Caribbean RoundUp

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders assumes office as chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Associated Press / John Stillwell, pool

Caribbean

United States health officials are considering a travel warning about the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly across Latin America and the Caribbean.

Already two countries in the Caribbean — Haiti and Guyana — have confirmed that the mosquito-borne virus has reached their shores.

Guyana’s Health Minister Dr. George Norton made the disclosure recently in the National Assembly that tests carried out by the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) confirmed that a 27-year-old woman had contracted the virus.

The sample was sent to the Trinidad-based CARPHA on Jan. 4 and the confirmation came a week later.

Dr. Norton said his ministry has taken steps to prevent a major outbreak including fogging exercises, household inspections and educational initiatives.

Because the Aedes Aegypti mosquito that carries the virus is found throughout the region, PAHO had indicated that it is likely outbreaks will occur in other countries that have not yet reported any cases.

Antigua

Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador Sir Ronald Sanders recently assumed office as chairman of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS).

In a ceremony at the OSA headquarters in Washington DC, recently, Sanders was welcomed by Secretary General Luis Almargo Lemes and ambassadors from the 35-member states.

Sir Ronald will preside over the activities of the OAS until April this year, with a packed agenda that includes issues involving general elections in Haiti as well as issues in some member countries.

Under his leadership, the Permanent Council will also advance preparations for the General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the OAS. The General Assembly will be held in the Dominica Republic in June.

Sanders’ first act as chairman of the OAS Permanent Council was to receive the Bolivia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Juan Carlos Jejeda, to discuss climate change and initiatives that could be taken to ensure that decisions taken at the climate meeting in Paris last December actually deliver results.

He has been an advocate of the interest of small states in the global warning debate.

Bahamas

Bahamas National Security Minister Dr. Bernard Nottage recently met with United States officials at the FBI headquarters in Washington DC to discuss the crime problem in The Bahamas.

This was stated by Prime Minister Perry Christie who said he met with Commissioner of Police Ellison Greenslade earlier to finalize plans to implement the government’s new crime-fighting initiatives.

Christie told the media that Nottage and U.S. officials reviewed matters that could impact what the Bahamian government does in the fight against crime, particularly with gangs.

He was responding to questions surrounding crime and a U.S. Embassy advisory, which revealed that five U.S. citizens have allegedly been sexually assaulted by Jet Ski operators over the past 18 months.

In an advisory last week, the U.S. Embassy in Nassau warned American citizens not to patronize the water sports industry in The Bahamas after a Jet Ski operator allegedly raped an American tourist recently.

Cuba

More than 3.5 million tourists visited Cuba last year, according to a report released by Professor Jose Luis Perello.

In 2014, the Communist country passed the three million mark for the first time in its history. The 521,000 more tourists in 2015 represent a 17.3 percent increase compared to the previous period.

Canada remained the main source of visitors to Cuba, with 1.3 million Canadians traveling south, but the fastest growing market is the United States, with 161,000, for a 76.6 percent increase, following the easing of restrictions by the Obama administration.

Now the U.S. is the highest largest market, only trailing Canada and Germany, with the UK and France behind, two countries that experienced growth of 25.4 and 33.6 percent, respectively.

Guyana

A delegation of high-ranking officials from the United Arab Emirates, including Minister of State, Reem Al Hashimy were recently on a familiarization visit to Guyana in an effort to expand ties between the two countries “that are new to each other.”

It is the first meeting between the two countries in Georgetown and Al Hashimy’s first in the Western Hemisphere.

She met with Minister of Public Transportation and Infrastructure David Patterson and they held talks on energy matters, aviation and infrastructure sectors.

Al Hashimy said the UAE is willing to provide technical support to Guyana in the energy and aviation sectors.

The UAE minister paid a courtesy call on President David Granger, when discussions covered the vast opportunities with the renewable energy sector and strengthening bilateral ties between the two countries, according to the Guyana News Agency (GINA).

Al Hashimy urged Patterson to identify areas of needs in his ministry and provide that to her government.

She described the meeting with Granger as “exceptional” and said the UAE is looking forward to forging a strong relationship with Guyana.

Guyana is looking to open a trade mission in the UAE and to appoint an ambassador to that country. The UAE will soon move to appoint an ambassador to Guyana as well. The two countries recently concluded an open skies agreement.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Opposition Leader Arnhim Eustace says the documents destroyed in the recent fire at a government public works building were records of local residents who had received donations of the materials stored at the warehouse prior to the December 2015 general election.

Eustace rejected suggestions that his New Democratic Party (NDP) may have been involved in the fire that destroyed the facility and building materials.

He alleged that some of the material stored at the compound had been used by the government in the recent election campaign.

The opposition leader said more than $14 million worth of lumber and galvanize that were given out by the government during the elections would have been stored in that area.

Eustace said the government property was being used for political purposes.

It is alleged that the records held there may have been required as evidence in an upcoming court case brought by the opposition alleging election fraud.

St. Kitts

The St. Kitts and Nevis government has indicated an interest in making the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) its final court of appeal — replacing the decades-old British Privy Council.

CCJ president, Sir Dennis Byron, said that was the view he came away with following a recent courtesy call on Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris. Sir Dennis has been giving an update on the various efforts being undertaken by countries that have not yet made the CCJ their final court of appeal to do so.

He said Grenada has tabled legislation which led to a referendum taking place on April 25 and Antigua is in the process of taking the same step.

“With regard to the OECS (Organization of Eastern Caribbean States) countries, the governments of all made statements that indicate they’re moving toward taking that step,” Sir Dennis said.

The CCJ president also insisted that the CCJ is an international court and not a local one affecting the entire Caribbean. It has the same stature of the Privy Council. We assess appeals from court of appeals in the region and give our judgement in that capacity.

“Our function would be identical to what the Privy Council exercised,” he noted.

Turks and Caicos

The Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) government recently signed a new $28 million loan agreement with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) to complete repayment of the $170 million bond guaranteed by Britain.

The balance of the bond will be repaid from a sinking fund and other TCI government cash resources. The bond is due to be repaid on Feb. 22, 2016.

RBC provided the most competitive proposal following the government’s request for financing proposals in September 2015. The terms of the new loan are very attractive with interest at just 1.2 percent. It will be repaid in quarterly installments with the final payment due in 2019, although the government may also repay the loan early without penalty.

Governor Peter Beckingham welcomed the agreement with RBC saying: “The signature of this agreement is a milestone for TCI. Repayment of the $170 million bond will mark the end of the loan guarantee provided by the UK government when TCL’s finances were in bad shape.”

Trinidad

The deadly H1N1 (swine flu) virus has claimed the lives of seven people in Trinidad so far for this year.

There are 68 confirmed cases of the H1N1 virus, according to Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.

In a statement, the Ministry of Health expressed “sadness” about the deaths and reminded citizens about measures to adopt to decrease the chances of contracting it.

The ministry has embarked on a vaccination process for the elderly who are in the high-risk group and medical staff at the nation’s hospitals. The virus is spread by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which is also spreading the Zika virus which has reached the Caribbean.

Haiti, Suriname and Barbados have reported that the virus has reached their shores.

Jamaica’s Health Minister Horace Dalley is advising women to delay plans to become pregnant for the next six to 12 months due to the Zika virus.

Although the virus has not reached the island, the minister is warning people about Zika, which is spreading in the Americas and is suspected of causing more than 3,000 babies to be born with brain damage in Brazil.

— compiled by Azad Ali

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