Caribbean Round-Up

Cuba

Cuban officials say cruiser tourism has returned to the Spanish-speaking Caribbean country with the arrival on Jan. 5 of the nine-deck British cruise ship Thomson Dream.

Former Cuban President Fidel Castro, several years ago, had put a break on cruiser visits, claiming that they had brought considerable garbage while the visitors spent little cash.

Tourists on the Thomson Dream were given red carpet treatment on arrival in Havana with a salsa band, dancing schoolchildren and showgirls in bikini tops and feather headdresses, Cuban officials said.

Jose Manuel Bisbe, a Cuban tourism official said, besides the deal that will bring Thomson Cruise Ships to the island, there are agreements with other European tour operators.

He said when “each passenger spends an average of $50 to $200 per day on the island,” it is highly welcomed in today’s cash-strapped economy.

Dominican Republic

A leading international human rights watchdog has urged authorities in the Dominican Republic to immediately halt the mass deportation of Haitian migrants.

“Haiti is still recovering from a devastating natural disaster. Instead of forcing people back to a desperate situation, the Dominican Republic and other countries should be stepping up their efforts to help Haiti and its people,” said Javier Zuñiga, Senior Advisor at the London-based Amnesty International on Jan. 7.

In what has been described as the first major crackdown on illegal Haitian immigrants since the deadly Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti last year, Dominican Republic officials said on Jan. 6 that they began rounding up the Haitians earlier this week. The Dominican Republic shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti.

Over 950 Haitians – many of them living in the Dominican Republic without proper documentation – have been deported to Haiti in the past week, said the Dominican Republic’s Department of Migration, adding that more are expected to be deported in the coming days.

Grenada

Minister of Finance, V. Nazim Burke will present the 2011 Budget on Friday, Jan. 14 at the Grenada Trade Centre, St. George’s, starting at 10:00 a.m.

This announcement follows the approval of the 2011 Estimates of Expenditure by the Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2010.

During his presentation, Minister Burke will outline the achievements of government for 2010 as well as the plans and programmes for 2011.

The theme for the 2011 Budget is: “Working Together for Economic Recovery, Job Creation and Social Protection.”

The theme reflects the priorities identified by government for the revitalization the economy and creating jobs.

Guyana

The security forces will leave no stone unturned in seeking to bring the perpetrator(s) to justice for the horrific grenade attack at the Stabroek Market square on Jan. 5.

President Bharrat Jagdeo made this commitment on Jan. 10 during his first press conference for 2011 at the Office of the President.

The president said that regardless of the fact that from a security perspective the circumstances surrounding the attack are vague, it is a criminal act. He added that even if the grenade exploded on an individual who had it in his possession, the device should have never been in his possession.

The president said he is bothered by the act since it not only affected the lives of many people but it could have been anyone including children who may have been present in the area so “it is an attack that we must abhor collectively.”

President Jagdeo also referred to other incidents including the throwing of a channa bomb into PPP/C Parliamentarian Philomena Sahoye’s home which caused fear among people that the incidents may be related to the upcoming elections.

Guyana

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is facilitating a three-day safety program for local aviation staff in the areas of safety risks and management in an effort to improve the safety oversight capabilities of the GCAA.

Launching the program at the Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, Duke Street, Kingston, was Minister of Transport and Hydraulics, Robeson Benn who noted that, “These initiatives are captured under an ICAO strategy entitled ‘States Safety Programme’ (SSP), which was introduced to assist member states in developing a mechanism to improve their safety policies, standards and most importantly, their safety oversight role.”

The course is aimed at providing the practical guidance on how to develop key elements of the SSP which will incorporate significant aspects of Guyana’s safety regulations and policies.

Haiti

CARICOM is concerned about the rate of progress of Haiti’s recovery program and the role of the Interim Haiti recovery Commission (HRC) at a recent meeting of the Commission in Santo Domingo which was co-chaired by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

CARICOM’s Special Representative on Haiti, PJ Patterson, who is a member of the Commission, lamented the slow progress of the recovery program even in the face of the first anniversary of the Jan. 12 earthquake.

He was specifically critical of the absence of a strategy to strengthen the drastically depleted institutional capacity of the government of Haiti, a necessity, which he said, was generally recognized from the very beginning of the planning exercise.

Haiti

An international team of election experts will recommend that Haiti’s government-backed candidate be eliminated from a presidential runoff ballot due to strong evidence of fraud in voting that led to riots, according to a draft of the report obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The report by the Organization of American States team has not been released publicly but officials confirmed its conclusions. It was to be presented to President Rene Preval later Monday, foreign and Haitian sources confirmed.

The report’s most important conclusions are that the disputed Nov. 28 vote should neither be thrown out entirely nor recounted, and that enough fraudulent or improper ballots should be invalidated to drop governing-party candidate Jude Celestin into third place and out of the second-round runoff.

That would favor carnival singer Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly, a populist candidate who was in third place and out of runoff contention when results were announced last month. Former first lady and law professor Mirlande Manigat would remain in first place. All the top candidates would lose thousands of votes under the team’s recommendations.

Jamaica

Jamaica has copped the Caribbean’s Top Tourist Destination Award, beating out Caribbean rivals, Aruba, the Dominican Republic, St. Lucia, St. Marteen and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The accolade was presented in New York at the eighth annual Travel Weekly Readers’ Choice Award.

The event is held to award industry suppliers considered by the publication’s readers to have excelled in product and service during the past year.

Tourism Minister Edmund Bartlett said Jamaica’s winning the top award this year gave credence to the view long held by reputable tourism officials that Jamaica is indeed one of the world’s top destination.

Jamaica

Jamaica is looking to outshine its last hosting of Caribbean Marketplace in 2005, and has assembled a top quality entertainment lineup for the opening and closing nights of this year’s event, to be held at the newly constructed Montego Bay Convention Centre from Jan. 16 – 18.

The opening night’s entertainment on Sunday, Jan. 16, is expected to showcase the island’s musical genius from east to west and will feature the likes of Montego Bay based female vocalist Karen Smith, as well as the DePass Jazz Trio, comprising Kingsley DePass (violin), Stephen DePass (electric bass) and Jermaine Webb (keyboards).

The lineup will also include the Jolly Boys, a mento band from Port Antonio, which has been attracting worldwide attention since their reemergence on the musical scene. Their new album “Great Expectation” is due to be released in April. The Jamaica Military Band will round out the opening night entertainment package on Sunday.

Jamaica

Police in Jamaica say a motorist lost control of his car and crashed into a house where a wake was being held, killing four people and injuring three.

Police Cpl. Natalie Lawrence says the driver of a Toyota Caldina swerved off the busy Bustamante Highway in Clarendon parish in southern Jamaica and slammed into a home where dozens of mourners were gathered before dawn Sunday.

Lawrence says the three injured are being treated at a hospital, including the driver. She says the driver is under police guard as authorities investigate the crash.

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