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Monday, March 20, 2023

U.S. Senators reintroduced bipartisan legislation to lift the Cuba trade embargo

U.S. Senators Klobuchar, Moran, Murphy, Marshall, Warren Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Lift The Trade Embargo on Cuba

The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba and create new economic opportunities by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods

The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Roger Marshall (R-KS), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) reintroduced bipartisan legislation to lift the Cuba trade embargo.  The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act would eliminate legal barriers preventing Americans from doing business in Cuba and create new economic opportunities by boosting U.S. exports and allowing Cubans greater access to American goods.  The legislation repeals key provisions of existing laws that block Americans from doing business in Cuba, but keeps in place laws that address human rights or property claims against the Cuban government.

“I have long pushed to reform our relationship with Cuba, which for decades has been defined by conflicts of the past instead of looking toward the future,” said Klobuchar.  “By ending the trade embargo with Cuba once and for all, our bipartisan legislation will turn the page on the failed policy of isolation while creating a new export market and generating economic opportunities for American businesses.” 

“The unilateral trade embargo on Cuba blocks our own farmers, ranchers and manufacturers from selling into a market only 90 miles from our shoreline, while foreign competitors benefit at our expense,” said Moran.  “This legislation will expand market opportunities for U.S. producers by allowing them to compete on a level playing field with other countries.  It is time to amend our own laws to give U.S. producers fair access to market to consumers in Cuba.”

“We can expand opportunities for American businesses and farmers to trade with Cuba while still holding the Cuban government accountable for its human rights record.  This bipartisan legislation is a smart fix that will create American jobs and benefit the Cuban people,” said Murphy.

“I’m proud to sign onto the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act.  It’s important for the United States to boost our economic opportunities and increase market access for American-made goods.  Repealing the current legal restrictions and trade embargo on Cuba allows for Kansas farmers, ranchers and manufacturers to expand their businesses to Cuba and opens the door to a large export market, while leaving in place measures to address human rights abuses,” said Marshall.

“It is long past time for us to normalize relations with Cuba,” said Warren.  “This legislation takes important steps to remove barriers for U.S. trade and relations between our two countries and moves us in the right direction by increasing economic opportunities for Americans and the Cuban people.”

The Freedom to Export to Cuba Act repeals the current legal restrictions against doing business with Cuba, including the original 1961 authorization for establishing the trade embargo; subsequent laws that required enforcement of the embargo; and other restrictive statutes that prohibit transactions between U.S.-owned or controlled firms and Cuba, and limitations on direct shipping between U.S. and Cuban ports.

Cuba relies on agricultural imports to feed the 11 million people who live there and the approximately 4 million tourists who visited in 2019 prior to the pandemic.  The U.S. International Trade Commission found that if restrictions on trade with Cuba had been lifted, exports like wheat, rice, corn, and soybeans could increase by 166 percent within five years to a total of about $800 million.


Monday, March 6, 2023

Haiti’s security situation

Chronic instability in Haiti is contributing to rising food prices, surging hunger, dangerous cholera outbreaks, deepening poverty and the potential for a major migration exodus

Meanwhile, lawlessness is worsening across Haiti

From the brief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)

The Security Crisis in Haiti
Haiti’s prolonged security crisis took an alarming turn for the worse since 2021.  Even before the high-profile assassination of former President Jovenel Moïse by suspected foreign and domestic mercenaries in July 2021, Haiti’s cities and towns registered deteriorating economic conditions, rising social unrest, the targeting of human rights defenders, and the growing menace of heavily armed gangs and organized criminal organizations.

Today, violent gangs have effectively seized control of large swathes of the country, contributing to a deepening humanitarian crisis.  A recent assessment estimates that close to 100,000 Haitians have been physically displaced by insecurity in Port-au-Prince alone.  Chronic instability is contributing to rising food prices, surging hunger, dangerous cholera outbreaks, deepening poverty and the potential for a major migration exodus.

Confronted with escalating insecurity, Haiti’s Council of Ministers authorized the Prime Minister in late 2022 to take the unusual step of requesting the deployment of a “specialized armed force” by the international community.  For its part, the UN Security Council issued a sanctions regime freezing assets, establishing travel bans and embargoing arms flows targeting actors deemed responsible for, complicit in, or having engaged directly or indirectly in actions that threaten the peace, security or stability of Haiti.

Some Member States and prominent non-governmental organizations have called for more muscular intervention, including the deployment of a multinational police force.  The US, for example, has worked with partner Member States on a draft Security Council resolution to deploy a rapid action force, or a “non-UN international security assistance mission”.

And while Haitians have previously bristled at foreign intervention, a recent survey claimed that as much as 70 percent of the population currently supports external security assistance, particularly people residing in gang-controlled areas.  Meanwhile, lawlessness is worsening across Haiti.

It is also growing increasingly violent.  US law enforcement and intelligence authorities detected a sharp uptick in the quantity and calibre of firearms and ammunition destined for Haiti in 2022.  Haiti’s National Police (HNP), along with the international and domestic human rights groups, have also documented rising levels of killings, sexual violence, protest and kidnapping between 2020 and 2023.

Likewise, the US Coast Guard registered a fourfold increase in intercepted Haitian migrants between 2021 and 2022.  And 43,900 Haitians, including as many as 1,800 children, were reportedly deported on the border with the Dominican Republic between July and October 2022 alone.

Observers are especially concerned with the evolution, expansion, and intensification of gang activity across Haiti.  Many of the country’s estimated 150-200 gangs are deeply enmeshed in complex patronage networks aligned with a constellation of political and economic elites.

Opensource research and interviews with specialists in Haiti indicate that a small number of gang federations in and around the capital are expanding their territorial influence over urban neighbourhoods.  They are also targeting critical infrastructure, including access to sea ports, fuel terminals, airports and key roads in and out of major cities.

Gangs have blocked access to fuel reserves, triggering a “humanitarian catastrophe” according to the World Food Programme (WFP).  In the absence of an international security mission or equivalent, the practical focus of international support is on delivering humanitarian aid and bolstering the HNP’s capacities to deter and suppress armed gangs, including the trafficking of firearms.  There is also growing attention to border security, albeit not at a scale that can meaningfully deter and reduce the flow of weapons, drugs, and other contraband.

Throughout 2022 and early 2023, emboldened Haitian gangs steadily expanded their control over key access points to cities, including the capital Port-au-Prince.  Some have also focused on controlling key supply lines connected to public and private ports and international border crossings with the Dominican Republic.

Several gangs and gang coalitions, notably the G9, G-Pep, 400 Mawozo, Baz Galil, Vilaj de Dye, Vitelhomme, and Ti Mkak have targeted public and private institutions.  Many are also engaged in predatory behaviour in communities under their control contributing to rising levels of extortion, sexual violence, kidnapping and fatal violence.

