Caribbean noticeably absent from US presidential politics


Rickey Singh

Sunday, October 28, 2012    

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AS if the many pressing social and economic problems they continue to face are not enough, there came the wrath of Hurricane Sandy on Wednesday to add further misery to the people of Jamaica and Cuba.

While their economic and political systems are different, the citizens of both Cuba and Jamaica are respected for their resilience in overcoming disasters. They would also be aware that comparatively humble as it may be, they can at least be assured of practical forms of assistance that normally flow across this region when fellow Caribbean partner states are afflicted by natural disasters.

Encouragingly, both Jamaica and Cuba have proud records of assistance rushed to Caribbean and other nations seriously afflicted by either hurricanes, earthquakes or other major disasters.

But the focus of today’s column relates to the United States presidential election and, more specifically, the live televised debates between the incumbent Barack Obama and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney for a tenancy at the White House. In the case of Obama, a second four-year contract.

With the conclusion last Monday of the third and final presidential debate, some wellmeaning telephone callers, among them my professional colleagues, were to express surprise at the absence of any reference to the Caribbean by both President Obama and his opponent Romney.

Put that down to perhaps a little disappointment more than serious surprise. After all, the Greater Caribbean region in general — and not just our comparatively small segment — has long lost its US-induced concept as a “vital ideological/security bridge” between the two Americas (north and south).

Two factors

Two related primary factors that help to explain this would be the disappearance of the old Soviet Union as a superpower and subsequent recurring adjustments by successive Washington administrations in coping with the painful reality of half-a-century of failures to dislodge the Cuban Communist Party from control of state power in Havana.

A defiant Cuba has always been a factor of relevance in US foreign policy for Western Hemisphere nations.

From President Jack Kennedy’s ‘Alliance for Progress’ in the 1960s and President Ronald Reagan’s ‘Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act’ (better known as ‘CBI’) in the 1980s, to George W Bush’s so-called ‘Third Border Initiative’ (TBI), the countering of Castro-led Cuban influence in the Caribbean has always been an obsession that determined aid and trade considerations by the tenant in the White House — Democrat or Republican.

For the Obama/Romney debates on US foreign policy, the Caribbean region was nonexistent in the final round that was dominated by US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and recurring problems in the Middle East. Both candidates were locked in a sort of pathetic competition to show loyalty to Israel and punishment for Iran.

Even after Obama had referred to threats to America’s national security from international terrorist networks as a major priority for his Administration, in contrast to Romney’s obsession with Iran, neither bothered to allude to the ghastly human tragedies and social and economic consequences of the worsening drug war in this hemisphere, and in particular for a vital border neighbour like Mexico.

Jimmy Carter

As some media commentators were left to observe, Latin America as a whole was “simply ignored”. In that context, therefore, the Caribbean was a “non-starter” for mention, either by the incumbent or aspiring tenant for the White House. Yet, for what it may be worth, and without having a vote, I declare a clear preference for a secondterm Obama presidency.

As the first African-American to be president of the United States, it would be a great pity should he fall victim to the ‘red meat’ politics of the influential ‘tea party’ Republicans by being restricted — like three other former presidents since the end of the second World War — to serving just one term.

Among the trio of one-term presidents was Jimmy Carter, whose credibility as a fervent, eloquent human rights, democratic governance and anti-poverty advocate remains intact.

Carter continues to remind successive Democratic and Republican administrations in Washington of “America’s moral crisis”, as outlined in his book, Our Endangered Values, which offers his assessment of “the distortion of American foreign policy” and explains many of the problems the USA encounters with nations of the world, not just the Caribbean/Latin America region.

At this time, as Obama continues to face the political onslaught from the strong and influential right-wing forces of Romney’s Republican Party, the fluctuating polls are increasingly sending mixed messages with a defiance to his “audacity of hope” for a second four-year term.



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