Needed: an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent for CARICOM

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Robert Bud­dan Robert Bud­dan is a univer­sity lec­turer. Email feed­back to robert.bud­dan@uwi­ and col­umns@glean­

IT IS ironic that the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, as of this Oc­to­ber, started plans for the most struc­tured ‘whole-of-gov­ern­ment’ in­ter­a­gency re­la­tion­ship with Cuba, the old en­emy, than it ever had with any other in­di­vid­ual Caribbean coun­try or with the 15-mem­ber Caribbean Com­mu­nity (CARICOM).

Six­teen Amer­i­can gov­ern­ment agen­cies will work with Cuba to make sure that what has been achieved un­der US-Cuba nor­mal­i­sa­tion is not re­versed after Obama leaves of­fice but ad­vanced in­stead.

What about CARICOM? What are CARICOM’s is­sues for the new pres­i­dent? Shouldn’t whole-ofgovern­ment ar­range­ments be used to pre­serve the best of CARICOM-US re­la­tions while over­com­ing the worst of them?

Nat­u­ral dis­as­ters read­ily come to mind. The US and Cuba will have a work­ing com­mit­tee for dis­as­ter re­lief and hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance so that re­sponses are not ad hoc. Shouldn’t we all? We should also want to see Amer­i­can em­bassies be­ing bet­ter equipped with staff and other re­sources to process visas, refugees, ed­u­ca­tion and cul­tural ex­changes, the mi­gra­tion sta­tus of Caribbean-Amer­i­cans and de­por­ta­tion of Caribbean peo­ple from abroad. The US State Depart­ment is look­ing at strength­en­ing its em­bassy in Cuba to do many of these things.


Hap­pily, the two sides – Cuba and the US – are to col­lab­o­rate on an­titer­ror­ism, coun­ternar­cotics and other crimes (like cy­ber­crime and scam­ming), and lawen­force­ment agen­cies will share in­for­ma­tion with each other to catch crim­i­nals. But there is no com­par­a­tive de­fence and in­tel­li­gence ar­range­ment with CARICOM.

In fact, CARICOM had de­clared it­self a ‘zone of peace’ many years ago to keep the re­gion safe from war and in­ter­ven­tions and any re­lated en­vi­ron­men­tal catas­tro­phe. This is an idea to build on, not ig­nore. The US and Cuba must in­clude them­selves in this zone of peace, some­thing Cuba al­ready ac­cepts.

The Amer­i­can Small Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion will help Cuba pro­mote en­trepreneur­ship, co­op­er­a­tive en­ter­prises and growth in small busi­ness. The Caribbean’s large and woe­fully un­der­sup­ported in­for­mal small busi­ness sec­tor needs sim­i­lar sup­port. The re­gion’s cham­bers of com­merce have failed mis­er­ably. If the United States wants to pro­mote cap­i­tal­ism, why not do so where it is fail­ing most among street­side busi­ness peo­ple?

The US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture will help with Cuba’s food se­cu­rity, pro­tect plant, hu­man and an­i­mal health, and agri­cul­tural ca­pac­ity. We all need to do more to feed our­selves, so we should all be in­cluded.

Amer­ica’s Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices will work with Cuba’s im­pres­sive health sys­tem against Zika, dengue, chikun­gunya and other dis­eases and in­fec­tious out­breaks. They will de­velop di­ag­nos­tics, vac­cines and treat­ments, share re­search, de­velop the bio­med­i­cal sciences and find bet­ter treat­ments for cancer. Why should Haiti, with its mas­sive cholera prob­lem, be left out? Why should we all?


The Amer­i­can Depart­ment of the In­te­rior is to col­lab­o­rate with Cuba on wildlife con­ser­va­tion and terrestrial and marine-pro­tected ar­eas. We all need to pro­tect our tourism and nat­u­ral as­sets.

In fact, the US could use this op­por­tu­nity to de­velop ac­cept­able bank­ing and fi­nan­cial ser­vice rules in the US and the Caribbean. It could gain enor­mously.

We are happy that the stage is be­ing set for fu­ture US-Cuba re­la­tions and to lock the next pres­i­dent in. But the rest of the Caribbean needs an Amer­i­can-Caribbean nor­mal­i­sa­tion of their own. Our re­la­tions are far from nor­mal. Noth­ing is be­ing said in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns about them.

The US Depart­ment of De­fense will have a new role in the post-Cold War era with a fo­cus on peo­ple in Cuba. It should in­clude the rest of us. The US and CARICOM can­not limit their co­op­er­a­tion con­fer­ences to an­nual di­a­logue on se­cu­rity alone.

Be­low the cam­paign radar, Cuba and the US are com­bin­ing their so­cial­ist and cap­i­tal­ist ap­proaches to their mu­tual bet­ter­ment. Obama has even said the US should re­spect Cuba’s poli­cies for “so­cial equal­ity”.

The good news is that Obama rec­om­mended the same whole-ofgovern­ment ap­proach to the United Na­tions for han­dling world af­fairs. He would surely ac­cept it for CARICOM. The next step is for CARICOM to take with the next pres­i­dent.

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