Some UN Members States are determined to ramp-up pressure on the gangs and their backers, including in the wake of egregious acts of violence involving their citizens.  The US and Canada have also delivered “vital security equipment” including tactical and armoured vehicles to the HNP on at least two occasions, in October 2022 and January 2023.

The Security Council sanctions, which target individuals and entities engaging in or supporting criminal activities and violence involving armed groups and criminal networks, among other actions, have so far designated one person under the regime, namely Jimmy Cherizier, who the text identifies as one of Haiti’s most influential gang leaders and who leads an alliance of gangs known as the “G9 Family and Allies”.

The EU has further transposed the UN sanctions into legislation.  Unilateral sanctions, meanwhile, implicate at least eight former Haitian presidents, prime ministers, senators and businesspeople suspected of involvement in illegal activities such firearms and drug trafficking, among other crimes.

Haiti’s political system has been described by the World Bank as “driven by capture, rent-seeking and clientelism”, leading to widespread abuses of powers and corruption.  Elected and appointed officials at all levels of government and across multiple sectors have been implicated in illicit activities ranging from corruption, fraud and money laundering to supporting gangs to bolster their political power and capacity to influence elections.

As detailed in the unilateral sanctions announcements, several members of Haiti’s economic elite are suspected of involvement in criminal rackets, including influential Haitian families and members of the diaspora in the US and the Dominican Republic.  The announcements highlight the concentration of political and economic power in the country. 

A handful of Haitian family dynasties account for the vast majority of the country’s overall wealth.  Some of them are involved in the agricultural, manufacturing, shipping and logistics sectors, while others oversee import-export operations.

Several prominent Haitian businesspeople have also acquired honorific diplomatic titles conferring a level of immunity and reductions in import and export tax.  Individuals involved in industrial parks warehousing imports and private ports have typically encountered limited oversight from government authorities.

Due to mounting concerns with crime and insecurity, private security companies have expanded across Haiti in recent decades.  Many provide close protection services for the country’s political and economic elite as well as protection for public facilities, critical infrastructure and small and medium businesses.

Significant numbers of such companies also recruit directly from the HNP, with officers either moonlighting or leaving law enforcement altogether to work in the more lucrative private sector.  Some of these entities have been implicated in firearms trafficking.

The growth of private security in Haiti coincides with similar patterns of private security expansion across Latin America and the Caribbean, alongside a deepening security crisis following the 2010 earthquake and particularly since the departure of UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) in 2017.


The suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Moïse inside his home in the early hours of 7 July, 2021 include a team of mercenaries connected to a small US firms, which reportedly offered close protection support, training in firearms, and access to military-style equipment.  This is not the first time US-owned private security companies have been implicated in murky ventures in Haiti.

In February 2019, for example, several US contractors were reportedly arrested in Port-au-Prince with a cache of weapons and military equipment.  They claimed to be providing security to both the government and private security details for local business elites.

According to accounts given to media, they were released by Haiti’s Justice Ministry following US intervention, repatriated and freed without charge.

Private security firms officially emerged in Haiti following the end of the Duvalier dictatorship in the late 1980s.  Haiti’s 1987 Constitution did not originally include provisions for such enterprises.

In fact, Article 263 specified that the armed forces and police were the only armed groups permitted to operate in the country.  However, a 1988 decree and 1989 amendment legalized private security companies.

In 1994, oversight passed from the disbanded armed forces to the HNP via a Presidential decree.  Today, private security companies are permitted to acquire and hold firearms in Haiti.

The 1988 and 1989 legislation permit firearm licences for up to half of the registered personnel of a private security firm.  Only certain categories of weapons – handguns and shotguns – are permitted.

All licence applications must be made to the Minister of the Interior and Territorial Collectives (MICT) and the HNP is responsible for delivery and oversight of firearms through a registry managed by the Central Department for Administrative Police (DCPA).  Although analysts believe that local private security companies oversee a far larger arsenal than what is legally permitted, information on the scope and scale of their arsenals is unavailable.

In 2012, the most recent year for which public records are available, the MICT reported just 40 separate private security companies licenced to operate in the country.  Firms reportedly varied in size from 50 to 2,000 personnel, with a total of 12,000 individuals in total.

Roughly half of their clients at the time were foreign embassies and non-governmental organizations and the remainder consisted of banks, businesses and schools.  While not possible to independently verify, specialists speculate that there could be 75,000 to 90,000 individuals working with roughly 100 private security companies across the country, at least five times the number of registered police officers.

US-based private security companies contracted by foreign governments such as Haiti to provide specialized services are subject to a range of domestic oversight mechanisms.  For example, when they are recruited to provide essential defence services, including military or law enforcement training, such companies must obtain arms exports licences from the US Department of State and undergo a review that also involves the US Department of Defense.  Although the State Department forbids combat services under International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), some private security companies have reportedly pursued unauthorized services.

The formation of the HNP in 1994 coincided with the disbanding of the country’s armed forces.  Police reform experts believe that the absence of a coherent framework for policing and the rushed formation, recruitment and training of new officers hobbled the force from the start.

Despite successive UN missions in Haiti and repeated efforts to exact security system reform, HNP performance has been hampered by mandate, leadership, capacity and budgetary constraints.  One persistent deficiency relates to the management and accountability over existing firearms holdings of law enforcement officers and stores of seized weapons.

Another long-standing impediment relates to the weak government coordination across agencies – including entities charged with addressing weapons and drug trafficking, customs, migration and anti-corruption efforts.  Arguably the most significant challenge facing the HNP is its limited force strength and modest resourcing.

As of late 2022, there were an estimated 14,161 HNP personnel, though BINUH assessed that its operational strength was closer to 13,000 and fewer than 9,000 are on active duty.  Specialized police units face chronic staffing shortages.  For example, the HNP’s border patrol (POLIFRONT) has just 294 officers, an order of magnitude fewer than the Dominican Republic.

Meanwhile, the Haitian Coast Guard (HCG) has just 181 officers and a single operational vessel (since others are either undergoing repairs in the US or simply non-functioning).  Likewise, the country’s anti-narcotics brigade (BLTS) has just 317 personnel and is severely under-resourced and over-stretched.  These capacity shortfalls are contributing to weak chain of custody over seized contraband, including  drugs and firearms.

Another factor hampering the effectiveness of the HNP is its uneven operational presence across the country.  A sizeable share of officers within the HNP and its specialized units are stationed in the capital, Port-au-Prince, with the remainder sparsely distributed across Haiti’s cities, towns and border areas.

One reason for this is that many HNP officers are often placed on duties unrelated to their core responsibilities, including the provision of close protection for senior government officials.  The misallocation of police further degrades their effectiveness.

