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In Rome hospital, unvaccinated patients fill covid beds

ROME, Italy (AFP) – In one Rome hospital, the vast majority of COVID-19 patients in intensive care are unvaccinated – and many are urging Italian anti-vaxxers to get the jab.

A 41-year-old patient at the ICC- Casalpalocco COVID hospital, who gave his name as Francesco, said he was opposed to the vaccine but that if he could go back, he would get jabbed.

“The vaccine doesn’t inspire confidence but unfortunately we’ve got to do it because, in any case, it’s the only thing that can help at this precise stage of the pandemic,” he told AFP.

At the hospital there are currently 19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) for coronavirus of whom 17 are unvaccinated, according to medical director Roberto Mezzanotte.

“Almost 90 to 95 per cent in our ICU are non-vaccinated,” he told AFP.

In September, an analysis by the hospital found that 69 per cent of its coronavirus patients were not vaccinated.

“Patients in the ICU, for the most part, are not vaccinated. And these are the most at risk, those whose condition worsens more readily and need intubation and assisted breathing,” Mezzanotte said.

Breathing oxygen through a mask, another patient, Salvatore, said he was a big supporter of vaccines but had not yet had his coronavirus jab before he felt gravely ill.

“In the space of a few hours I went from being a person full of vitality to an empty sack, deprived of force,” the 55-year-old said.

He said he had little patience for violent protesters who took to the streets of Rome last weekend against Italy’s coronavirus health pass.

“When I see these demonstrations against the Green Pass, they don’t understand, they don’t realise,” said Salvatore.

From yesterday, the pass – showing proof of vaccination, a negative test result or recent recovery from COVID-19 – will be required for all employees in public and private workplaces.

The announcement of the measure helped push up vaccination rates in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the pandemic, but provoked anger.

More than 85 per cent of over 12s have now received at least one shot.

Mezzanotte said the reasons vary for why the patients chose not to be vaccinated, but primary among them is “fear that the vaccine is harmful”.

“It’s strange… they’re not scared of COVID but they’re scared of the vaccine,” he said.

Other Italian hospitals are seeing the same high percentages of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients, he said.

“Currently we have only one instrument to prohibit the pandemic from continuing – and it’s vaccination.”

Mixed views on Gov't making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory

Jamaicans have given mixed responses to Prime Minister Andrew Holness’s indications that mandatory vaccination could be inevitable, based on the slow take-up of COVID-19 vaccines.

While some people have expressed disapproval, others believe it is the only way for the society to return to normal, a point continuously hammered by Holness during his visits to vaccination sites over the past few weeks.

On Thursday, however, Holness appeared to have climbed down from his earlier suggestions of a mandate, saying that no one will be forced to take the COVID-19 vaccine, even as he put a timeline on when the Government will roll out what he has now labelled a vaccine option that will kick in once half of the country’s population is inoculated.

Meanwhile, some private sector companies have issued vaccine mandates to their staff, the latest being National Commercial Bank (NCB), which this week noted that that COVID-19 disease had taken a heavy toll on the company almost 200 confirmed cases since March 2020 and three deaths and as such the staff would have to be fully vaccinated, effective November 3, 2021.

Any staff member who refuses to abide by the policy, even if working remotely, will have to present a negative PCR test by the Wednesday of each week, the bank said.

Jamaica has a population of approximately three million citizens and so far, according to officials from the Ministry of Health and Wellness, just over 337,000 have been fully vaccinated with single- and double-dose vaccines. More than 523,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine, while a total of 860,482 doses have been administered since the start of the vaccination programme in March this year.

Here are the responses of Jamaicans with whom the Jamaica Observer spoke this week.

Stacey AnnI don’t think it should be made mandatory. Everyone has a choice and you should leave them to their own opinion to choose whether they want it or not. I don’t think anyone should force others to do what they don’t want to do.

AndrewI have mixed views, because there is no provision in law for it and I don’t think that the population at large is particularly comfortable with it. There are arguments for it and against it. Some people talk about public safety because they want the society to go back to normal but then again there are others who, for various reasons, can’t take the vaccines and I don’t think they ought to be forced to take. It is really a dilemma and it is a tricky situation. It is something that we just have to manage.

HarrisYes, he should make it mandatory. From it is beneficial to the country I can’t say anything about. I take one already and I am waiting on the next one.

JermaineIt should be easy to make it mandatory. There is no other choice and that is what it boils down to. If you have COVID-19 and I don’t have it, at the end of the day I going to end up catch it because me a socialise with you, so one way or the other it should be made mandatory.

