Leaders who fail to learn from history

By Carlton Joseph

United States President Donald Trump invited the leaders of Jamaica, Bahamas, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and St Lucia to his Mar-a-Lag “club” last week to show his support for Caribbean countries that support the overthrow of the elected President of the Venezuelan government.

After the meeting, the Caribbean House Ni……s said that most of the talk centered around trade and investments, and the U.S. has committed to sending a representative from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) to visit each of their nations. These Caribbean leaders may have forgotten or were not aware that  this program is designed to help U.S. businesses gain footholds in emerging markets, catalyzing revenues, jobs and growth opportunities both at home and abroad.

Are these Caribbean leaders aware that OPIC requires that its projects have a meaningful connection to the U.S. private sector  and that to obtain financing the US Company must own 25 per cent or more of the ownership of the company?

As the meeting kicked off, Trump told the leaders that he would be “discussing ways that we can be beneficial to you and you can be beneficial to us.”  A statement issued by the US stated that: “The president will discuss his vision for our diverse relationships in the Caribbean and the potential opportunities for energy investment, adding that Trump and the Caribbean leaders will also discuss Chinese economic intervention in the region and the extant political and economic crisis in Venezuela and will seek to address measures to counter China’s predatory economic practices.”

After the two hour meeting, Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica said: “It’s absolutely important that it’s not just talk, that there will be real investments; investments that will benefit the region and benefit your country as well, the message from this meeting was that the United States wants to encourage and promote a stronger relationship with the region. We’re very happy with that message. We feel that it’s a message that is long in coming. … We’re satisfied that there will be instrumental action with that message.”

Allen Chastanet, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia said “there hasn’t been this level of engagement since Ronald Reagan engaged with former Jamaican Prime Minister Edward Seaga in the early 1980s.  This meeting was really about President Trump’s vision to re-initiate dialogue with the Caribbean.”  Let me remind Chastanet that Seaga was a white man, in charge of the plantation, whom Reagan could easily support.  In addition, the US wanted to remove Michael Manley’s socialist government, orchestrated violent regime change of Prime Minister Bishop’s socialist government in Grenada and implemented a destabilization program that ensured regime change of the socialist government of Premier Cheddi Jagan in Guyana.

Commenting on the meeting, Dominican lawyer Anthony Astaphan said he believes the regional leaders, especially those from the OECS, have shown complete disrespect for the unity of the OECS…by deciding to go to a meeting and neglecting the fact that the chairman of CARICOM was not invited.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who was not invited to the meeting, said that  his country’s stature on the world stage does not depend on whose private residence the country was invited to.  He quoted at length from the UN Charter that was the basis for a policy of non-intervention in another nation’s affairs. “We are standing up for these principles. Never mind, while we are doing our best, our detractors are doing their worst to misinform and undermine.”   He said  his government’s only wish for Venezuela is peace, stability and prosperity, within the construct of sovereignty, peace and the protection of the UN Charter. “We wish for the people and children of Venezuela what we wish for ourselves: A life with dignity, fulfillment and self-determination.”

In one of her contribution in the Trinidad and Tobago Parliament, Opposition leader Kamla Persad-Bissessar described the Maduro administration as “dictatorial,” and said the Opposition supported interim President Guaidó.  She also said a country’s foreign policy must be guided by the values and principles that were held dear and that the days of non-intervention in the global environment were gone. ”

Interestingly, the US ambassador met with Persad-Bissessar the day before Trump met with the four house niggers.  We should not be surprised that if the opposition leader declares herself Prime  Minister of Trinidad and Tobago,  Trump decides to orchestrate regime change in  that country.

I am reminded of two sayings: “Where there is no vision the people perish” and “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”  These so- called leaders were summoned on short notice and as true colonials, they packed their bags and went to massa.  They heard massa’s vision for them but had no vision for themselves or their country.

They demonstrated their lack of historical perspective with their statements after the meeting.  Jamaica’s Prime Minister must have amnesia. OPIC is not new to Jamaica.   In 1981, President Reagan warmly received Seaga and promised full support for his attempt to develop Jamaica through private initiative.  One of Seaga’s first acts was to negotiate a $650 million loan with the IMF, a move that alleviated Jamaica’s immediate foreign exchange shortage and made possible a tremendous increase in imports of food and luxury consumer goods.

Jamaica became the largest overall recipient of loans and loan guarantees from the OPIC, and Jamaica’s debt was over $2.2 billion, a dramatic increase over the $770 million debt left by Manley. Unemployment was conservatively listed as 26 per cent of the work force and over 43,000 people  fled Jamaica – the largest number of emigrants in Jamaican history.  This is the history of OPIC’s involvement in Jamaica.

The US has been involved in Haiti since the Haitian revolution and she is now the poorest country in the Caribbean.  In Puerto Rico, a US territory, federal regulations that expired, have been repealed, or no longer apply to Puerto Rico, has rendered it incapable of becoming self-sufficient and self-sustainable throughout its history.  Is this the kind of investments and underdevelopment we need in the Caribbean?

Trump wants countries in the Caribbean to disassociate themselves from reliance on Venezuelan oil.  One US official said: “We think with increased American oil and gas production, we’re now the largest producer of oil and gas again, that there are lots of ways we can accommodate the demands from the western hemisphere as a whole.”

The crisis in Venezuela and the US sanctions have adversely affected Caribbean nations that once received a stable supply of oil and gas from Venezuela as part of its Petro Caribe alliance.  The program provided long-term financing, allowing Caribbean nations to pay 40 per cent of their oil debt at a one per cent annual interest rate over 25 years and the rest in cash.  Jamaica and Haiti benefitted most from this arrangement.

I hope that  after the next election comes around these four colonial overseers are no longer in charge.

(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph who lives in Washington DC, is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)