With the exception of a handful of staff stationed at Haiti’s two international airports and selected border crossings, there are virtually none policing key air, land and maritime entry and exit points.  The HNP also struggles to manage, share and analyse data within the organization, much less across government agencies.

Notwithstanding the controversial legacy of Haiti’s armed forces during the dictatorship era, there is a persistent chorus for it to be reconstituted.  Pressure to rebuild Haiti’s military has been applied since it was disbanded by former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1994.

For example, former President Rene Preval (1996-2001) established a commission to review the necessity of the armed forces, though faced with foreign and domestic opposition, opted to reinforce the HNP instead.  A decade later, former President Michel Martelly (2011-2016) advocated for the return of the armed forces, but ultimately also demurred.

The late President Moïse (2017-2021) took the decision early in his administration to reconstitute the armed forces, announcing the allocation of $8.5 million of defence spending in 2018 and appointment of a high command under the Ministry of Defence.  At the time, there was reportedly a plan to recruit 5,000 soldiers to expand national security and civil protection capacities.  Today, there are an estimated 500 members of the armed forces, several of whom have received training in Ecuador and Mexico.

Source/Full Brief

Monday, February 27, 2023

The Organization of American States (OAS) on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief

The OAS General Secretariat Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of Freedom of Religion or Belief

Freedom of religion or belief is closely linked to the principle of freedom and human integrity in all its dimensions, as well as to the principle of plurality and diversity, taking into account the wealth of religious and spiritual expressions that are part of our territories

The OAS on Freedom of Religion or Belief
The fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief is part of the origins of human rights treaties and conventions. It is related to the freedom to identify with a particular belief, as well as to change religion, and even not to have any particular religious affiliation.  Freedom of religion or belief is closely linked to the principle of freedom and human integrity in all its dimensions, as well as to the principle of plurality and diversity, taking into account the wealth of religious and spiritual expressions that are part of our territories.

For these reasons, guaranteeing freedom of religion or belief continues to be a fundamental responsibility of States.  This translates into legal frameworks and public policies that recognize the plurality of religious, belief and spiritual voices, that enable treatments and paths of democratic dialogue, that account for the richness and diversity of the world of beliefs, and with it, that prevent the privilege or predominance of particular and individual expressions over the rest.

The resolution "Strengthening protection and promotion of the right to freedom of conscience and religion or belief," in section XXV of the Resolution for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights of 2022, approved during the 52nd OAS General Assembly, highlights the importance of these issues.  However, this document also brings to light a set of pressing problems in our region: the persecution and discrimination of religious and belief groups (also called “members of religious minority groups”), as well as the presence of acts of intolerance and violence in the name of religion.

For all this, it is essential to understand that religious freedom or belief as a human right is, in turn, linked to the defense of the rights of all individuals and groups, in all areas.  Discussing freedom of religion or belief not only implies creating mechanisms to recognize the existence of particular groups of believers, but also represents a right that is intrinsically related to respect and promotion of other identities, other expressions, other freedoms, other rights.

Hence, from the General Secretariat,

1. We urge member states to prioritize the development of guarantees -both legal and political- that account for the importance of religious freedom and belief as a principle of recognition, visibility and promotion of religious plurality and belief as a basis of democracy.

2. We call for States to promote spaces for meeting and inclusive dialogue that allow the plurality of religious expressions and beliefs to be known, with the aim of preventing the spread of discriminatory stereotypes and prejudiced actions against members of religious minority groups.

3. We request the creation of spaces for dialogue and exchange -among States, specialists, religious and belief communities, spiritual practitioners, civil society and other multilateral instances- for the development of specific standards for the protection of religious minority groups, for the prevention of discrimination based on religion or belief, and instrumentalization of religious discourse for the violation of other rights and freedoms.

4. We invite States, civil society organizations, faith-based organizations, and religious and spiritual groups, to build spaces for meeting and mutual recognition -both nationally and multilaterally- that allow accounting for the multiplicity and richness of interactions between the religions and spiritualities present in our societies, from their vast and unfathomable wealth of expressions, manifestations and positions.

February 27, 2023


Thursday, February 23, 2023

Notes From the IMF Working Paper on the Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) Region Experience with Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs)

The LAC region has been in the forefront of Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) adoption, with formal introduction in The Bahamas, the ECCU, and Jamaica, in addition to a pilot project in Uruguay 

Crypto Assets and CBDCs in Latin America and the Caribbean: Opportunities and Risks 

Prepared by M. Appendino, O. Bespalova, R. Bhattacharya, JF. Clevy, N. Geng, T. Komatsuzaki, J. Lesniak, W. Lian, S. Marcelino, M. Villafuerte, Y. Yakhshilikov 

Authorized for distribution by Patricia Alosnso-Gamo February 2023 

Central Bank Digital Currencies (CBDCs) in Latin America and the Caribbean
The text below provides a summary of the Latin America and the Caribbean countries experiences with CBDCs. 

The Bahamas 

The Bahamas’ Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), the “Sand Dollar”, was officially launched on October 20, 2020, and was the first state-backed digital currency in the world.  The main objectives were to boost financial inclusion for communities in remote islands and to strengthen the resilience of the payments system to natural disasters and pandemics.  An important additional consideration for launching the Sand Dollar has been the high cost for government agencies to make cash-based payments to citizens who lack bank accounts.  There are plans to integrate government agencies in the Sand Dollar network to support digital government payments to individuals to lower this cost.  Issuance to date of Sand Dollars has been limited and use of the platform by licensed financial institutions appears muted.  As of end-January 2022, CBDC in circulation was less than 0.1 percent of currency in circulation and of broad money. 

The nationwide rollout that started in 2020 involved two phases.  In the first phase, private-sector players such as banks and credit unions will ready their systems with Know-Your-Customer (KYC) and other compliance checks across low-value, personal and enterprise wallets.  The Central Bank of Bahamas (CBOB) has an in-house know your customers (KYC) or e-KYC solution, which all the institutions can use and hence do not need to incur extra costs.  This is used to establish which of three wallet levels a user can have.  A basic wallet only requires an email address or phone number but no photo ID.  However, it is restricted to a $500 balance and $1500 in monthly transactions.  The second level requires a government photo ID, and the limits are $5,000 for balances and $10,000 transactions.  The third level requires businesses to provide their license and tax filings, with a holding limit of $8,000 to $1,000,000 with unlimited transactions.  The Sand Dollar is linked to the existing financial system through a dynamic link, where excess balances in wallets are deposited in a user’s accounts at financial institutions.  The Sand Dollar's second phase focuses on preparing essential infrastructure services in the government and private sectors, such as utility companies Phase 2 has been delayed by the new government and it is unclear when this phase will start. 

