Caribbean RoundUp

2014_06_13_Azad_CaribbeanRoundup

Caribbean

Three groups of migrants from Haiti and Cuba were abandoned by smugglers recently on two barren islands off Puerto Rico.

The migrants, 42 Haitians and five Cubans, were left on rugged Mona and Monita islands by smugglers transporting them from the Dominican Republic, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol spokesman Jeffrey Quionnes said.

In one of the incidents on May 22, a group of 20 Haitians including one child were found clinging to a rock off Mona Island after the smugglers forced them to jump into the water.

Separately, the Royal Bahamas Defense Force reported it had detained 76 Haitian migrants recently in an overloaded vessel passing through the Exuma chain.

The migrants were taken to Nassau, where they were to be processed before being sent back to their country, the military said.

Barbados

Barbados Prime Minister Frenduel Stuart has likened to trash, Moody’s recent lowering of the island’s credit rating because the island administration will not engage in uncontrolled borrowing from the international market.

Against the backdrop of the recent downgrade from Ba3 to B3, Stuart said, “what they say is only relevant if we want to embark on an orgy of foreign borrowing in which people should know how much we should have to borrow, how much our money should cost.”

“But if we are not intending in the short or medium term to go to the capital markets to borrow money, what they say has much value as what you would see in any garbage dump collected by the Sanitation Services Authority (the island’s trash collection agency),’ he said. Stuart’s statement contrasts with actions of his government that currently has an amendment bill before parliament seeking to raise his administration’s borrowing limit from Bds $1.5 billion to $2.5 billion.

That amendment is expected to be debated in parliament next week, but the Moody’s downgrade was announced before the meeting of the House and there was no discussion on the bill.

There is speculation that the downgrade announcement would upset the administration’s plans for the additional one billion dollars extra it was seeking to acquire for borrowing through the bill.

The government has also indicated that it has no intention of devaluing the local currency in the wake of the US-based rating agency’s report.

Bermuda

Bermuda is moving to have Members of Parliament and Senators tested for drugs, with repeat offenders facing suspension and public disclosure.

If the move is backed by Parliamentarians at least 15 legislators will be tested every four months.

A joint select committee report said a random method of testing should be used to ensure “fairness and impartiality” and that the new rules should be included either in the rules for the House and the Senate or thorough legislation.

The committee also recommended that hair testing for drugs should be used as it is “least invasive” test available, and also impossible to cheat because hair specimens cannot be adulterated or substituted.

MPs will also be informed as to how the random testing program will be conducted.

The two-tier system of sanctions one for marijuana and the other for harder drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

Haiti

The United States says it has provided more than US$4 billion to Haiti since the devastating earthquake in 2010.

Washington said the assistance had gone to “support life-saving post-disaster relief as well as longer-term recovery, reconstruction and development programs” and that as the French-speaking Caribbean country approaches the five-year mark since the earthquake killed an estimated 300,000 people and devastated much of the economy.

“It has successfully transitioned from a post-disaster era to a period of building and long-term development,” Washington said.

It said Haiti remains “a U.S. policy priority” and that assistance for long-term development and institution building is another pillar of U.S./Haiti bilateral co-operation.”

The State Department said that the priority areas include support for economic growth and poverty reduction, improved healthcare and food security, promoting respect for human rights and expanding the Haitian National Police so that Haiti can better provide for its own security and be an effective partner against international crime.

Jamaica

Six Jamaican men have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the island’s lucrative lottery scam rings, police said.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force said in a statement that the three suspects were arrested after authorities questioned a U.S. citizen who was allegedly lured to the island by the scammers.

A subsequent sting operation resulted in the arrests in the northern parish of Trelawny.

The three other suspects were arrested at a Kingston airport after another American victim was caught transporting cash by customs agents at the Donald Sangster International Airport in the tourist town of Montego Bay.

The scam often begins with a phone call that informs targets they have won an international lottery, but they first need to wire money to cover taxes. Victims who fall for the trick then get harassed for more payments.

St. Lucia

St. Lucia and Martinique have signed an agreement on bilateral cooperation.

The pact was recently signed on the occasion of St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony’s official visit to Martinique.

The agreement covered six major themes, including arts, with particular attention to co-production of films; trade, with a planned technical support program; tourism development; green energy, health cooperation and climate change.

Martinique Regional Council President Serge Letchimy has been working to deepen Martinique’s cooperation with its regional neighbors of late, highlighted by a visit to the CARICOM Heads of Government summit in St. Vincent earlier this year.

That was the first time a Martinique regional council president had ever attended the summit.

St. Vincent

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said that the proposed changes to the Passport Act to be bought to parliament next week will not protect persons who illegally issued travel documents.

The opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) had objected to the proposed changes, saying they “appear to remove the possibility of bringing legal action against corrupt and unscrupulous passport officers who may have misconducted themselves over the past five years.”

But Gonsalves said this was not the case, adding, “the objects and reasons of this bill (are) to amend certain provisions of the existing law to effect better administration of the issuance of passports and to validate certain passport fees.”

Speaking on radio recently, Gonsalves explained that while Cabinet on Feb. 26 approved fees for the e-passport and those charges and legal came into effect on March 3, the legal provisions were not put in place.

“As happens from time to time, the new fees were not published or gazette, so you had to validate them, said Gonsalves, who was ministerial responsibilities fir passports and legal affairs.

Suriname

Suriname has recorded its first case of the mosquito-transmitted chikungunya virus, blaming a visitor from St. Maarten for introducing the virus in the Dutch country.

Several Caribbean countries have reported cases of chikungunya, a viral disease, carried mainly by the aedes aegypti mosquito that causes a dengue-line sickness.

Symptoms include a sudden high fever, severe pain in the wrists, ankles, muscle pains, headache, nausea and rash. Joint pains are more common with chikungunya than with dengue.

The Trinidad-based Caribbean Public Health Agency said it is working closely with the regional countries after the region recorded its first case of the disease in December last year.

The Bureau for Public Health said that a 45-year-old Paramaribo-based man was found with the symptoms of the illness upon his return from St Maarten.

Trinidad

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) is investigating 19 of the police 26 killings so far for this year- the other seven does not fall under the remit of the Authority.

PCA Chairman Gillian Lucky said the refusal of police to comply with the Authority’s directives to help in unraveling suspected cases of fatal police shootings has led to a breakdown in law and order within the rank and file of the Police Service.

She made the statement during a press conference saying that there has been a 100 percent increase in police killings from the year 2011 to 2014.

“Clearly this is a flagrant violation by certain police officers to ensure compliance with timelines and to ensure thoroughness and fairness in investigations,” she said.

She also expressed concern that the detection rate for murders was nine percent, saying this was the situation some 10 years ago. The murder rate for 2014 up to June 12 was 194.

There have been 26 police killings for the year. The highest number of killings took place in the Northern Division, eight, and in Central Division, six. The other 12 were in various parts of the country.

Lucky said the PCA insists on timely, thorough and transparent investigations by the Police Service. Unfortunately, she said, these have not been met by the Police Service in several instances.

The PCA chairman said the acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams recently announced that body cameras for police would be introduced by September this year.

Compiled by Azad Ali

More from Around NYC

>