Vickie SelvinIt should be every man for himself and let every man examine it for himself and find the truth and deal with it. We have been taking vaccines from we were babies. Every man has to judge themselves and take responsibility. I am not against the vaccine but every man should be able to say this right or is this wrong. Every man is responsible for their own health and their position in life. Harm no man and let no man harm you.

Damian McLeanVaccine shouldn’t be mandatory. People have their rights and they should be able to express themselves. Suppose you have underlying illnesses and you take it and it hurts you? I say no. It is wrong.

HuttonI think it depends on your area of work and when it comes to certain things. Other than that it should be up to you if you want to take it or not.

Winston SaundersYou can’t force people fi tek it. You can’t force people to do what they don’t want to. If you have underlying issues, something a go end up wrong wid yu. If a it fi save the country, then for sure, it should be mandatory. If it a go kill people, it nah go mek sense. Di prime minister never did think seh him shouldn’t open up the country for [the entertainment industry]. A dem things deh mek di numbers climb again.


Youth targeted for annual Morant Bay celebrations

MORANT BAY, St Thomas – The St Thomas Renaissance Foundation is making a big push to include youngsters from the parish in this year’s commemoration of the Morant Bay uprising during Heroes’ Month.

“The event is held in commemoration of the work that Paul Bogle and the warriors did to defend our rights, especially as it relates to liberty of land and liberty of persons. Even though they were free from slavery, we were still not allowed the right to own possessions that would allow us to advance in terms of economic well-being. We want our young people in the parish to understand this and what it would have meant for the people who lost their lives in fighting for this freedom,” said the foundation’s youth ambassador Tishauna Mullings.

Throughout the years, there have been many events across Stony Gut, Morant Bay, and surrounding areas of the parish to commemorate the 1865 uprising.

On Monday, the foundation hosted the inaugural Paul Bogle and The Warriors celebration at the Casa Lagoona Hotel in Pamphret.

It included a spirited panel discussion dissecting the theme ‘Resetting Jamaica: Assessing St Thomas’s Role since 1655’. There was also a debate between students from Morant Bay and St Thomas Technical High schools who explored the topic, ‘One cannot be free without a means of his own living’.

The foundation said that going forward it intends to more heavily involve the parish’s youth in its rebirth.

“When you talk about knowing your roots it is a part of self-identity. When the students had to do the research for this debate it actually helped to solidify who they are,” said Dr Melissa Campbell, teacher at Morant Bay High School.

Omar Ryan, a history teacher, poet, and advocate for culture and heritage, also spoke of the value of the debate.

“It is very important for any people to know their history because I believe it is the foundation of success. Societies which have shown great success are those who inscribe the culture and history of their people, so it is important for our students to know their history and take part in these progressive discussions,” he said.

Some youngsters have shown an interest in learning more about their history and participating in ongoing discussions about the rebirth of St Thomas.

“Children cannot build a healthy future unless they have a background as to where they are coming from. This conversation, as it relates to our history, is very crucial in our lives as youth, because it sets that background and lays the context for us to build a firm future,” said youth parliamentarian and Morant Bay High student Othniel Lammie.

The panel discussion, moderated by journalist and attorney-at-law Dionne Jackson-Miller, saw input from social historian, Professor Verene Shepherd; cultural analyst and former chairman of Jamaica National Heritage Trust, Ainsley Henriques; Tourism Product Development Company destination manager for St Thomas and Portland, Daryl Whyte-Wong; along with Ryan.

Many long-standing issues that have been plaguing the parish were brought up during the discussion.

“I think our parish has a tremendous capacity in its people. The people are smart, however, the lack of opportunity has caused us, in one sense, to become the backward parish of the country. For example, it took us years to attain proper education in the parish,” said Henriques.

For many years St Thomas has been labelled the poorest parish in Jamaica. The foundation, which hosted Monday’s event, is among those working to change that.

“In 2021 St Thomas is still being called the forgotten parish, so I love the idea of the St Thomas Renaissance Foundation. I love the idea of a rebirth of a parish. It is more than time for St Thomas to experience an exciting and important rebirth,” said Jackson-Miller.

UK counterterror cops lead probe into MP's killing

LEIGH-ON-SEA, United Kingdom (AFP) – British counter-terrorism officers are leading the investigation into the killing yesterday of lawmaker David Amess, police said, as they probe the second death of a UK politician while meeting voters since 2016.