Despite its limited use to date, the Sand Dollar is still assessed to pose risks to financial intermediation, integrity, and cybersecurity.  The CBDC could substitute for deposits in commercial banks, with implications for bank funding, profitability, and financial intermediation.  Moreover, a digital currency involves costly investments in new technologies, infrastructure, and external expertise.  It can also expose a central bank to new risks and introduce new challenges for ensuring financial integrity, while cyberattacks or technological glitches can impact the central bank’s reputation.  Its architecture has some features to mitigate risks: 

• Financial stability. To limit disintermediation risks and substitutability with bank deposits, Sand Dollar holdings do not earn interest, and a ceiling is in place limiting the amount users are able to hold in their wallets.  Moreover, level 2 and 3 wallets are linked to accounts at financial institutions.  To mitigate potential runs in case of stress, a circuit breaker has been embedded in the system to prevent massive flows.  However, depending on the deposit structure of banks, some banks could still be vulnerable to financial disintermediation and bank runs, and deposits could quickly move from a financial institution to the CBDC. 

• Financial integrity. The Central Bank Law and other legislation were amended to reflect the new digital legal tender.  The central bank also plans to promote an e-KYC register to maintain identification of individuals who do not maintain such information with banks or other financial intermediaries.  Sand Dollar-integrated wallets are enabled with multi-factor authentication features.  All mobile devices are required to support a passcode or a biometrics-based sign-in to access the app and complete transactions.  The wallets cannot be used outside the country or for FX operations on their own, which reduces their susceptibility to illicit international flows. 

• Cybersecurity. The central bank has a unit tasked to monitor cyber risk and is upgrading its IT systems and monitoring systems.  All Sand Dollar authorized financial institutions (AFIs) are required to complete robust and intensive cybersecurity assessments by an independent international firm before receiving approval to integrate the Sand Dollar platform with their custom applications. 

The central bank is working to ensure the offline usability of the Sand Dollar, so that citizens can still transact even when there is no electricity or cell phone network: the authorities consider off-line functionality vitally important.  However, the authorities have encountered unanticipated difficulties in achieving it.  During the pilot projects on two key islands in December 2019 and February 2020 it was revealed that the planned solution of local off-line networks – built on introducing local redundancies to the main telecommunication system – did not fully achieve the policy goal.  The telecommunication masts required in the solution are vulnerable to the same weather conditions as the main telecommunication system.  Also, the geographical reach of the local networks is limited, which makes it difficult to make payments between islands.  During the second phase of the Sand Dollar project the CBOB is seeking alternative solutions together with its main contractor. 

The Bahamas has stated that the use of the Sand Dollar is exclusively for domestic purposes and that cross-border payments must take place through commercial banks in traditional non-CBDC Bahamian dollars.  Foreigners can own and pay with Sand Dollars when visiting The Bahamas by registering for an account with low holding size and monthly transactions’ limits, but cannot transfer or pay with them abroad.  However, Mastercard and Island Pay launched Sand Dollar prepaid cards in February 2021 that allow for instant conversion of digital currency to traditional Bahamian dollars, and to pay for goods and services Mastercard is accepted on the islands and also around the world.  During the second phase of the project, the CBOB is planning to further explore cross-border uses. 


The Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU)’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), DCash (DXCD), is the first digital currency introduced by a currency union.  As a digital form of the EC dollar, DCash is a legal tender of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) and is developed to serve as a key instrument for facilitating the digital transformation of the ECCU.  The idea was initiated by Bitt, a private company, around 2017, which the ECCB incorporated in its 2017-21 transformation agenda.  Following the development and testing phase in March 2019- February 2020 - and after a delay due to the pandemic, DCash was introduced on a pilot basis in March 2021, initially in four (out of 8) ECCU countries (Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kits and Nevis, and St. Lucia).  The DCash pilot project was extended to St. Vincent and the Grenadines in August 2021, to Dominica and Montserrat in December 2021, and to Anguilla in June 2022.  The ECCB plans to continue the pilot program until June 2023 to allow all member countries at least one year experience with DCash before drawing lessons from the pilot. 

DCash has been launched with a view to improving payment efficiency, financial inclusion, and competitiveness and resilience.  The initiative was prompted by the high cost of payments-related banking services and slow adoption of new technologies by the private sector.  Cash is expensive to issue and handle in the ECCU, including transportation, storage, and security for both the central bank and the private sector, with many islands that are widely dispersed.  Mobile payment is under-developed in the ECCU, despite a high penetration of smartphones.  Credit cards and debit cards charge high transaction fees (currently around 3.5 percent).  Small firms in the informal sector bear the cost of inefficient payment disproportionately, and many households in these island economies are still under-banked (as the number of credit and debit cards per person is much lower than in other regions with similar development level).  Financial friction implied by high payment costs hinder economic growth and make the system more vulnerable to shocks.  DCash, which charges no fees for transactions in the pilot stage, can lower the cost of payments and decrease the use of paper cash as well as of cheques, which account for around 80 percent of all transactions.  The ECCB has a goal of cutting it by half, to reduce the costs of cash usage. 

The DCash has several distinct design features.  It is based on private blockchain technology, with all system services, except the minting system, stored at Google Cloud.  The ECCB has the sole authority to issue and redeem the digital currency and will be able to fully control its supply.  It has a “two-tier system” to fully utilize the comparative advantage of (i) the private sector to interact with customers and carry out the relevant AML/CFT requirements, including the necessary customer due diligence measures; and (ii) the central bank to provide trust and manage the DXCD scheme in line with its payment system policies.  The ECCB can observe each transaction data (but anonymously) and the outstanding stock of the DXCD in each digital wallet.  The ECCB does not see detailed information about the DXCD transactions (e.g., the identity/name of payers and payees and the purpose of transaction).  Financial institutions can fully observe the transaction purpose (e.g., the goods or services payers bought from payees), if either payers or payees are their own customers.  They are responsible for maintaining their own clients’ database. 

To minimize financial stability risks, the digital currency is designed as a small value retail instrument, with no interest accrued and no use for foreign exchange transactions.  The size of its holding and transaction values per wallet is limited and digital wallets bear no interests, to avoid competition with savings accounts of financial institutions.  The transfer between digital wallets is only allowed to take place within the ECCU, with no use for foreign exchange transactions.  Financial institutions are allowed to control the amounts of digital currency depositors can exchange for deposit accounts, which would help their liquidity management.

To mitigate cybersecurity risks, the pilot is limited in the scope of system integration.  Most importantly, the DCash system is not planned to be linked to the ECCB's core payment systems (such as the RTGS), banks' operating systems, and the Automated Clearing House.  This is intentional and a prudent approach given (not fully known) risks entailed in the digital currency system.  This, however, means that after the pilot, another round of testing will be needed to assess vulnerabilities and risks after connecting the DCash system to other payment and operating systems at the ECCB and financial institutions. 

