As the United States shifts the majority of its naval and air force assets to the Pacific and after President Obama signaled his primary interest in the Pacific region by his overwhelming support for the Asia-Pacific free trade Trans-Pacific Partnership zone, the nations and territories of the Caribbean are feeling abandoned and neglected.
The Caribbean states, witnessing the economic prowess of Brazil and the nationalistic fervor of Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua, see a chance to break free from decades of domination by the United States and European colonial powers intent on keeping their toeholds in the Caribbean region. Furthermore, the Caribbean states recognize the 33-member Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an important counterweight to the long-U.S. dominated Organization of American States (OAS), headquartered across the street from the White House in Washington, DC.
The OAS, created in 1948, is seen by many Western Hemisphere nations as a throwback to the days of the Cold War when Washington attempted to counter Soviet influence in the Western Hemisphere. In fact, there are calls by some nations of Latin America and the Caribbean to abandon the OAS in favor of CELAC. In a show of independence from Washington and the NATO Caribbean colonial powers of Netherlands, France, and Great Britain (and Denmark, if one considers Greenland to be part of the Western Hemisphere), the United States, Canada and the NATO four were not invited to join CELAC.
Although the nation states of the Caribbean have been dependent on American, Canadian, and European vacation-goers to keep their economies afloat, they are increasingly tired of political and economic dictates from Washington, especially the unfair trade practices of the United States that limit by high tariffs agricultural exports of commodities like sugar, rum, citrus fruit, and bananas to the United States.
Unlike the OAS, CELAC includes Cuba – long ostracized from the OAS by the United States – as a full member. Twelve English-speaking Caribbean nations are also members of CELAC, in addition to one Dutch-speaking nation, Suriname. In February 2010, on the occasion of the formation of CELAC, Bolivian President Evo Morales told Telesur TV about his views of America’s long-dominant role in Western Hemisphere affairs and the need for CELAC: “Where there are U.S. military bases that do not respect democracy, where there is a political empire with its blackmailers, with its constraints, there is no development for that country . . . it is the best time for prime ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean to gestate this great new organization without the United States to free our peoples in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Undeterred by the pomp and circumstance associated with Queen Elizabeth II’s “Diamond Jubilee” celebrating 60 years on the British throne, Jamaica, which has been governed by a Governor-General appointed by the Queen since independence in 1962, has decided to scrap its royal vestiges in favor of a republic. Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller is preparing to transform Jamaica into a republic to “complete the circle of independence.” Britain is clearly worried that Jamaica’s move may be followed by other Caribbean states where the Queen continues to rule through Governors-General, particularly those nations, including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which joined the Bolivarian Alliance for the People’s of Our America (ALBA), a nationalistic bloc. ALBA was largely the brainchild of Venezuela’s President, Hugo Chavez, to counter American dominance of Latin America’s and the Caribbean’s economic and political affairs.
To show their independence from Washington, which exercises military domination over Latin America and the Caribbean through the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), based in Miami, four ALBA members – Venezuela, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Bolivia – withdrew from on June 5 from the Cold War relic, the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (known as the Rio Pact) formed in 1947, a year before the creation of the OAS. Mexico withdrew from the Rio Pact in 2002 over its opposition to the U.S. war against Iraq. No Caribbean state, except for Trinidad and Tobago and the Bahamas, joined the Rio Pact after they gained independence.
The four ALBA nations plus Cuba now find themselves the target of destabilization efforts funded by the CIA-connected U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is funding opposition parties in all five nations. Haiti has tweaked Washington’s nose by announcing that it will join ALBA in August.
The European colonial powers are attempting to ensure the continuation of their colonial holdings in the Caribbean by resorting to either increasing their domination over “self-governing” territories or formulating new colonial arrangements between the mother countries and various island dependencies in the Caribbean.
For its part, Great Britain has abolished the elected government of the Turks and Caicos Islands and instituted direct rule from London. This decision was against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of the inhabitants of the island chain located south of the Bahamas. Anguilla’s Chief Minister Hubert Hughes has called for full constitutional independence for his island, a stance that has met with opposition from the bourgeois Tory-Liberal Democratic coalition government in London.
The abolition in 2010 of the five-island Netherlands Antilles by the Dutch government has led to faux-self government arrangements whereby Saint Maarten and Curacao have joined Aruba as autonomous “nations” within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The other three former Antilles islands of Saba, Saint Eustatius, and Saba are now considered “municipalities” of the Netherlands, with less self-government than they possessed while members of the Netherlands Antilles. London and Amsterdam are clearly trying to impose neo-colonialism on their Caribbean colonies through the use of dubious contrivances. France, on the other hand, has skirted the issue of colonialism in the Caribbean by making its three territories – Guadeloupe, Martinique, and Guiana – full-fledged overseas departments of the French Republic. However, anti-Paris workers’ strikes and riots during 2009 in all three territories showed that the neo-colonial situation experienced by their populations is far from popular.
The United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands have attempted to gut the power of the UN Decolonization Committee to bring about concrete steps toward independence and self-determination for the U.S. Virgin Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Cayman Islands, Bermuda, the former Netherlands Antilles, and more egregiously, for the re-colonized Turks and Caicos and Anguilla. Due to clever tricks that saw colonial powers re-identify colonies as special entities, Puerto Rico, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guiana, and the Dutch-controlled islands were dropped from the UN decolonization list.
What the United States and its allies, particularly Israel, are opposed to are the independence of any more Caribbean states, either from colonial status or as the result of a split of current independent states that would enlarge the Caribbean voting bloc in the United Nations and potentially provide more members for CELAC and ALBA. The U.S. State Department and the CIA have worked behind the scenes to tamp down the independence prospects for the British and Dutch colonies and attempts to bring about independence for Nevis, Tobago, and Barbuda from St. Kitts, Trinidad, and Antigua, respectively. In 2011, as nation after nation recognized Palestine’s independence and supported its bid for UN membership, Israeli and American officials traveled throughout the Caribbean seeking to derail Palestinian lobbying efforts. The last thing Washington and Tel Aviv want to see is the potential for 14 new small states added to the Caribbean’s already-sizeable voting bloc in the UN and its specialized agencies.
But Washington’s orientation toward the Asia-Pacific region may give the Caribbean the breathing space to align itself more closely with CELAC and ALBA. That means that while tourists will continue to frolic on the beaches and in the resort hotels of the Caribbean, the foreign and economic policies of the government’s of Caribbean nations will no longer be as subservient as the bartenders and maids that cater to the whims of Western holiday makers.