Monday, December 12, 2011

CARICOM dreams and empty threats: Is Washington listening? They are not

By Ian Francis

Well, the CARICOM-Cuba Summit has ended. Raoul enjoyed his two days in Trinidad, although he and his large delegation were denied access to the Hilton Hotel. In my personal view, CARICOM states that continue to show denial and stupidity will soon understand that the Helms Burton Law is an old United States statute that is not likely to be repealed any time soon.

Ian Francis resides in Toronto and is a frequent contributor on Caribbean affairs. He is a former Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Grenada and can be reached at info@visminconsultancy.caAt the same time, CARICOM states are obligated to continue calling for the lifting of the embargo against Cuba. It is an entrenched United States policy that is still soured and offended about the ideological rebuff after the overthrow of the Batista regime.

Looking at the final communiqué issued in Port-of Spain, I am at a loss to determine what the strong message is that Caribbean leaders will send to the United States. Frankly speaking, the message remains the same as repeated annually at the September United Nations General Assembly.

What is very interesting about the communiqué is the hypocrisy and apologetic nature of some of our leaders. They are the first to burn their cell phone line to Bridgetown offering an apology to the resident United States ambassador or political attaché expressing remorse and saying we had no alternative but to support the communiqué. A phone call and expression is not enough, if any Caribbean leader present at the event had the guts and strength, they should have walked out and refused to sign the communiqué. They did not.

A final communiqué of the meeting was expected and this was accomplished. However, the continuing sad spectre of leadership in CARICOM states and their contribution to national development, which breeds increase crime, lawlessness, youth unemployment and corruption across the board, needs to be urgently addressed.

The Cuba- CARICOM summit was a necessity, given Cuba’s aid and development assistance in the region. Along with Cuba’s aid commitment, the Caribbean region has had long cultural ties with Cuba that it is never a surprise to book in as a tourist in one of Cuba’s finest to immediately find out that the maid or barman has strong Caribbean roots.

As a long-time political analyst, who has paid great attention to the Cuba-US trade embargo, it is my personal feeling that condemnation of the embargo at the United Nations or a Trinidad summit will never achieve the desired goals.

It was interesting to read the comments of former United States ambassador to Barbados and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States. As a Bush appointee, Ambassador Kramer was not part of the State Department family. Her political appointment meant that her reports were for the consumption of her ideological hawks and it was necessary to describe the weak and visionless Caribbean leadership that encountered her during her diplomatic posting.

Former Ambassador Kramer has gone; however, there are many other foreign diplomatic missions in the region developing and reporting their views about our leaders. There is no control about what is reported to home governments. However, Caribbean leaders and their aides could begin the process of laying important groundwork.

Indeed our states or nations are small; however, policies, standards and procedures are important. We need to devise an access policy that ensures control and suitability to rank. For example, a political attaché from the US Embassy in Bridgetown should only have unfettered access to the rank of an assistant secretary. The idea of the permanent secretary of Ministry of Foreign Affairs dropping all his chores to see the designated pipsqueak is ridiculous and demonstrates a colonial mentality.

This article is not about hostility to Washington; the latter has a constructive role to play in the region. However, the success and sustainability of their presence in the region must be encumbered with respect, sensitivity and professional manners. The big stick approach should not be applied.

At the same time, CARICOM leaders need to rebrand themselves and understand the dynamics of governing and decision making. If the two are embraced, in time to come we can express admiration.

At the moment, their conduct and management of state affairs leave a lot to be desired.

Come on guys you can do better.

December 12, 2011