While about three-quarters of financial institutions have participated so far in the pilot, the adoption of DCash so far has been slow, albeit uneven across countries.  According to the ECCB, 22 financial institutions, 11 agencies, 292 merchants, and 4,039 end-users in ECCU countries have participated in the pilot program as of end-April 2022.  Meanwhile, despite rolling out the DCash pilot only in August 2021, St. Vincent and the Grenadines has become the front-runner in the uptake of DCash, with the participation of 5 financial institutions, two agencies, and about one thousand customers so far, owing to the on-boarding of the largest bank which has readily available resources for launching DCash in the context of its own digitalization efforts.  The overall protracted uptake is largely due to the lack of marketing and public awareness as well as resource constraints faced by financial institutions and merchants in the context of increased burden posed by the pandemic and acquisitions and mergers following the exit of several foreign banks from some ECCU countries.  In addition, DCash is still relatively unknown to the public, which underscores the need for public education campaigns to raise awareness and informing the various stakeholders about the potential benefits of a CBDC.  However, the ECCB expects DCash diffusion to accelerate as it shifts the focus from onboarding countries to marketing and public education campaigns and more merchants and large banks participate in the pilot.  The ECCB plans to draw lessons from the pilot once concluded.  Nevertheless, no decision has been taken yet on if to continue with the issuance at the end of the pilot program. 

In addition, the uptake was interrupted by a two-month outage in early 2022.  This was further exacerbated by a lack of timely communication on the extent and cause of service disruption and timelines for recovery.  DCash went offline between mid-January to mid-March 2022 on account of a problem with the system’s operational management processes of renewing/rotating digital certificates.  This IT operational function falls under the responsibilities of the technology vendor.  According to the ECCB, the outage has disrupted only new transactions and on-boarding of new users, leaving the Distributed Ledger Technology (DLT) and existing data/transactions intact.  All balances under the pilot program are guaranteed by the ECCB. 

The Pilot project provides opportunities to examine risks and assess policy gaps.  Ample excess liquidity in the system and the design of DCash as a non-interest retail instrument with holding limits help mitigate possible financial disintermediation risk.  However, the effects of the DXCD on the choice of payment instruments and financial institutions’ funding are uncertain, especially under stress, and this calls for the ECCB and national supervisors to closely analyze liquidity and funding conditions of financial institutions, including through liquidity stress testing.  Additionally, the ECCB could be exposed to operational and financial risks from malfunctioning of the digital applications, platforms, or infrastructure, due to cyberattacks.  The identification of cybersecurity threats and the exploration of risk mitigation measures are important pre-requisites to the DXCD.  The data and privacy governance frameworks need to be established to ensure that sensitive financial or personal data is protected. 

The DCash experience so far provides some useful lessons for other countries who are considering CBDCs.  CBDCs have the potential to increase economic efficiency and foster financial inclusion, but sufficient efforts and resources are needed to raise public awareness and facilitate communication with end-users to boost confidence and uptake.  Implementing safeguard measures will help contain various risks to which CBDCs could expose central banks and the financial system, including those related to financial intermediation, financial integrity, and cybersecurity.  The DCash outage experience underscores the need to enhance central banks’ operational resilience and business continuity plans, including through incident response planning and ensuring adequacy of skilled resources.  It also stresses the  importance of clear division of operational, oversight, and risk management responsibilities between central banks and technology providers/operators, and establishing appropriate project management governance arrangements.  This is important as failures in CBDC implementation can undermine the credibility of central banks.  Moreover, greater efforts in exploring business cases and incentives for the private sector would help promote adoption. 


The Jamaican government announced the introduction of a CBDC in March 2021, appointing a technology provider (eCurrency Mint) immediately thereafter and implementing a limited and successful pilot program throughout 2021 that involved four merchants and the National Commercial Bank as a wallet provider.  The Bank of Jamaica (BoJ) announced in December 2021 that it will roll out its CBDC across the country in 2022.  Its roll-out will include two extra wallet providers and the testing of transactions between customers of various participating wallet providers to verify interoperability.  As an important step towards the formal launch of the currency, the Jamaican Parliament passed in June 2022 amendments to the Bank of Jamaica Act and subsequently BoJ (Amendment) Act 2022 (Act 5 of 2022) was duly assented by the Governor General to accommodate the Bank of Jamaica as the sole issuer of CBDC and recognize its CDBC as legal tender.  The CBDC is aimed for domestic use and the BoJ projects to replace some 5 percent of Jamaican dollars’ currency in circulation with the new digital currency each year. 

The main objective behind the launch of a CBDC has been financial inclusion through a digital currency with no user fees or transaction costs.  In addition to financial inclusion, the Bank of Jamaica (BOJ) expects the CBDC to (i) provide additional means of efficient and secure non-cash payment; (ii) increase efficiencies for banks as it relates to the costs for handling and distributing cash; (iii) reduce costs in the currency management process of the BOJ; (iv) provide a socially optimal mix of retail payment instruments; and (v) facilitate interoperability between existing electronic retail payment systems. 

In terms of technical design, it is worth noting that the Jamaican CBDC does not use distributed ledger technology - but instead an existing centralized payment system (the central bank’s Real Time Gross Settlement System (RTGS), JamClear) to avoid having to intervene manually to move from eCurrency’s system into the settlement system.  CBDC will be issued to banks and to the payment services providers who will distribute it to their customers, clients, merchants and consumers through either an E-money wallet, card networks, or other digital options.  To get the CBDC wallet the customers will need to contact a wallet provider of their choice and, if they do not have a bank account use the tax registration number and a government-issued photo ID.  The analysis of the customers signing-up for the CBDC will allow the BOJ to assess its contribution to expanding financial inclusion. 

The authorities recognize that the CBDC has to provide right balance between the AML/CFT regulations and the privacy considerations.  To protect privacy, the CBDC solution support the protection of personal identity through builtin solutions such as encryption techniques, digital signatures, and multi-factor authentication mechanisms.  To combat AML/CFT, the CBDC will allow for tracking of all payments by financial institutions and by the relevant authorities under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) when required.  Wallet Providers are either regulated or authorized by the BoJ and, therefore, the BoJ is the Competent Authority under POCA for these entities and moreover the authorities believe that the Wallet Providers already have in place effective risk-based AML/CFT frameworks. 

To enhance governance, and limit potential reputational risks, an internal BOJ oversight committee was established to provide oversight over the CBDC project’s progress and manage any financial, and nonfinancial risks impacting the BOJ.  The committee includes the supervisory, audit, IT, and financial functions of the central bank.  In addition, in July 2021 the IMF provided technical assistance to the BoJ on central bank risk management, fintech and security which included risk considerations related to the CBDC and its operation.


