Letter to the Editor: Caribbean Diaspora & Gov’ts “have work to do”


Dear Editor:

It may be dangerous to be an enemy of the United States, but in recent times it often has been almost as risky to be a friend. The uncomfortable truth is that America has too often treated some of its allies as expendable and this may very well be the case for the Caribbean region, particularly CARICOM, come next January if any of the current Republican candidates happen to make it to the White House.

This is a serious prospect which the Caribbean Diaspora and regional governments must address frontally. Even with the friendly Obama Administration, the Caribbean region and its Diaspora still face issues such as the de-risking of some of its indigenous banks and unconscionable deportations, respectively. So just imagine what could happen to US/Caribbean relations under a president Trump, Cruz and even Rubio. We know for sure what our Caribbean American Muslim community will face.

The Caribbean Diaspora and regional governments have work to do. First, the Diaspora has to ensure that it brings out the vote for Hillary Clinton. Perfect she is not. Yes she has been “economical with the truth” at times but which politician hasn’t. Despite her imperfections, she is America’s and the world’s best hope at this time for ensuring a world at peace and the pursuit of policies and programs that protect and promote the poor and disadvantaged, including the interests of small states like those of CARICOM. So our Diaspora leaders have got to mobilize Caribbean Americans….to Soca, Chutney, Reggae and Zouk the vote to ensure a Clinton victory.

We in the Diaspora also need to park our rampant sense of nationalism and project ourselves as a regional diaspora for it is numbers that matter. It is votes that matter, stupid!  We are taken more seriously when we speak as a Caribbean Diaspora and a CARICOM region. Our unity does not require that we shed our national identities, but just promote the regional one.

We have also got to engage US elected officials on both sides of the isle to sensitize them to the issues that affect the Diaspora and the Region. This is critical and here is an opportunity for regional governments to join with the Diaspora in helping to shape as well as deliver the messages we need to get to elected officials, not only in the US Congress but at all levels including state, county and city.  There are some who would argue that America has become almost irrelevant to the Caribbean since Uncle Sam no longer funds large infrastructural projects in the region and that is now China who is most relevant to the region. That is flawed thinking and the region, if it were to subscribe to such thinking, would be doing so at the risk of its own peril.

Just this week I had the opportunity to engage in discussions with US Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett during which I had the opportunity to update her and her key staffers on the de-risking issue as well as the Guyana/Venezuela controversy, among other issues. This outreach is part of an effort spearheaded by the Washington, DC based Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) at which I serve as Co-Chair of the Private Sector Council. I was also in Tallahassee, Florida for the celebration of Caribbean Day at the Florida Capitol and here the Caribbean American community was able to discuss the issues that affect us and the Caribbean region with key elected officials.

I should mention that for the first time Guyana was prominently featured at the celebration with the presentation of a gift bag to each member of the Florida Legislature that included the latest edition of Explore Guyana magazine, a miniature of Guyana’s globally acclaimed Award Winning El Dorado 15 year-old rum and a sample bottle of the internationally recognized Limacol…the freshness of the breeze in a bottle. Thanks to Guyana’s Honorary Consul Ram Ali for arranging these gifts. On the evening of February 23rd I, along with Joy Agness of the south Florida Guyanese Association had the honor of attending the Black Caucus meeting and the next da ythe Democratic Caucus meeting and the sitting of the Florida House of Representatives where we were introduced by Representative Edwin Narain, of Guyanese descent. His father, Rev. Narain led the Florida House in prayer prior to the debate. I later had the honor to speak at a press conference on behalf of the Caribbean American community.

Rep. Hazelle Rogers, a Jamaican American, must be congratulated for arranging yet another Caribbean Day at the Florida Capitol as should the other Caribbean American members of the Florida House and Senate. During my visit to Tallahassee I also was able to have informal one-on-one discussions with a number of elected officials some of whom had an interest in being updated on Guyana since they have Guyanese Americans in their constituencies.

This is the kind of engagement that needs to be intensified. Our CARICOM Embassies and Consulates need to work closely with the Diaspora in a well-coordinated and effective manner. If nothing else requires it at this time, the prospect of a President Donald Trump does.


Wesley Kirton