It is also of particular significance that Jamaica is the only English speaking country that will be ‘graced’ by the presence of the highest ranking diplomat within the United States Government, where the leadership of the other countries visited so far namely Mexico, Argentina, Peru and Colombia , especially since the advent of President Donald Trump, without exception, ‘kow tow’ to the dictates that emanates from the White House.
What are these ‘burning’ issues, a murderous and bone-chilling crime wave with daily ‘body counts’ that approximates to the war zones of Afghanistan, where the US Army has their ‘hands full’ in trying to contain the Taliban insurgency also, Iraq and Syria which are being pacified from Islamist(IS) militants.
Our sister Caribbean nations are not far behind in these murderous statistic, especially given their relative population size to Jamaica.
The ubiquitous weapon of choice in this fear-inducing rampage of murderand mayhem is the gun, with its principal point of origin and manufacture being the United States of America, whose powerful gun lobbyist,, knows that they have the unqualified support of a US president, who they backed financially in his campaign for the White House.
The quid pro quo of this ‘unholy’ arrangement was further underlined in Donald Trump’s response to the mayhem caused by Stephen Paddock’s ‘shooting spree’ which left 59 dead and 527 injured in Las Vegas last year, when he noted that inadequate gun control was not the real problem but ‘mental illness’.
Our vulnerable small island states with its porous coastline, under-resourced security forces, who in common with the majority of our people, are reeling from the harsh economic arrangements that the ‘gendarmes’ of international finance capital led by the International Monetary Fund(IMF) have imposed, as part of its conditionalities, are no match for the smugglers with their lethal ‘cargo of death’ with the made in America brand.
Allied to this, is the fact that our region has the unenviable statistic of having both the highest levels of inequality among its people with regards to wealth distribution, with Jamaica being the leader in this inequality index.
To compound this sordid picture, is the fact that the levels of unemployment/underemployment and violence among our youth population, is one of the highest in the world, means we are sitting on a virtual ‘powder keg’.
Another central matter is brought home by the, ravages wrought by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 on the people and the economies of our sister island states of, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, Cuba, Dominica Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico,St Maarten,St Thomas, British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos and even mainland United States of America in Florida and Texas , are enough proof that Climate Change is as real as ABC.
No amount of denial of an ‘inward-looking’ and jingoistic president , whose promise to ‘ make America great again’ and whose disparaging reference to Climate Change as a ‘ hoax’ during his presidential campaign ,which primarily accounts for the USA’s withdrawal from COP21 in Paris and a consequent reneging on their international commitment to reduce carbon-producing emissions that contributes to global warming, can save us from the dangers that lie ahead.
In the words of one of our leading local climate physicist, we have to brace ourselves as a region, for an increase in the frequency of this phenomenon, as the category 5 nature of the hurricanes that were experienced in 2017 will become the norm.
The words of Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit rings true today, as when he said it at the United Nations meeting immediately following the devastation of his island last year from the Hurricanes Irma and Maria, ‘To deny Climate Change is to deny a truth we have just lived,,,,we in the Caribbean do not produce greenhouse gases or sulphate aerosols, we do not pollute or overfish our oceans, we have not made no contribution to global warming that can move the(proverbial) needle but yet we are among the main victims… on the frontline.’
‘I repeat-we are shouldering the consequences of the actions of others, actions that endanger our very existence… and all for the enrichment of a few elsewhere’.
On the vexed matter of energy security Jamaica, as is with the rest of our sister Caribbean states are very energy dependent and as such have had to contend with the vicissitudes of a petroleum market largely driven by multi-national companies such as Exxon, that was formerly headed by Secretary of State, Tillerson, places profit above everything else.
This has resulted in significant sums of our meagre export earnings in our region, which are primarily tourism-based, being used to fuel the needs of a developing economies.