The pro-Brexit Conservative MP, 69, a father of five first elected to Parliament in 1983, was stabbed to death inside a church while holding a fortnightly consultation with his local constituents in the small town of Leigh-on-Sea, east of London.

Essex police arrested a 25-year-old man at the scene on suspicion of murder and recovered a knife.

“The investigation is in its very early stages and is being led by officers from the specialist counterterrorism command,” Ben-Julian Harrington, the force’s chief constable, told reporters.

The counterterror unit is run by the capital’s two forces, the Metropolitan Police Britain’s biggest and City of London Police.

“We made it clear at the time of the incident that we did not believe there was any immediate further threat to anyone else in the area,” Harrington added.

“It will be for investigators to determine whether or not this is a terrorist incident.”

The killing has sent shockwaves around Britain.

Flags were lowered to half mast outside Parliament and tributes poured in from across the political spectrum for Amess, whose death came just over five years after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by a far-right extremist.

In a book last year called Ayes & Ears: A Survivor’s Guide to Westminster, Amess noted that Cox’s death had prompted new security guidance to MPs, which threatened to limit their access to constituents.

“Like everyone else, I was stunned. A young and successful woman was cut down in the prime of her life, torn from the family who loved her,” he wrote about Cox.

“This sort of thing just was not supposed to happen in the UK,” he added, saying he had occasionally experienced “nuisance” at his own home.

“These increasing attacks have rather spoilt the great British tradition of the people openly meeting their elected politicians.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was chairing a meeting with senior ministers in the west of England but promptly returned to London following news of the incident.

“The reason I think people are so shocked and saddened is, above all, he was one of the kindest, nicest, most gentle people in politics,” Johnson said of Amess, calling him “a much-loved friend and colleague” and “a fine public servant”.

Former prime minister Theresa May said it was “a tragic day for our democracy”.

“A decent man and respected parliamentarian, killed in his own community while carrying out his public duties,” she said.

Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer called the news “horrific and deeply shocking”, while House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle said Amess had “built a reputation for kindness” during his long parliamentary career.

Muted protests as Italy toughens workplace COVID rules

ROME, Italy (AFP) – Thousands of people protested at Italian ports and across towns and cities yesterday, against the introduction of one of the world’s toughest COVID pass regimes, but fears of widespread disruption failed to materialise.

More than 6,500 people demonstrated at the north-eastern port of Trieste, according to local officials, although regional president Massimiliano Fedriga stressed “the port is working”.

Delays were reported at the north-western port of Genoa, where about 300 people blocked an entrance, while small protests were held across the country against the extension of the coronavirus pass to all workplaces.

But the crowd numbers were limited and threats of blockades, economic chaos and even violence – after clashes between far-right activists and police in Rome last Saturday – failed to materialise.

Beginning yesterday, all workers must show a so-called Green Pass offering proof of vaccination, recent recovery from COVID-19 or a negative test result – or face being declared absent without pay.

More than 85 per cent of Italians over the age of 12 have received at least one jab, thus qualifying for the pass, but up to three million workers are estimated to be unvaccinated.

Some are against vaccines, some are afraid, while others – undocumented workers and foreigners notably – have reported difficulties accessing the nationwide vaccine programme.

They are now only able to work if they pay for their own tests either every 48 or 72 hours, depending on the type.

“It’s absurd, unconstitutional,” said Andrea, a 46-year-old pharmacist protesting along with several hundred others at Rome’s Circus Maximus.

“I’m on furlough and at the moment I don’t intend to get vaccinated for scientific, not political reasons,” he told AFP.

There had been particular concerns about disruption in the freight industry, where a large minority of workers are unvaccinated.

Ivano Russo, director general of trade group Confetra, told AFP that out of a total of 900,000 truck drivers, couriers and warehouse staff employed by members of his lobby, “25 to 30 per cent” do not have COVID certificates.

Dock workers in Trieste have threatened to go on strike indefinitely, despite being offered free COVID tests, and the protest there was one of the largest, with banners saying “Citizens not puppets” and “No Green Pass, No Discrimination”.

In Genoa, the small blockade caused some delays, but Ugo Patroni Griffi, head of the port authority in the southern city of Bari, said: “We can breathe a sigh of relief, everything is going well.”

There were, however, signs of other disruption.

At midday, Italy’s welfare agency recorded an increase in sickness reports in public and private firms of 23 per cent.

