Caribbean RoundUp

Bahamas

Cuban-American protest group Democracy Movement will submit a report to the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on alleged abuse of Cuban detainees at the Carmichael Road Detention Centre, spokesman Ramon Sanchez said recently.

The move is another measure the group is taking as it continues to push for the Bahamian government to start its formal investigation into the abuse claims and release a report on this probe to the public.

Sanchez said Democracy Movement will also meet with lawyers this week to see what avenues the group has to compel alleged abusers to face the allegations in the international community. Sanchez said the group’s complaint to the OAS will outline allegations of abuse and decry the practice of holding children at the detention center. He said his group also worries that a government investigation into the abuse claims will not be through because alleged witnesses have been repatriated to Cuba.

Sanchez said the government “has dragged its feet” for too long and pledged that his group will not relent until the government releases the results of its investigation. The group has staged multiple protests against The Bahamas in the wake of the allegations.

According to one of the marines interviewed as part of the initial investigation by the defense force, Cuban detainees were severely beaten at the center for almost two hours after they attempted to escape on May 20, and one even appeared to have temporarily lost consciousness as a result of the abuse.

Barbados

Government may be able to achieve the Public Service cuts it needs without job losses.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart recently said that this was the indication filtering through from an ongoing analysis he had ordered on the effects of expenditure cuts announced in last month’s Budget to bring down an unsustainable deficit.

“I said that research should be done in the month of September and that by the end of September it should be with the Head of the Civil Service for discussion with me so that we can see what the overall impact of the budgetary measures would be on the Public Service and to try to see therefore how best we can achieve the cuts we want without having to cause disruption in the households of Barbados.

“Fortunately, I have been getting little driblets of information from ministries and ministers as they have conducted that kind of research and a lot of them are realizing that the truth is that we can get the cuts we want without having necessarily to affect employment in the Public Service.

Guyana

Fly Jamaica has been granted flag-carrier status by the Guyana government. Fly Jamaica intends to survive competition by using tourism-related events to maintain a constant passenger load, according to its Public Relations Manager, Roxanne Reece.

At a press conference held recently the company’s office at the Wings Aviation Airdrome at Ogle International Airport, East Coast Demerara, the PRO said, “We are not just sitting and waiting on passengers to come to us. We are coming out there and we are offering you different events in our four destinations.”

Her assurance comes against the background of numerous carriers in the past going belly-up because of price gouging by competitors and fewer passengers travelling during low seasons, coupled with high operational costs.

Reece said Fly Jamaica would be offering cooking tours, sports, concerts and other tours in Guyana, Jamaica, New York and Toronto. “It’s not just selling seats: We are selling tourism; it’s a trade-off,” she told a news conference.

She said the airline is still awaiting from the United States Department of Transportation a response to its application for a waiver to fly direct from Georgetown to New York, rather than transit Jamaica for 90 minutes.

The Fly Jamaica executive called for a more robust system and better paid persons to avoid being lured by quick cash.

Reece said the airline would like to see a secure system that is more efficient and more reliable, but it is all based on the salaries people are paid and the level of people being employed.

Fly Jamaica has so far employed 40 Guyanese, including two pilots. The airline plans to buy an additional aircraft to serve more long-haul routes like Fort Lauderdale and Brazil next year, and partner with smaller carriers like LIAT.

Haiti

Diplomats from more than a dozen countries gathered in Haiti recently to work on the creation of a new economic bloc based on the Venezuelan-led PetroCaribe accord.

Leaders of the 18-nation group agreed in June to establish the trade group and details of how it would work remain sketchy, but Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega has said it would “go beyond the false concepts of free trade” to stimulate exchanges in transport, communications, tourism and trade.

The late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez oversaw the creation of PetroCaribe in 2005 with the aim of countering U.S. influence and unifying the regional oil industry with Venezuela at the helm. It provides hundreds of millions of dollars each year in deeply discounted oil to its 18 members in the Caribbean and Central America.

Jamaica

Politicians, lawyers and academics gathered recently in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to advance an effort by more than a dozen regional nations to seek slavery reparations from three European countries that benefited from the Atlantic slave trade.

The three-day conference is the first major step forward since the CARICOM announced in July that it intended to demand compensation for slavery and the genocide of native peoples from the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands.

Representatives from all the member nations and territories of CARICOM are attending the gathering. St. Vincent Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, who is leading the effort trying to force the region’s former colonial powers to pay reparations, said the matter is a “fundamental, defining matter of our age.”

