns, the Economist Intelligence Unit and others issue
increasingly anxious analyses of the economic situation there but the
borrowing continues as the Mejia government is unable to stabilize the
currency  or restore the people's confidence in the system. The growing
concern of the Bush administration about the situation is reflected in
it dispatching four high ranking officials to the D.R. in recent months.

CARICOM has concerns about FTAA

The majority of the Caricom countries continue to be apprehensive over
their ability to join the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA)
scheduled to kick-in in 2005. They are concerned over their ability to
remain solvent in a free trade regime which would eliminate duties on
imports, a current principal source of their income. One, Dominica, is
on the verge of bankruptcy and appealing to the International Monetary
Fund for more aid.

Indicating that relations between Caricom and the U.S. are "correct,"
Caricom Secretary General Edwin Carrington said he recently discussed
the relationship with Secretary Powell who told him that "look, if you
have something troubling you and you need to talk to me, get on the
phone and call me. Don't stand on ceremony and stiff procedures."
Carrington said "it is clear that both sides want to move forward with
their relations and to get things done for the region."

T&T supplies 64% of U.S. LNG consumption

It is with Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), however, that there is growing
concern by Washington because of its growing importance to the U.S. as
the principal source of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The Bush
administration may be unhappy with Manning's independent posture
regarding Iraq and the ICC but The American president's belated embrace
of the T&T prime minister is related to the fact that T&T has emerged as
a principal supplier of LNG to the U.S., shipping more than 64% of U.S.
imports of the commodity annually. It is also a major recipient of U.S.
investment in both the LNG and oil sectors.

"It is energy security that is dominating the relationship between the
U.S. and T&T," said Prof. Anthony Bryan of the University of Miami.
"Any reports that they are at logger heads or that T&T is being cold
shouldered can be put to rest because of the vital importance of T&T to
the U.S. in sheer terms of energy reliance."

After the Iraq War commenced relations between the U.S. and Caricom
cooled considerably to the point that when Bush hosted a breakfast for
Caricom leaders at the United Nations General Assembly in New York in
September, Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) Prime Minister Patrick Manning was
not among those invited.

Now less than three months later Manning arrived in Washington hoping to
meet Bush. An earlier meeting with Secretary of State Colin Powell was
scratched when he had surgery. But Manning decided to go to Washington
any way and had settled for a meeting with National Security Adviser
Condolezza Rice at the White House.

The Trinidadian leader was quite surprised when President Bush entered
her office and greeted him. The prime minister described the encounter
with the president as "pleasant, amiable and understanding of T&T's
position in the Caribbean."

- - - - - - -