Meanwhile, a trade union leader in Naples complained that local council staff had to use their own phones to check employees’ green passes, with multiple glitches.

Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s Government says the pass will help prevent further lockdowns in Italy, one of the European countries hardest hit by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The eurozone’s third-largest economy is expected to record almost six per cent growth this year after a devastating COVID-induced recession.

Business lobby Confindustria has been among the staunchest backers of the measure, which follows a similar initiative adopted in Greece last month.

Introduced in August, initially for museums and indoor dining, the pass has helped boost vaccinations – the Government reported that first vaccine jabs were up by one third on Thursday compared to the beginning of the week.

Ahead of the extension of the Green Pass to workplaces, more than 560,000 certificates were downloaded on Wednesday and around 860,000 Thursday.

However, there are concerns there is not enough capacity for everyone who is not vaccinated to have regular COVID tests, raising the prospect of mass absenteeism from work.

Anyone caught in the workplace without a Green Pass risks fines ranging from 600 to 1,500 euros (US$700 to US$1,700), while employers can be fined 400 to 1,000 euros if they failed to carry out checks.

Molineux comes from behind to upset champion team Tabernacle in #7 Domino League

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, October 15, 2021 (MMS-SKN) — The sixth segment of play in the 26th edition of Constituency Number Seven Dr the Hon Timothy Harris Domino League on Thursday evening October 14 saw defending champion team Tabernacle Domino Club suffer an upset defeat at home at the hands of Molineux Domino Club.

The game had started at the Tabernacle Community Centre, but a village-wide power blackout at 9:07 p.m. interrupted the games that were taking place at the venue. However, since the adjacent Tabernacle Police Station had a generator, the teams moved under the canopy of the Forensic Department of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force.

Edison Parris of former champion team Lodge Domino Club seen in action as his team whitewashed Phillips Domino Club 13-2 at the Edgar Gilbert Sporting Complex pavilion in Molineux.

While losing a game is always taken in a sportsmanship manner, the loss at home could not have come at a worse time for the champion team as watching the game was sponsor of the league and fellow villager, Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis.

Tabernacle, which was under the command of acting Captain Lionel ‘Nabal’ Nisbett, started on a high note by winning the opening game and were at one time leading 9-3. After they moved to the new venue Molineux’s Captain Ericson ‘Wixie’ Wescott upped his game and by the time Prime Minister Harris was watching the game at the new venue Molineux were trailing 8-10.

A keenly fought see-saw battle ensured and at one time Tabernacle was leading 11-9 needing only two games to carry the day, but a determined Molineux pushed the games to tie at 12-12. After coming that far, Molineux could not entertain any loss and by taking control they took the final game to beat Tabernacle 13-12.

The second game at the same two venues between Christ Church Domino Club and Saddlers Domino Club, which was also watched by sponsor of the league Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris, had the two teams exchanging lead. Saddlers led in early stages, Christ Church took over and was on the path to victory but Saddlers came back stronger to tie the game at 12-12. Saddlers, a team from Constituency Number Six, took the deciding game for a 13-12 win over Christ Church.

With sponsor of the league Prime Minister Dr the Hon Timothy Harris watching, Captain of Molineux Domino Club Ericson ‘Wixie’ Wescott is seen in action as they upset defending champion team Tabernacle Domino Club 13-12.
In another game played at the Tabernacle Police Station and watched by Prime Minister Harris, Leshaun Hazel of Saddlers Domino Club is in action in their game against Christ Church Domino Club whom they beat 13-12.

In other games, former champion team Lodge Domino Club went for a kill when at the Edgar Gilbert Sporting Complex pavilion in Molineux they overrun Phillips Domino Club 13-2. At the same venue another former champion team Parsons Domino Club beat Mansion Domino Club 13-10.

Three games took place in Lodge Project where another former champion team Unity Domino Club beat Guinness Domino Club 13-8, and Sylvers Domino Club beat Ottley’s Domino Club 13-9 in games played at the old Lodge Community Centre. At the neighbouring Cuban Bar, Unstoppable Domino Club won their second straight game by beating Small Corner Bar Domino Club 13-10.

At the end of the sixth segment of play in the 26th edition of Constituency Number Seven Dr the Hon Timothy Harris Domino League, former champion team Unity still leads on the points standing table with 29 points. It is followed by Sylvers 24 points; Lodge 20 Points, Christ Church 20 points, and Saddlers 20 points.