“The European nations, which engaged in conquest, settlement, genocide in conquest, settlement, genocide and slavery in our Caribbean must provide the reparatory resources required to repair the contemporary legacy of their historic wrongs,” said Gonsalves, who takes over the rotating leadership of CARICOM at the start of 2014.

Gonsalves and other Caribbean officials say coming up with a financial estimate for reparations is critical for coming to terms for what they believe is the lingering legacy of slavery in the region. Historians and economists will assist in the process.

St. Lucia

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Trinidad and Tobago and St Lucia was recently signed by respective Ministers of Education for the delivery of 3,300 laptops to St Lucia, courtesy Trinidad and Tobago.

Education Minister, Dr. Tim Gopeesingh noted that the MOU was the culmination of the work done when St Lucia Prime Minister, Dr Kenny Anthony, requested collaboration with T&T Prime Minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, on the administration of laptops.

Speaking recently at Capital Plaza Hotel, Wrightson Rd, Port-of-Spain, Gopeesingh noted that the laptops would be sent to St Lucia this month, and then distributed to Form Four students. The laptops include bags, 18 Microsoft applications and the anti-theft software.

Gopeesingh explained that, when the Government ordered laptops for this year’s Form One students, they also ordered an extra 3,300 for St Lucia at TT$2,700 per unit, a reduction of $400 from last year.

The St. Lucia Ministry of Education would also receive technical support, advice and expertise from its local counterpart. In fact, a team from St. Lucia has already visited TT and worked with the local technical team.

Dr. Robert Lewis, St. Lucia’s Minister of Education, Human Resource Development and Labor, stated that his government would distribute the laptops to Form Four students because it is believed that they would be most in need as they would soon write their Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination.

He said his government saw the distribution as beneficial, not only for the students, but it would also expose the families of the students to Information and Communications Technology (ICT).

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said recently the removal of the Caribbean Airlines fuel subsidy was a welcome move since it leveled the playing field for competing airlines in the region.

Gonsalves spoke at the recent 27th meeting of the Bureau of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) at the Noor Hassanali Conference Centre, Tower D, International Waterfront Centre, Wrightson Road, Port of Spain.

He also said the injection of the $400 million in equity to capitalize the airline—announced recently by Finance Minister Larry Howai in the 2013-2014 budget—will not be a prohibitive subsidy under the Multi-Lateral Air Service Agreement or under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

“I have been lobbying for it for quite a while. I am very pleased the Government has removed the fuel subsidy. There will always be a temptation if you have an airline. You own it and if it runs into difficulty (the challenge) is to provide it with prohibitive subsidies. And if that happens, you can rest assured that competitor airline (LIAT) would look at it and make our voices heard.”

During the budget presentation, Minister Howai said the sum ($400 million) was intended to facilitate the airline’s restructuring process and promote financial viability.

Trinidad

An alleged co-conspirator of the son of Suriname’s President, who has appeared on cocaine smuggling charges in the US, has been arrested in Trinidad and will be sent to New York to face prosecution, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan recently confirmed.

Edmund Quincy Muntslag, who along with Dino Bouterse (son of Suriname President Desi Bouterse) was named in an indictment in a federal court in the Southern District of New York, is wanted in the US on drug trafficking charges, Muntslag was arrested in Trinidad recently, while Bouterse was arrested in Panama, recently.

According to the indictment, Muntslag travelled to Suriname on July 25 to arrange the transport of ten kilos of cocaine to the US.

On July 27, the indictment alleges, Bouterse “caused a suitcase containing ten kilos of cocaine to be transported from Suriname to the Caribbean on board a commercial flight.”

Muntslag was arrested in Trinidad and charged with drug trafficking, according to a statement from the US Attorney’s Office.

Trinidad

JetBlue Airways will begin once daily non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport from May 1, 2014.

A press release from the airline also stated that twice-daily non-stop service to POS from New York’s JFK International Airport will start on Feb. 24, 2014. These flights are subject to receipt of government operating authority.

“We are dedicated to growing in South Florida and expanding our network to the Caribbean and Latin America,” said Scott Laurence, vice president of network planning for JetBlue Airways.

“We combine low fares with the best customer experience in the skies. Customers visiting the beautiful island of Trinidad and Tobago have dealt with high fares, cramped seating and limited choices for too long.”

Tourism Minister Chandresh Sharma said: “We look forward to welcoming JetBlue and its award winning service to Trinidad and Tobago. JetBlue’s service to Port-of-Spain from New York and Fort Lauderdale will offer a high quality experience for business and leisure travelers alike. This is in keeping with governments’ vision to grow the tourism sector.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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