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U.S. Congress lays out initiative fostering more diplomacy with the Caribbean

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Since becoming a law late last year, the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (H.R. 4939) — a bill passed by congress to increase U.S. diplomacy efforts with the Caribbean and their leaders — recently publicized their initiative. As a mandate of the bill, officials with the State Department produced a multi-year strategy laying out a plan to increase engagement, safety, and the livelihood between the governments. The effort to reach the action plan was in collaboration with several groups, said the director of Caribbean Affairs at the State Department.

“We consulted a number people from the Diaspora and in the process of developing that strategy, we engaged with the Diaspora to seek their advice on policy,” said Brad Freden.

Officials met with groups such as the CARICOM caucus and co-sponsors of the bill, as well as other Caribbean-centric groups and organizations based in the islands or in the United States to devise the act. The key points of the bill include six elements: diplomacy, education, energy, health, prosperity, and security.

And many of these points will be towards increasing economic cooperation, particularly in the private sector, investment and trade, counterterrorism, dealing with other violent acts, and energy and diversification, according to Freden.

He said that the efforts to carry out this law will be a continued joint effort between the U.S. and Caribbean governments.

Trinidad and Tobago is especially an area of concern in regards to security recently, due to nationals leaving to join terrorist militant group, ISIS.

“Somewhere around 100 people from Trinidad and Tobago went to Syria to join ISIS, and that doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s the biggest number in the western hemisphere,” said Freden. “The government of Trinidad and Tobago takes this very seriously and we will work with them to provide assistance to countering violence, and reaching out to Muslim community there to ensure that they feel included in society to ensure that they don’t become radicalized.”

But most of the countries in the Caribbean are prioritized and will seek to benefit from the law as it pertains to their criminal justice systems and national security, added Freden.

People of Caribbean background currently living stateside can also stand to benefit from the law, as it pertains to the safety of their home countries. Freden says introductory initiative will build a long-standing cooperative relationship

“This is the very fist strategy of its kind to come out under this government and it is a big benefit because it is getting attention to focus in the Caribbean and we need more people to pay attention because these are our neighbors and our friends, and we share common history with our cultures,” said Freden. “The law and subsequent strategies are designed to raise the profile of region to ensure the United States remains in engagement with partners in the region.”

The Department of State is moving to continue its relationships with Caribbean-Americans as a go-to source for future initiatives.

“We have been able to expand stakeholders who care about the Caribbean in private sector and NGO’s, so I think it’s and opportune moment and a nice coincidence that it was released during Caribbean American Heritage Month, and shows that the U.S. really cares about the Caribbean and rely on the Diaspora for help in wiring the report.”

Reach reporter Alexandra Simon at (718) 260–8310 or e-mail her at asimon@cnglocal.com.
Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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