Others, in order, are defending champion team Tabernacle 18 points, Parsons 18 points, Phillips 18 points, Molineux 15 points, Mansion 14 points, Small Corner Bar 11 points, Guinness 11 points, Unstoppable 11 points, and Ottley’s 10 points.

Seventh segment of play in this only round of play in the 26th edition of Constituency Number Seven Dr the Hon Timothy Harris Domino League will be on Tuesday October 19 and all games will be played at the new Lodge-Ottley’s Community Centre in Ottley’s, which has the capacity to accommodate all the seven games under the strict Covid-19 protocols.

“All teams are asked to be mindful and please remember of the venue changing to the new Lodge-Ottley’s Community Centre on the Island Main Road in Ottley’s,” announced PRO of Constituency Number Seven Domino League, Allington Berridge. “The Covid-19 protocols including wearing of masks and hand sanitising will be observed and checking of body temperature will still be done every night on entry. Let us all keep the tournament under good grace, friendship and good sportsmanship and remember we are all one.”

Defending champion team Tabernacle will face Mansion, while Parsons will be coming up against Phillips. Other games will be Saddlers vs. Small Corner Bar; Molineux vs. Unstoppable; Lodge vs. Guinness; Sylvers vs. Christ Church; and Unity vs. Ottley’s

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USCG Drops-Off 10 Haitian Migrants in DR, Two People Smugglers Arrested

The United States has returned 10 Haitian migrants to the Dominican Republic after intercepting a boat in the Mona Passage waters near Mona Island, Puerto Rico, earlier this week.

Two other men, Dominican Republic nationals, are facing US federal criminal prosecution in Puerto Rico on migrant smuggling charges, the US Coast Guard said.

It said the interdiction is the result of ongoing local and federal multi-agency efforts in support of the Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG).

”For those considering taking part in an illegal migrant voyage across the Mona Passage, don’t take to the sea,” warned Capt. Gregory H. Magee, Coast Guard Sector San Juan commander.

“You will be repatriated and returned to your country of origin or could even face possible prosecution. This is a dangerous and perilous voyage, and it is just not worth placing your life in the hands of smugglers who have no regard for your safety or well-being. These voyages most often take place in dangerous sea states, aboard grossly overloaded and unseaworthy vessels that have no lifesaving equipment.”

The Coast Guard said that during a routine patrol of the Mona Passage the crew of a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Marine Enforcement Aircraft detected a suspect illegal migrant vessel voyage about five nautical miles west of Mona Island, Puerto Rico.

The vessel was transporting nine men and three females, including two adult women and a 15-year-old minor, the US Coast Guard said.

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US Open to Vaccinated International Travelers from Nov. 8

by Nathaniel Wexel
The Hill

The United States will lift border restrictions for fully vaccinated international travelers beginning Nov. 8, according to the White House.

The policy will be effective for both land borders and air travel.

“The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8. This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent,” White House assistant press secretary Kevin Munoz said on Twitter.

Restrictions on international travelers have been renewed monthly since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, even as other countries have opened up their borders to fully vaccinated Americans.

The Biden administration on Tuesday said it would lift restrictions at its land borders and ferry crossings with Canada and Mexico for fully vaccinated foreign nationals in early November.

Unvaccinated travelers will still be prohibited from traveling to the United States by land for nonessential reasons until January.

Beginning in early January, any foreign national travelers crossing the land borders must be fully vaccinated, whether coming for essential or nonessential reasons.

A similar policy for international air travel was announced last month, when the White House said it would allow fully vaccinated travelers from 33 countries, including China, Brazil and most of Europe.

All foreign visitors must be vaccinated against COVID-19, and must show proof of vaccination before boarding a U.S.-bound airline. They must also provide a negative test taken no more than 72 hours prior to flying.

People traveling from Mexico or Canada do not need to show a negative test.

The administration will leave it up to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine which vaccines qualify. According to an administration official, the agency has already informed airlines that all Food and Drug Administration approved and authorized vaccines, as well as all vaccines recognized by the World Health Organization, will be accepted for air travel.

Biden administration officials in June formed working groups with Canada, Mexico, the European Union and the United Kingdom to weigh when to lift international travel restrictions, and in mid-July it seemed the administration was close to announcing a change. But as the delta variant spread and infections rose, the administration said the closures would remain in place.

Now, rather than a patchwork of bans based on different countries and their COVID-19 infection levels, the new policies will be based on individuals.

Experts have said picking and choosing countries based on infections is arbitrary because the disease is already entrenched in the U.S.

