Letters & Opinion

CARICOM and Haiti over Time and History!

Earl Bousquet
Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

The nations that form the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have demonstrated all manners of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ leadership in the wider Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) region that unites the two neighbouring regions in the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).

Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago together broke the US-imposed diplomatic blockade against Cuba in 1972 and CARICOM welcomed the Grenada Revolution in 1979, but the response was entirely different four-and-a-half years later when the arrest and death of Maurice Bishop and other government leaders led to the US-led invasion in 1983.

Two-decades-plus later, while Caribbean people welcomed the election of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in 1990, CARICOM dithered between silence and quietness after the Jesuit priest was kidnapped and exiled in 2004, returning home a decade later and winning another election, only to be forcefully removed from office again, by force of arms.

CARICOM has stood by Cuba and Venezuela all-along in stout opposition to US sanctions and in respect of and for their rights to decide their present and future, together with CELAC standing-up to the US at a Summit of the Americas in San Francisco against Washington’s decision, as host, not to invite Cuba and Venezuela.

As far as Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR) are concerned, it took 50 years for CARICOM to accept Haiti as a full member, while the DR still isn’t.

Each response, over time, to events of the time, will have been guided by the positions adopted by different CARICOM leaders at different times, thinking differently each time, but agreeing to take common positions, unlike other groupings that maintain deafening silence on issues within that affect the world outside.

Same with Haiti and Gaza today, where global solidarity matters absolutely, with the world’s eyes open largely on CARICOM and the Arab League.

CARICOM’s involvement in Haiti is a subject of much online discussion and debate, with social media topics ranging from ‘Where Haiti came from’ and ‘How it got here’ to ‘What for Haiti tomorrow’ – but not-at-all agreeing on what’s next for today.

From unapologetic overseas-based proponents of direct ‘multinational’ military support (however-named) to overwhelming support in Haiti for home-grown solutions, proponents and opponents have been differing and dithering on ‘What is to be done?’ and ‘Where to begin?’, which ‘plans’ will work, who will ‘lead’ – and who’ll simply follow.

CARICOM is playing a complicated leadership role in the long search for working solutions to the latest round of an age-old problem facing its newest member-state, also considering and being mindful of the intents of powerful nations involved, some largely-responsible for Haiti’s unending problems.

It also happens that unlike in the Arab world, no CARICOM nation can afford what it will take to pay for the necessary peace and development in Haiti today, so those paying the bills for the ‘multinational security’ element (now standing at some US $333 million) are calling the security shots, already established a training base in Jamaica for Caribbean police, army and coast guard personnel already identified for deployment from some CARICOM states.

There will always be those for whom nothing is ever enough and feel nothing can be done, including well-meaning proponents of multiple possible and impossible solutions to the same problem.

Grand old knights in the citadels of capitalism and pensioned or retired revolutionaries are similarly but separately still trying to adjust to new 21st Century political realities, including how to relate to a global generation not necessarily interested in yesterday’s approaches to how tomorrow is being shaped today.

Luckily, no CARICOM decision taken regarding the aforementioned series of issues and events in the Caribbean with global import can be categorized as disgraceful or permanently injurious to the region’s people or CARICOM’s reputation as a staunch defender of the region’s pride, however measured.

The current CARICOM leadership, with Guyana as Chair (and in February assuming the rotating Presidency of the UN Security Council), has been exemplary in the circumstances, never-mind the measured and wild criticisms (including in Grenada’s Catholic Church) of the pace of the region’s response today to Gaza and the 75-year-old Palestinian cause.

While addressing the Haiti nightmare daily, CARICOM also has to keep its eyes on unfolding developments in the Guyana-Venezuela matter as pre-election politics kicks-in, while also keeping both eyes on their commitment to improve agriculture and reduce CARICOM’s Food Import Bill by 25% by the end of 2025.

Among the leaders and diplomatic advisers are some who attended the 2000 Durban Conference in South Africa that saw African nations distance themselves from the Caribbean’s calls for Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide and who now provide leadership to that cause in government.

They include well-placed persons in national and regional leadership positions and are now able to finally welcome the African Union (AU) on board the Reparations train, albeit a quarter-century after Durban and a decade after CARICOM launched its 10-Point Plan for Reparatory Justice in May 2013.

Time and History are always the best judges of yesterday, today and tomorrow and CARICOM has to wade and swim according to the tide, if it’s to please all sides involved, maintain peace by not starting war and ensure that History is not only on its side, but more-so on Haiti’s.

CARICOM has always found ways to survive its elastic (yet binding) charters in the Treaty of Chaguaramas, balancing unanimity with unilateralism while necessarily thinking and measuring long-term goals and objectives by five-year national yardsticks.

It’s no easy task for CARICOM and most of those unfairly criticizing the leadership forever to do so by evading mirrors and spitting in the sky — without closing their eyes – while the leaders, with Time and History considered, have always delivered no less than what their collective minds could agree on.

So it was – and so it’ll continue to be, until CARICOM shifts gear from steeped traditionalism to more embracement of political innovations with eyes beyond borders and boundaries.

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