Letters & Opinion

US counting on CARICOM playing the numbers game The American Way!

Will CARICOM Unity Survive Jamaica? – Part 6

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

‘Caribbean Unity’ and ‘CARICOM Unity’ ring very much alike, but are different tones, more like fractions with a common denominator. Same with ‘Regional Integration’ — making all three historically abused phrases that mean different things to different people.

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has an impressive record of achievements in its 46 years, but after four-and-a-half decades as well, too many of its citizens still don’t understand its workings and how it benefits them directly.

Take, for example, defining the number of territories in CARICOM and in The Caribbean — which can range from over a dozen to hundreds, depending on who is asking and asked.

Then there’s average lack of knowledge or certainty among too many citizens about the number of countries or islands in each regional sub-grouping, the number of islands in The Bahamas, where Belize and Guyana are located, what countries have indigenous populations, what’s the CARICOM relationship with Haiti, where is Hispaniola and which island unites two Caribbean nations.

When it comes to regional and international fora where bloc voting really matters, CARICOM is extended to The Caribbean by including the Dominican Republic and others.

Caribbean diplomats – like their fellow Excellencies everywhere – must know well enough the protocols of The Numbers Game, as this writer was duly indirectly reminded with a slight elbow jab from fellow Caribbean scribe re my last article (Part 4 of this series) entitled ‘Between the Bridgetown Summit and the Washington OAS vote’.

I had noted therein that after President Trump’s private Mar-a-Lago, Florida summit last year with five Caribbean leaders (Presidents of Dominican Republic and Haiti and Prime Ministers of Bahamas, Jamaica and Saint Lucia) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s parley in Jamaica last month with representatives of six, the US is now talking open secrets with seven Caribbean governments — meaning the six that met Pompeo (Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia), plus the Dominican Republic.

I erroneously overstated by one (as accused by my fellow chronicler) the number of CARICOM nations Pompeo met.

But my confession and guilty plea here won’t erase the fact that (at least) seven selected Caribbean countries (six from CARICOM) are sharing deep secrets with Washington that they’re also keeping away from other member-states apparently on Washington’s bad book.

Caribbean diplomats know (from the region’s experience) that Washington does not distinguish between ‘CARICOM’ or ‘Caribbean’ when it comes to gathering votes for its causes.

Equally, on the world stage America has no friends, only interests.

An immediate American interest today is keeping Washington’s man in charge at the Organization of American States (OAS), never mind what.

To achieve that ultimate goal, it’s confidently counting on at least six CARICOM nations to vote against the candidate nominated by two CARICOM countries, Ecuadorean Maria Espinosa – an experienced diplomat and former President of the UN General Assembly — and instead vote for the US-backed candidate, current Secretary General Luis Almagro.

By any simple arithmetic or mathematical calculation, the only sum total that matters to America is the final number of votes it gets for its man – which is why it’s again playing the age-old numbers game, yet again through the ever-dependable application of fractions and long-division.

Check the figures:

Out of 14, only three CARICOM nations (Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Surinam) voted for Venezuela at the OAS when votes mattered most in 2019.

Of the remaining 11, six are now in open secret talks with Washington, including those that voted at the OAS to support US positions on Venezuela after Mar-a-Lago.

With the three Caribbean objectors off Washington’s invitee list, the focus now moves to the other five CARICOM states not invited to Florida or Jamaica: Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago.

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, as CARICOM Chair, in January chided the American efforts to further divide CARICOM under her watch.

CARICOM will revisit its position on Venezuela when parties to the Montevideo Mechanism meet in Mexico in mid-March, ahead of the OAS vote days later.

But as history has taught many times over that it’s not what national say collectively that most matters, but what they do individually to implement agreements at home.

The member-states sharing secrets with the US don’t hesitate to put nationalism above regionalism.

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) was agreed by all, but most still haven’t signed-up in their national parliaments.

The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) is another joint project that still features major in-built differences between smaller and larger economies.

Jamaica is seen as having been chosen to lead Washington’s ploy for breaking regional ranks and Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ reasons offered for absenting himself from the Barbados summit have been accepted by most analysts with a pound of Caribbean Sea salt.

There are reasons why CARICOM nations haven’t come out in united support for Mrs Espinosa, even though she can easily win if all 14 were to vote for her.

It is also for that same big reason there’s growing concern that even if CARICOM reaffirms its collective opposition to external intervention in Venezuela in Mexico, member-states sharing secrets with Washington can be expected to break ranks.

With 34 members comprising the OAS, CARICOM’s 14 votes have been calling the shots of late, as in cases related to Almagro’s efforts at forceful imposition of external intervention ahead of the December 2019 general elections in Dominica and OAS criticism of Bolivia’s treatment of the indigenous majority since the US-backed coup against President Evo Morales.

Washington is going all out to show CARICOM it still holds the trump cards at the OAS and doesn’t care what countries it gets its Caribbean votes for Almagro and against Venezuela from — just as long as America gets what America wants.

And that’s always Uncle Sam’s bottom line!

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