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For the Caribbean, relations with the US and China is not one or the other

By Sir Ronald Sanders 

On October 12, more than a dozen representatives in the US Congress sent a letter to the US Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, asking for immediate attention to what they describe as “the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in both Latin America and the Caribbean trade and economic development”.

The US Congresspersons have come to this realization years after Caribbean representatives in Washington – me included – have been saying to successive US Governments and Congress that the US has been absent as a meaningful contributor to the Caribbean development for almost two decades.

The vacuum that  the US left has been filled by the Peoples Republic of China, and it would be unreasonable for the US government or Congress to expect Caribbean countries to defer or delay their urgent development needs, waiting for the US to refocus its attention on the region.

Further, the terms of China’s loans to many Caribbean nations have been far more concessionary even than World Bank and IMF loans to lower and lower middle-income countries, and China does not use per capita income as a criterion for disqualifying high income but vulnerable and underdeveloped Caribbean countries, from eligibility for loans and grants.

US Congress persons and US government policy makers should take these realities into account when they say, as they did to the US Trade Representative, “Economic prosperity and solidified trading relationships is slowing, becoming a matter of national security.”

Caribbean countries do not regard the loans and other economic arrangements they have with China as a threat to US national security, and no member state of CARICOM has put any policies or programmes in place that affect US national security.  Indeed, CARICOM countries have remained faithful to importing goods and services from the US, even though US assistance and investment in the sub-region has steadily declined.

Here are a few facts of which the 13 US Congress persons, who signed the 12 October letter, appear to be unaware.  First, with the exception of Haiti (which for the US is a special case), the 14-nation independent states of the Caribbean Community have been at the bottom of US official development assistance for decades.  In 2019, for instance, total US foreign assistance globally was US$47 billion, of which all CARICOM countries received US$338 million or 0.7%.  For emphasis, that is less than 1% of the global total.  Haiti alone received  US$268 million of that US$338 million delivered to all 14 CARICOM states, leaving the other 13 to share US$70 million only.  For 9 of the 13 countries, the sum provided did not amount to US$1 million.

On trade, the US remained the dominant trading partner of CARICOM states, enjoying a trade surplus of US$6.5 billion.   So, while it is factual that trade between Caribbean countries and China has increased in recent years, no trade in goods with the US was displaced, and certainly no trade in services.  And, on foreign assistance to the region, if China is now delivering more to the Caribbean than the US, it should hardly be a matter of complaint by the US.

Among the references made about China is that its representatives use sharp practices in negotiating contracts with Caribbean countries which could lead to seizure of vital infrastructure should defaults occur on repayment of loans.  These references suggest that representatives of Caribbean countries lack the skill to negotiate contracts that are in their interest – an assertion most CARICOM governments would reject.   It also suggests that CARICOM countries have not encountered similar practices from other countries that have led to uneven contracts – the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union collectively and each CARICOM country individually being a case in point.

What US policy makers should regard as undeniable is that China is giving more scholarships to Caribbean students to upgrade their knowledge and capacity than the US.  In fact, the US poaches Caribbean doctors, nurses and teachers – trained at great expense by Caribbean taxpayers.  In the end, if the US continues this practice, they will have only themselves to blame if the Caribbean professionals and influencers of the future know China better than the US.

To be sure, the 13 Congress persons who wrote to the USTR were more concerned about China’s relationship with the bigger countries of Latin American than they were about the Caribbean.  The Caribbean is usually a forgotten appendage to Latin America among most US policy influencers, including its think-tanks.  It is that concern about loss of trade benefits and influence over Latin American markets that caused them to say, “We believe that it is of the highest priority for the US to keep its relationships strong with our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere. Before long, China will be significantly positioned to completely dominate Western Hemisphere economics, as China is already the top trading partner for practically all of Asia, Oceania, Eastern Europe, Africa and, as stated, most of South America.”

If China comes to dominate Western Hemispheric economics, it will be because of a long period of US neglect and the slow process to recognising that the US must re-engage Latin America and the Caribbean in genuine cooperation and not with one-sided strategies that are long on words, but short on allocation and delivery of funds.

In any event, Latin American and Caribbean countries, concerned about improving their economies and advancing the social and economic conditions of their peoples, do not subscribe to a rivalry between China and the US in their region and hemisphere.   They would all declare that there is ample room for economic and other forms of mutually beneficial cooperation with both China and the US.

Responses and previous commentaries: www.sirronaldsanders.com 

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London and Massey College in the University of Toronto.   The views expressed are his own) 

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