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The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping and Chile have pledged to continue working together to further strengthen their relationship.

A communique issued at the end of talks between Chilean President Sebastain Pinera Echenique and CARICOM leaders noted “a commitment was also made to work together with the aim to achieve regional integration objectives set out by the new hemispheric architecture represented by CELAC, the Community of Latin America and Caribbean cooperation.”

Several CARICOM leaders attended the two-day summit in Chile that the Guyana-based Secretariat said were aimed at strengthening and consolidating Latin America and Caribbean cooperation

The meeting, which was also attended by regional foreign ministers and the CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Rocque heard President Pinera expressed his appreciation and gratitude to CARICOM for its support for “the Chilean candidacy to the UN Human Rights Council and the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights” in 2011.

The communique said he also thanked them for the endorsement of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) to the Chilean candidacy to the UN Security Council, for the period 2014-2015.

Antigua

Contrary to the belief emanating from some quarters, deportees do not head the list of crime perpetrators in Antigua & Barbuda.

National Security Minister Dr. Errol Cort said these individuals are not at the forefront of the criminal activities that “we are currently experiencing.”

He said based on reports from various law enforcement agencies “the suggestion is that perhaps they might be more behind the scenes organizing and arranging, but they are certainly not at the forefront.”

In 2012, 62 citizens of Antigua and Barbuda were deported back to the state.

Of that number, 20 were from the USA, 20 from the United Kingdom and 20 from Canada, with the remainder from the Caribbean.

The category of offenses which caused their deportation includes, aggravated felony, child molestation, denied entry, narcotics, overstaying, rape, robbery, larceny and working illegal.

He said upon their return to the island “serious offenders are monitored by the respective agencies to ensure they don’t break the law.

Dominica

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrrit says he intends to write to Britain later this month to get permission for Dominica to sever ties with the London-based Privy Council.

He said the country wants to join the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The prime minister said the country will seek to make the CCJ its final court in 2013, as the island has been paying for the regional court established in 2001 to replace the Privy Council.

CARICOM countries have taken a US$100 million loan from the Barbados-based Caribbean Development Bank to meet the operation of the CCJ and ensure its financial independence.

Grenada

Grenada’s oldest political party has pulled out the race in the next general election carded for Feb. 19, effectively making it a two-way contest between the ruling National Democratic Congress (NDC) and the main opposition New National Party (NNP).

Interim leader of the 63-year-old United Labor Party (GULP), Wilfred Haynes said: “We decided at a meeting recently that we will not contest because we have some things to get done…we are just not ready to contest the elections.”

But former opposition leader Michael Baptiste, who had earlier indicated that he would have led the party’s candidates into the elections, appeared on an NDC platform with Prime Minister Tilman Thomas and vowed to campaign on behalf of the incumbent.

This is the first time the GULP, which once formed the government for 27 years under the late eccentric leader Sir Eric Gairy, will not be contesting an election since its formation in 1951. The last time the GULP won a seat was in 1995 when two of its candidates were successful.

Guyana

The search for victims in last month’s boat collision on the Mazaruni River, Guyana has been called off, according to Transport Minister Robeson Benn, who said maritime officials are now looking to reconstruct what happened in the deadliest river accident in decades.

Following the collision it was reported that nine persons were missing, however a tenth body was later found. Reports later surfaced that an eleventh person has been unaccounted for.

The accident between two boats that were reported to have been carrying at least 20 people occurred on the Mazaruni River. Shortly after rescue workers found the bodies of six persons.

Several persons were taken to the Bartica Hospital with minor injuries.

The accident coms more than a month after six people died in another collision between two boats on the Pomeroon River.

Jamaica

Deputy President of the Senate, Angela Brown-Burke, says Jamaica should legalize the use of marijuana for medicinal reasons.

Brown Burke, contributing to a debate on plant genetics in the Senate recently, said Cannabis sativa, or marijuana, represents a worthwhile economic opportunity that the country should seek to tap.

Brown-Burke expressed the hope that very soon the list of products covered by the plant genetic resources for food and agriculture treaty would be expanded by the research and work of Jamaicans and that cannabis should be added.

“These are discussions that we need to have. There are other states and other countries that are way advanced than we are because they have taken that bold step forward,” Brown-Burke said.

“I believe we need to put it in a framework that allows them to participate legally in the economy and I believe that is an opportunity that we should not miss,” she added.

The call for the legislation or marijuana in Jamaica has got stronger in light of several states in the USA moving to decriminalize its use.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts Deputy Prime Minister Sam Condor continued with a war of words with Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas by publicly opposing his decision to fire senior government minister Dr. Timothy Harris recently.

In a statement, Condor who has sided with Harris to oppose several government measures and policies in the past, said he found, “no justification in the reasons postulated by the Prime Minister for the dismissal of Dr. Timothy Harris,”

He said Harris, as an elected parliamentarian, “stood in duty and in conscience to articulate deep concerns regarding the impact that certain Bills before Parliament could have on our nation and nation’s people.

“Dr. Harris stood in accordance with his oath, as he was obligated to do without fear or favor. Indeed, the law of the land protects him in that regard,” Condor said.

Prime Minister Douglas fired Harris because of his opposition to two recent pieces of government-sponsored legislation, including one to increase the number of senators in the National Assembly.

Trinidad

A High Court judge has said Trinidad and Tobago “is producing cold-blooded killers” because of the proliferation of guns.

Saying that T&T is in crisis, Justice Anthony Carmona also said the cemeteries were filled to capacity, mostly with young men killed by guns.

He said the guns were responsible for the murders and the mayhem currently taking place. Recalling when he was attached to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) office, the judge said people used to shoot other people in the chest, which opened up the possibility of some of them actually surviving those attacks. Today, however, he said, people are being shot in the head.

“Brains are splattering all over the place. It takes a cold-blooded person to do something like that,” Carmona said at the San Fernando High Court recently.

He made the comments after a U.S. deportee pleaded guilty to possession of two guns and a large quantity of marijuana.

Jerome Kendell Barker, who was recently freed on a charge of murder will know is fate on Feb. 20.

The murder toll for the first month of the New Year stands at 35.

Trinidad

Trinidad and Tobago Central Bank Governor Jwala Rambarran says that declining aid resources to the Caribbean has prompted many of the region’s governments to engage in more expensive commercial borrowing to fill funding gaps.

In making the observation, Rambarran said this state of affairs was neither socially or politically feasible and there was “no silver-bullet solution to the deep-rooted financing challenges facing small vulnerable economies,” such as those in the Caribbean.

He was at the time speaking at the recent opening of a joint Commonwealth Secretariat and United Nations Development Program Workshop at the Eric Williams Financial Complex, Port of Spain, Trinidad.

“It is no secret that small vulnerable economies in the Caribbean have grappled with external shocks of varying magnitudes and duration, over the past two decades.

“More recently the Caribbean has been gradually recovering from the shock of the global financial crisis, which originated in the United States and spread to Europe, the region’s two closet trading and investment partners,” he said.

Faced with declining aid resources, Rambarran said, “many Caribbean governments resorted to more expensive commercial borrowing to bridge financial gaps.

“This combined with the growing inability of regional governments to generate high enough primary fiscal surpluses for debt serving, contributed to a large public debt,” he said

He said the gross public debt in the Caribbean climbed rapidly from 65 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in l998 to a peak of almost l00 percent of GDP in 2002, before falling to a still elevated 80 percent of GDP in 2012.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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