Uruguay completed a pilot with e-Peso from November 2017 to April 2018.  The Central bank used a simple technology: token-based and relying on a state-owned cellphone company.  The e-Peso was linked to a phone number without DLT, the end-users did not require internet connection (just a mobile phone line), and the settlement was instantaneous.  There were no costs to either the Central Bank of Uruguay or to the end-users.  The e-Peso could be used for payments in registered stores and for peer-to-peer transfers between registered users.  Transactions were anonymous but traceable with the users’ wallets.  The users’ wallets were encrypted at the Global E-note Manager (GEM) and the e-Pesos were secured at GEM even if users lost their phones or the password of a digital wallet.  The unique and traceable digital bills prevented double-spending and falsification. 

The total issuance of e-Pesos was limited to 20 million pesos (about US$670,000) and the wallet size to 30,000 pesos for individuals (about US$1,000) and 200,000 pesos for registered businesses.  Limits on e-wallets’ size made the ePeso similar to cash and reduced its competition to other means of payments or bank deposits.  Transfers between peers with e-Pesos were widespread throughout the pilot period.  The number of operations rose with the learning process of users.  The pilot was limited to 6 months and the e-Peso bills were subsequently destroyed. 

The pilot was followed by an evaluation process and drew some lessons towards a potential future introduction of a CBDC including the importance of the central bank’s reputation and security features, the merits and feasibility of simple technological solutions, and the potential complementarity of CBDCs with other means of payment (see Sarmiento, 2022).  The new central bank authorities delayed the move to a second stage of a CBDC project to focus on the rollout of the fast payments system. 

Several other countries in the region are conducting studies into CBDCs, at different stages of development including with technical assistance from the Fund.  In what follows, short summaries are presented of the status of that work by October 2022. 


In February 2021, the Central Bank (Banco Central de la República Argentina, BCRA) formally proposed to President Fernandez to consider the introduction of a digital peso.   However, according to Alfonso et al. (2022) the BCRA is not prioritizing the issuance of a CBDC - though it would continue researching it.  To improve the speed of and access to payments, the BCRA relies on the initiative Transferencias 3.0. 


The Central Bank of Brazil (BCB) decided to explore the possibility of introducing the Digital Real, a CBDC, by creating an internal working group in August 2020 that included all areas of the BCB.  This project is the next step of a comprehensive set of reforms that started more than a decade ago aiming at leveling the field for fostering new business models and other innovations in the financial services industry based on technological advances, enhancing the efficiency of the retail payment system, and eventually increasing the efficiency in cross-border transactions. 

The introduction of Pix, an instant payment platform, in November 2020 was a key milestone in the evolution of Brazil’s payments system.  This platform enables the instant execution of electronic payments and transfers and is the result of extensive consultation between the BCB and participants in the payment system since the creation of the Working Group on Instant Payments in 2013.  The BCB (i) issues the regulation that governs Pix and supervise its compliance, and (ii) manages the platform´s technological infrastructure.  This centralization allowed the BCB to provide a public, safe, and low-cost infrastructure that is highly integrated with market players in the Brazilian payment system that intermediate between final users and the Pix´s instant payment system.  By the end of 2021, transactions in Pix surpassed both credit and debit card transactions thanks to a network that includes close to 800 private PSPs, including traditional banks and fintech companies (Figure 9.1).  The Pix also served almost two thirds of the adult population and close to 60 percent of the firms interacting with the national financial system.  Furthermore, the cost to merchants of accepting retail payments is much lower than credit and debit card payments (Figure 9.2).  Interestingly, this innovation has been widely accepted by all financial institutions since the total number of transactions has increased for all parties thanks to increased financial inclusion in Brazil.

The Digital Real could aim at creating an additional layer to the digital payment system building on innovative technologies and policies under the BCB’s regulatory umbrella.  The BCB is considering features of programmable money for the development of smart contracts using the Digital Real to help expand the range of digital payment services and stimulate the development of digital innovations.  Additional policies, like the introduction of the Open Banking initiative since the beginning of 2021, could also contribute to fostering competition in the provision of these innovative financial services.  Open Banking allows customers to share their financial data with other institutions under the BCB supervision to allow them to compete and offer alternative financial services. 

As part of the proof of concept of its CBDC, the BCB has launched a new edition of the Lift Challenge focused on the Digital Brazilian Real.  To identify concrete projects in such a dynamic context, the last edition of the Lab for Financial and Technological Innovations´ (Lift as in its Portuguese acronym) Challenge called for projects related to CBDC.  The BCB selected 9 projects from different institutions that include traditional banks, credit card, fintech, and technological companies,  DeFi lending platforms and crypto assets’ exchanges.  The pilot implementation of these projects is expected in 2023 and enlighten further discussion on the future of the Digital Real. 

The BCB would eventually decide the characteristics of its CBDC in 2024, after testing its own pilots in 2023.  The Digital Real would be issued by the BCB and under the custody and distribution of the Brazilian Payments System.  Although it is too early in the process to envisage the characteristics of the Digital Real, the BCB has suggested that it would most likely be online given the technical difficulties of an off-line CBDC, although an offline option has not been discarded.  It would not bear interest to limit potential financial disintermediation risks.  Its introduction would need a change to the Central Bank Law, but it would not affect existing data privacy and security provisions that are embedded in Bank Secrecy and Brazilian General Data Protection Act.  A CBDC would need to comply with court orders to track illicit transactions, a task that a CBDC is likely to facilitate efficiently.  The systems already in place, including for Pix, may support domestic interoperability.  The BCB is keen on engaging with other jurisdictions to ensure interoperability across borders and to reduce the costs of cross-border payments. 


The Central Bank of Chile (BCCh) has published a white paper and has called for a public survey to evaluate the risk and benefits from the potential issuance of a retail CBDC.  The BCCh established a working group to assess the existing retail payment system and evaluate the issuance of a CBDC in 2021.  It published a first white paper with a preliminary assessment of benefits and risks of issuing of a retail CBDC.  The paper found that the Chilean retail payment system was adequate for the needs of the Chilean economy and highlighted the principles that a CBDC should follow.  It concluded that, although a retail CBDC could address several of the challenges from the rapidly changing payments ecosystem, the decision to issue a CBDC should be based on a thorough cost-benefit analysis.  To better inform this analysis, in July 2022 the BCCh called for a survey to the citizens and corporates about the risks and benefits from the potential issuance of a retail CBDC.  The respondents had until October 2022 to answer the survey.  The BCCh is currently working on a second stage of digital currency exploration, holding seminars, talks and roundtables to get feedback from the private sector, especially on financial stability issues.  A second report is expected to be published in the first half of 2023. 