Our sister Bolivarian state of Venezuela under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez in 2005 came to the rescue of our oil-dependent economies, and threw us a ‘life line’, with an arrangement that was a model in south- south cooperation, the Petro Caribe Agreement.
At its core, the Petro Caribe agreement, facilitated oil purchased from Venezuela with preferential payment conditions that allow beneficiary nations to buy the product at market value but only to pay a percentage of the cost up front.
The balance can be paid over 25 years at 1%(one percent) interest. A closer look at the details of this ‘one of a kind’ arrangement, shows that beneficiaries countries are required to pay 40% of their bill in in 90days with the remainder over 25 years at the fixed of 1% as long as oil prices exceeds US100.00 (one hundred dollar) per barrel, with a provision that allows deferment of 75% of these payments if a barrel of oil reaches US150.
Beneficiary countries are allowed to buy up to 185,000 barrels of oil per day on the above-mentioned terms with an exemplary concession in the acceptance of goods and services in lieu of cash payments for the ‘black gold’.
Our sister countries that are current beneficiaries include Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas,Belize,Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras Jamaica, Nicaragua, Suriname, St Lucia, St Kitts and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
However with a precipitous fall in the price of oil coupled with reduce production levels in Venezuela, and crippling economic sanctions by the USA that is directed at this mainstay of the country’s economy as part of their regime change agenda, has caused our country to be in jitters regarding the 49 per cent ownership of Venezuela in our Petro Jam oil refinery.
We should not be ‘fair weather friends’ to our sister Bolivarian state, has done for our beleaguered economy what no multinational corporation whether it be Shell, Esso, Texaco, Total or any other such entity in our over 55 years of political independence.
We are smart enough to be wary of ‘Greek bearing gifts ,’ which is what the promises of former US Vice-president Joe Biden turned out to be, when he visited Trinidad and Tobago in May 2013 and met with Caribbean leaders with grand promises of low cost renewable energy to the region.
Equally, we should not be ‘cowed by the carrot and stick policy’ which is the preferred tactic of the current US administration.
The recent arrogant and bellicose statements by the so-called leader of the free world and his UN representative Nikki Haley, in their response to overwhelming vote against Jerusalem being the new capital of Israel, are a clear indication of this tactic at work.
As a country we have enough serious issues on our plate, to be part of any scheme or being co-opted in any designs by a belligerent empire to enact regime change, on a democratically elected sister country Venezuela ,whose main ‘crime’ is to use its oil-wealth to transform the lives of its citizen as any responsible and people-centred government would do.
Additionally, Venezuela’s track of holding democratic elections since the advent of Chavismo, is unparalleled in the world, where a total of 25 elections at one level or another, have been held since 1998, under the most rigorous scrutiny by international observers; A fact that is not lost on former president of the United States of America, Jimmy Carter, who in his comments when his Carter – Centre led team observed their elections, saying ‘it was the fairest in the world’.
This adherence to the ‘principle of one man one vote, same man, same vote, is not on the agenda of the Donald Trump-led administration, whose Secretary of State and former boss of Exxon Rex Tillerson’s company, was among one of those that was nationalised by Hugo Chavez, where the income generated from the state ownership of this vital resource, contributed to the over 5 million homes that have been built for the poor and dispossessed since the Hugo Chavez-led presidency and continued under the leadership of his successor, Nicholas Maduro.
The sabre-rattling White House occupants cannot face the indignity of suffering another electoral loss by their surrogate-opposition parties (2 wins in 25 elections) in the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for April of this year, so that’s the reason behind the unprecedented step of their(US) denying the validity of an election which has not yet taken place, as part of their tactic, the other being a military-type coup solution.
Jamaica has a strong an enviable tradition, of respecting the time-honoured UN principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of states and no-amount of International Monetary Fund, Inter-American Development Bank, or World Bank pressures, should force us to abandon those principles. We should also heed the Jamaican truism, that the ‘same knife that stick goat, stick sheep’.
Trevor G Brown
- Countries: Jamaica