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Antigua

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA will buy a 25 percent stake in Antigua and Barbuda West Indies Oil Company as the first of many “joint investments” between both countries.

Venezuela President Nicholas Maduro says Caracas will also establish a regional bank with the twin-island nation to fund several projects, including a Simon Bolivar Resort Hotel.

Funds for those ventures will come from the PetroCaribe program. Maduro recently announced those plans in Antigua during a stop on one if Caribbean tour that also included Suriname, St Lucia and Grenada.

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said that he and Maduro “agreed to work in various areas of cooperation”.

Bahamas

Murders in the Bahamas increased 31.5 percent between January and Oct. 17, 2015, compared to the same period in 2014.

There were 92 murders recorded during this period last year compared to the 212 murders recorded this year. The murder count does not include several matters that are yet to be classified.

Dominica

Dominica is now open for business and is ready to welcome visitors to its shore.

This is according to Tourism Minister and Urban Renewal Robert Tonge when he provided an update on the tourism sector, following the devastation caused by Tropical Storm Erika in August.

Air access to the island has resumed with LIAT, Seaborne and WINAIR offering daily flights between Dominica, from Antigua, Barbados, San Juan, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten, and St. Thomas. Flights are operating from the main airport, Douglas Charles Airport, and the smaller Canefield Airport.

The minister said road access has been greatly improved with the installation of three Bailey bridges along the west coast. Most roads are passable and access to the main sites and attractions is fairly simple.

More than 80 percent of the island’s accommodation, including boutique hotels, intimate guest houses and quaint inns, are open to guests.

Grenada

The Venezuelan government has pledged US$250,000 for the establishment of a new eye clinic at the general hospital.

This was announced by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell following a recent visit by Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. Dr. Mitchell said that Venezuela is to contribute millions to at least three social projects on the island. He said the two countries have once again reaffirmed their commitment to helping, “us fulfill our promise of providing laptops and tablets to our students across the length and breadth of our tri-island state.”

“This will go a long way in enhancing the competitiveness of our students on the global scale,” Mitchell said.

Maduro in his speech called for the integration of the Caribbean and Latin America to create an economic bloc.

In his response, Dr. Mitchell thanked the South American nation for its consistent support in many areas saying that the government and people of Grenada are dedicated to helping Venezuela in whatever way the island can contribute in the fulfilment of its own developmental and political needs.

Guyana

The Guyana government is moving to ban Styrofoam, popularly used in the food service industry, from next year.

In its thrust to promote a green economy and environment, government plans to ban the importation and use of closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam from Jan. 1, 2016.

The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment has begun implementing a series of measures to address waste management and to promote the utilization of biodegradable materials.

The proposed Expanded Polystyrene Ban regulation is being finalized before the effective date to ensure the ban is legally reinforced. Guyana will become one of the few countries in the world to ban the product.

In Guyana, polystyrene foam contributes two to five percent of the waste stream.

Jamaica

Jamaica recently opened a state-of-the art J$2.3 billion hospital in Rosehall, St. James, which is largely driven by tourism interests.

Minister of Tourism and Entertainment, Dr. Wykeham McNeil said the new hospital is tangible proof that Jamaica is moving ahead in health tourism. Speaking at the opening ceremony Dr. McNeil said; “The more the investment in Jamaica and the more hotel rooms there are, it’s good for the (owners of the hospital). Right now in Jamaica, we are going through possibly, the most active period of investment in the tourism sector that we ever had.”

The new hospital was established by the Hospiten Group, which is based in Spain.

“I want to welcome this investment by the Hospiten Group in Jamaica. I am really proud of their work as seen in this first of its kind in the English speaking Caribbean,” the minister said.

The first-world facility, which is the only private Jamaican hospital with an intensive care unit (ICU) outside of Kingston, employs 300 people.

The hospital has 22 in-patient beds, two operating rooms, one delivery room and eight out-patients rooms.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris is alleging corruption of EC$11 million loan scheme implemented by the former government to assist entrepreneurs.

Harris, who is also finance minister, said the monies for the Sugar Diversification Foundation-funded program Small Enterprise Assistance Fund (SEAF), had been “squandered” by the Denzil Douglas-led administration.

He told a press conference that the program administered by former Ambassador Roslyn Hazel, was allegedly used to “gift” large sums to the Labor Party candidates, their families and friends and to buy votes ahead of the general election.

PM Harris said that no serious efforts were made to hold beneficiaries accountable for repayments, however the new government intended to recover monies from delinquent borrowers of the program.

“Only 75 of the 300 loan recipients had made any form of repayment, totaling $171,000 out of $11 million disbursed,” Dr. Harris said.

He also expressed concerns that persons administering the program who were already on the government’s payroll were being paid hefty sums for this role. He pointed to one ambassador being paid $50,000 and another $76,000.

The prime minister was adamant that the monies would be recouped so that genuine would-be entrepreneurs can benefit.

Suriname

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has called on all Caribbean countries to follow in Suriname’s footsteps and take the death penalty off the statue books.

The call came in an IACHR statement to mark 2015 World Day Against the Death Penalty recently.

After voting last December in favor of a resolution in the United Nations General Assembly on a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, Suriname’s Parliament approved the abolition under a new Criminal Code in March this year.

“Suriname’s decision marks a very important step forward — one the IACHR applauds and hopes will become an example for the countries in the region that will have capital punishment,” said the Organization of American States’ human rights body.

“The commission notes that the elimination of the death penalty in Suriname’s Criminal Code represents an opportunity for the Caribbean countries to make significant progress in guaranteeing human rights in the region,” it said.

The IACHR also stressed the need for countries that still allow for capital punishment in their legislation to move forward toward the goal of abolishing the death penalty throughout the region or at least imposing a moratorium on its application.

It further invited states that have not yet done so, to ratify the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the Death Penalty.

Trinidad

The double-murder of a 72-year-old British-born attorney Richard Wheeler and his Trinidad-born wife Grace who were hacked to death has sent shocked waves in the sister isle, Tobago on Tuesday night.

Wheeler has been living on the island for the past 16 years and his wife, 63, a real estate agent, were discover with her throat slit, while her husband was chopped to death at their home in Riseland Gardens by a yard attendant around 11 am.

Police officers who were at the scene described the act as “gruesome and very bloody.”

Investigators believe the motive was robbery as the house was ransacked.

Since 2008 there have been seven other cases of expatriates being murdered in Tobago.

The United Kingdom has issued an update in its travel advisory saying that “most visits to Tobago are trouble free but tourists (including British nationals) have been robbed. The inability of the authorities to catch and prosecute offenders remains a concern.”

He said law enforcement support from the UK had not yet been sent to assist local police but emphasized the UK was willing to lend support.

— compiled by Azad Ali

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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