The Banco de la República (BanRep) began research into retail CBDCs in 2017 in the context of the need to further develop its instant payment system.  Although the use of e-payments has grown since the pandemic, it is still lagging behind that of peer countries.  In its study, BanRep focused on the impact of a CBDC on financial intermediation and credit supply, financial inclusion and stability, monetary policy transmission, as well as on the impact of foreign CBDCs.  BanRep will continue further cost-benefit analysis of CBDCs. 


The Peruvian authorities conducted an initial assessment of the possibility of introducing a CBDC with technical assistance support from the Fund following the principles suggested in section I.B above.  [add reference].  This meant probing the underlying assumptions to the problems facing the Peru payment system and identify potential solutions (which may or may not include the introduction of a CBDC). 

Despite recent efforts, financial inclusion and the adoption of digital retail payment services in Peru are low.  Building on its 2015 financial inclusion strategy, Peru developed a National Financial Inclusion Policy (PNIF) in 2019 to promote financial access to all segments of society.  Despite the associated efforts, still 48 percent of the Peruvian population was unbanked as of mid-2021.  The lack of financial inclusion is more acute among rural residents due to generally lower incomes and wealth and geographical factors like low population density in rural areas that make banking services less accessible and more expensive.  Promotion of an effective digital payment system has not been a solution as major e-wallet providers do not interoperate among themselves or with unaffiliated bank deposit accounts because the largest banks operate in their own closed-loop systems.  BIM, a national platform to ensure interoperability of e-money payments, fails to support connectivity with unaffiliated e-money issuers or bank deposit accounts.

Initial analysis point towards several barriers against financial inclusion and digital payment adoption in Peru.  They include (i) limited digital and financial literacy, (ii) insufficient telecommunications infrastructure, (iii) a “culture of cash” and high informal labor participation, (iv) low wages and wealth levels, (v) elevated fees and fragmentation (lack of interoperability of solutions) in the banking sector, (vi) distrust of financial services and preferences for privacy, and (vii) limited access points including digital infrastructure especially in more remote locations.  Surveys conducted by the IMF highlighted some motivational, capacity, and behavioral factors that would reinforce the preference for cash, including concerns on high costs, the preference for informality, low ubiquity of current solutions, and related low perceived benefits of digital solutions. 

The IMF mission identified as viable solutions to enhance digital payments either to reinforce existing payment instruments and systems or to introduce a CBDC.  The first option would entail an intervention by the central bank of Peru to mobilize stakeholders to interoperate existing stores of value (e.g., accounts, digital money, and e-money) and connect and enhance a select set of existing payment systems to be fully interoperable and accessible to all (e.g., faster payments and/or debit cards). The issuance of a CBDC (in tokenized form in Peru) would require a sound legal basis to ensure a high level of legal certainty, legal tender status, regulation, and oversight of relevant actors, and more generally the mandate of the BCRP to carry out necessary functions and pursue interoperability.  All this would need to be accompanied by capacity building across the jurisdictions to ensure that regulatory, supervisory, and law enforcement authorities are equipped to adapt to the introduction of a CBDC.  In any case, a robust evaluation of technical, operational, regulatory, financial, and economic risks of CBDC or alternative solutions will need to be conducted before making a decision in one way or another. 

In that context, three critical enablers and four specific factors were identified as foundational elements for the successful introduction of any solution.  The critical enablers include: (i) creating a clear and compelling vision to enhance payment services to the financially excluded; (ii) the inclusion, involvement, and support from stakeholders (both public and private sector); and (iii) a facilitating mechanism to enable cooperation between competitors (such as a payment system management body).  The four factors to catalyze the adoption and usage of solutions include (i) efficient “on and off ramps” between cash and the digital payments ecosystem; (ii) provision and promotion of digital payment solutions by government and businesses (including awareness campaigns and appropriate pricing); (iii) the widespread availability of payment acceptance infrastructure; and (iv) solutions that support multiple types of payments. 

Finally, it is worth mentioning the introduction of a digital wallet by Ecuador in 2014 as an initiative that could appear as a failed CBDC.  It involved the issuance of digital currency by a central bank that was not the issuer/“owner” of the currency in a fully dollarized economy that has the U.S. Dollar as the sole legal tender.  The digital currency was offered directly by the Central Bank of Ecuador with the stated objective of promoting financial inclusion and backed in principle by U.S. dollar assets in its balance sheet.  The central bank kept all the users’ personal data and transaction records at its platform.  This initiative did not attract much demand and it was abandoned in 2018 in the context of distrust about the true reasons for its creation and potential risks of dedollarization and monetary instability.  In fact, a sharp fall in international oil prices during the 2014-2018 period led to large fiscal deficits that were partly financed by the central bank’s international reserves.  The lack of credibility would explain why Ecuador’s digital wallet initiative was not successful (including as an engine of financial inclusion) in contrast to the experience of other emerging and developing economies around the world.

Lessons and Policy Recommendations 

The onset of crypto assets and CBDCs is transforming money and payments.  The description and analysis in this paper of the experiences in LAC stress the opportunities and risks brought about by them and their underlying technologies for a diverse region facing challenges ranging from relatively low financial inclusion and fragmented payment systems to volatile macroeconomic conditions and capital flows.  As shown by the recent sharp fall in their values, crypto assets imply more risks than benefits (particularly given the lack of intrinsic value of unbacked crypto assets) but should be expected to continue to be part of the payment system’s landscape.  By contrast, (properly designed) CBDCs could help achieve some public policy objectives, including facilitating remittances.  In that context, some policy recommendations are laid out below in terms of enhancing the policy and regulatory frameworks to respond to crypto assets’ risks, using digital currencies to enhance cross-border payments, and introducing CBDCs.





Friday, February 17, 2023

The Caribbean Community Heads of Government commended Canadian Prime Minister, the Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau for continuing the legacy of strong relations between CARICOM and Canada

CARICOM, Canada Strengthen Relations

Canada’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau at CARICOM Heads of Government Conference 2023
Diplomatic relations between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Canada were strengthened on Thursday 16 February with an engagement between the Conference of Heads of Government and Canada’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, in The Bahamas.

The two parties discussed the situation in Haiti, climate change and climate financing, trade, increased people to people contact, regional security, among other issues.  

In his address to CARICOM Heads, the Canadian Prime Minister announced a new funding initiative totaling $44.8 million to tackle the climate crisis in the Caribbean.

He said the fund will support projects within regional organisations like the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs), and the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund to improve marine and coastal ecosystem management, increase water security and to help governments respond to the impacts of climate change.

Acknowledging the challenges CARICOM countries face with accessing concessional development financing, he applauded the Bridgetown Initiative led by Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados.  The Initiative has “re-energised the conversation on International Financial Institutions’ reform to the overlapping health, climate, debt, and liquidity crisis affecting many CARICOM countries,” the Canadian Prime Minister stated.

