It is time to distinguish between Latin America and the Caribbean

Dear Editor,
David Jessop’s ‘View from Europe’ has zeroed in on a very pertinent issue of the gap between Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in Europe’s dealing with that bloc. This is also exposing the issue I pointed out in Pamela Cox’s recent post-crisis article in SN (‘Latin America post-crisis, a chance not to be wasted,’ September 26). The frequently joint (ECLAC) World Bank analyses do mislead the readers. It is time to distinguish between Latin America and the Caribbean (Caricom).

According to Jessop, “Some European academics also find questionable the idea of a single approach by a Europe of twenty-seven nations that have other security and economic preoccupations, prefer to improve their own bilateral and sub-regional trade relations within the hemisphere and no longer feel in competition with a US that has significantly less interest and influence in the hemisphere than was the case in the past.”

Dominica’s presence in the Caricom bloc seems an oddity, considering their independent banana deal with the EU outside CSME. But the Venezuelan move to spread their oil in refineries through the Caribbean is not so good a deal for the island states. One spill and tourism, the basis of the tourism/service industries of many Caribbean states would be wiped out. And according to President of Exxon Mobil (some years ago) once transportation of crude goes on in the high seas spills are bound to occur.

SELA (deceptively seen to represent the economic system for Latin America (and the Caribbean) failed to include even the letter ‘C’ making it SELAC. Just as the omission seems to be haphazard so is the treatment I see meted out to the Caribbean bloc.

Hence my comments to Pamela Cox’s analysis to have a separation of the economic reports between the Latin American and Caribbean states. Only when this is done can we find a true situation in GDP and national development ratios as also I mentioned in comments to T Khemraj’s ‘Development watch’ analyses.

For over two decades (since the mid-eighties), I also saw this anomaly existing as I attended meetings at the Department of International Economic Cooperation (DIEC) with ECLAC, as I represented both the Ministry of Trade and thereafter the Civil Defence Commission (on food emergencies).

I often wondered then why Latin America with all its fragmented states, revolutions and ideologies was willy-nilly linked to the English-speaking Caribbean for developmental aid and programmes by Europe. I think the EU once fragmented itself saw how much simpler it was to lump the LAC states into one grouping to make their dealings simpler.

Jessop further noted, “The wish by the EC for an overarching policy is also complicated by an approach that brings Latin America and the Caribbean policy together.

Given the vast differences in size, culture and levels of development… On September 30 the EC published a new communication (policy paper) on Latin America that seeks to renew Europe’s single approach. The ten page document, which will be presented to the twenty-seven member states and the European Parliament for debate, looks at how to update rather than restructure or manage the diversity that now exists in Europe’s relationships with Latin America.”

In my comments on Pamela Cox’s analysis, I made note of the way the Caribbean is treated by Latin America in the so-called ‘LAC’ group as baggage. Now this is not an idle statement as far as the actual dealings and benefits are bequeathed to the two distinct cultural blocs.

We had a glaring case in point of such neglect of the Caribbean at the Global Alliance for Disaster Reduction (GDAR) Davos 2006 Conference in Switzerland. It was so obvious that fourteen Venezuelans were sponsored to the conference against one Caribbean delegate. I took pictures of the group just for the record.

Also present was one sponsored delegate from Jamaica and one from UG, who were both apprised of the disparity. I attended at my own expense to air certain concerns to the international body. Thus I could freely decry the disparity. So I spoke to both the President and Vice-President of GADR of the neglect faced by the Caribbean.

I brought to the attention of the Chairman of the board meeting the fact that international agencies frequently dispense assistance to developing nations annually in a haphazard manner. Rural communities which are very vulnerable to disasters do not get the benefits when such assistance (workshops/ conferences) are constantly directed to the centres (capitals) in the nations.

Yours faithfully,
Seopaul Singh

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