On the trade side, he said Canada is seeking a renewal of a waiver from the World Trade Organisation for goods from the Region to enter Canada duty-free beyond 2023, through the CARIBAN programme.

CARIBAN was announced in Nassau during a CARICOM Heads of Government Conference in 1985 and Prime Minister Trudeau said it is “only fitting” that CARICOM-Canada Heads of Government renew their commitment to the trading agreement during their meeting Thursday.

CARICOM-Canada reciprocal trade reached $1.9 billion in 2021, while bilateral trade in services reached $3.9 billion, Prime Minister Trudeau told CARICOM heads as he highlighted the strong trade ties between the two parties.

Heads of Government commended Prime Minister Trudeau for continuing the legacy of strong relations between CARICOM and Canada.  They advocated for his country’s support on concessional funding for climate change related loss and damage, recovering from disasters, and development financing.  Heads also emphasised the need for increased people-to-people contact between CARICOM and Canada through the restoration of visa-free travel.  In response to the latter, Prime Minister Trudeau said that Canada will in the coming days, announce new measures to simplify access to “trusted travelers” from CARICOM and other countries in the Region.


Friday, January 27, 2023

The Bahamas Immigration Minister Keith Bell resists United Nations - UN call to suspend deportations to Haiti as Haiti's crisis deepens

The Bahamas Immigration Minister Keith Bell resists UN call to suspend deportations to Haiti as situation spirals out of control

“Haiti has political instability, economic deprivation, and complete social collapse.  So you are talking about a myriad of challenges and problems.  That problem can only be addressed at the international level and so it isn’t a matter of frustration

Bahamian Immigration Minister Keith Bell
DESPITE calls from United Nations officials to suspend deportations to Haiti, Immigration Minister Keith Bell said The Bahamas has “a job to do” to ensure that officials protect the country for Bahamians.

The Bahamas is facing an influx of Haitian migrants.  However, United Nations Secretary General António Gutierrez on Monday called on governments to consider halting deportations as the situation there spirals out of control

Speaking on the sideline of a Labour on the Campus event, Mr Bell recognised the duty of the secretary general, but made it clear what the government has to do.

“The United Nations obviously they seek to ensure that there is harmony, there’s unity among all nations, so obviously that is his job.  We in The Bahamas have a job to do to ensure that we protect The Bahamas for Bahamians.  It’s as simple as that.  The Bahamas as all governments have consistently said we cannot absorb these persons who come in The Bahamas illegally,” he said.

“If you want to come to The Bahamas as a tourist or want to work, then there is a process.  If you follow that process, you may be granted access to The Bahamas.

“If you come here illegally and unlawfully, then, of course, there has to be swift justice.  We will not tolerate, nor will we support reasonably anyone coming into The Bahamas from undocumented or illegal means you will stay in the jurisdiction you will be deported.”

He also shared doubts that The Bahamas would sign on to provisions allowing for free movement when asked about CARICOM’s freedom of movement or labour within the region.

“I know you’re talking about a treaty – I think the Treaty of Chaguaramas and the (free) movement of people through the Caribbean.  The government of The Bahamas, both PLP and FNM, has consistently not signed on to those specific provisions.  I do not foresee in the very far future that we’re going to support a free movement throughout this country of anyone.”

Prime Minister Philip “Brave” Davis said the crisis in Haiti poses a substantial threat to The Bahamas due to an increase in irregular migration.

He spoke earlier this week at the opening session of the heads of summit meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

During his remarks, Mr Davis stated: “With the support and leadership of Haiti, collectively, we can, through CELAC and other regional organisations, help Haitians build a path out of crisis.”

Asked if there was frustration with the international community over addressing Haiti’s issues, the labour minister listed some of the factors that needed to be considered when helping countries.

“I will not say it there is frustration and you would have seen all around the world where first world developed countries, superpowers go into these countries where they need help — where there is a genocide or there is this civil war and the like.  When you go into these countries you have to ensure first of all, what is your objective?  What are the objectives of you going in?  And what would be your exit strategy?

“Haiti has political instability, economic deprivation, and complete social collapse.  So you are talking about a myriad of challenges and problems.  That problem can only be addressed at the international level and so it isn’t a matter of frustration.

“It’s just a matter of how we’re going to address these issues and challenges and then determine how we can help, but Haiti has 12 million people, The Bahamas cannot under no circumstance, support any illegal and unlawful entry of persons from Haiti and that has extended to Cuba where we’ve had an exponential growth in illegal migrants coming from that country. We will not tolerate it.”

An Increase In The Influx of Illegal Immigrants In The Bahamas

The Influx of Illegal Immigrants In Bahamian Territory 

The Bahamas Department of Immigration on The Increase of Illegal Immigrants Entering Bahamian Territory
The Bahamas Immigration Department remains active in its efforts to apprehend and process numerous illegal migrants that entered the country over the past few days.

On today’s date, 25th January 2023 at approximately 9:57 a.m., the latest group of migrants consisting of eighteen (18) Cuban nationals; seventeen (17) males and one (1) female, were found in waters near Cay Sal Bank United States Coast Guard (USCG).  The migrants were turned over to the Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF), and are expected to arrive in the capital on Thursday, 26th January 2023 where they will be received by Immigration officials.

Additionally, on Tuesday, 24th January 2023 at approximately 6:00 a.m., three hundred and seventy-five (375) Haitians and two (2) Cuban nationals were turned over to Immigration officials in Matthew Town, Inagua after being intercepted by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) in waters near Cay Sal Bank.  The group will remain in facilities on the island where they are being processed.

On the same day, at approximately 10:25 a.m., Immigration officers on Cat Cay, Bimini apprehended seven (7) Cuban National; five (5) males, one (1) female, and one (1) minor; the group was subsequently transported to the capital today for processing.

Lastly, at approximately 9:30pm the Immigration Department was notified by locals in the community of The Bluff, South Andros of an abandoned wooden sloop suspected of carrying Haitian migrants.

A task force comprising twenty-three (23) officers from the Immigration Department and Royal Bahamas Defence Force was immediately dispatched to the island to investigate.  Once on the ground, the team commenced operation; and as of 2:35 p.m. on 25th January 2023, apprehended forty-one (41) Haitian nationals; thirty-one (31) males and ten (10) females thus far.

This is an active and ongoing apprehension exercise as more Haitian migrants are suspected to be on the island.  The Department is presently working with local agencies on the island to ensure all health and safety protocols are followed.

Subsequently, all migrants will be transported to the capital for further processing and arrangements are presently being coordinated for the deportation of all irregular migrants.

For more information, call the Public Relations Unit at 1-242-322-7530, visit our website at, or call our Investigation hotline anonymously at 1-242-604-0249.