The year 2018 in the Caribbean was marked by a 7.6 earthquake. Rihanna was named as an ambassador for Barbados, and Cuba signed an agreement with Major League Baseball that allows Cuban players to sign contracts with the MLB without having to defect from their country. Trinidad and Tobago brought home top culinary awards at the Taste of the Caribbean event., and a legislator in that country urged authorities to decriminalize medical marijuana. CARICOM decided to allow more categories of workers to enjoy free movement among the member nations. Cuba got a new president, and Barbados began exploring for offshore oil. Environmental threats to marine life threatened the future of the tourism sector in the region. Antigua and Barbuda agreed to accept financial aid from Russia. And the people of Puerto Rico continued to struggle months after the devastation caused by hurricanes.
CARIBBEAN HIT BY MAGNITUDE 7.6 EARTHQUAKE
Jamaica was included in a tsunami warning triggered by a strong 7.6 earthquake that hit the Caribbean region between Honduras and the Cayman Islands on January 9, 2018. There were no reports of serious damage early on, although some homes suffered cracks. The tsunami warning centers stated that no tsunami waves had been confirmed, but decided to issue advisories to the area, including Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands, Cuba and Jamaica.
RIHANNA TO BE AMBASSADOR FOR BARBADOS
The pop star and fashion icon Rihanna has been chosen by the government of Barbados to be an Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. The singer, who is from Barbados, will be responsible specifically for the promotion of education, tourism, and investment for the country. According to Mia Mottley, the nation’s prime minister, the government is honored to confer the title on the “outstanding” Barbadian star, noting that Rihanna has made significant contributions to raising the island’s profile throughout the world. Mottley went on to say that Rihanna has demonstrated considerable skill in business and that it is appropriate to engage and empower her to take a definitive role toward transforming Barbados. Rihanna said she “couldn’t be more proud to take on such a prestigious title in my home country. Every Barbadian is going to have to play their role in this current effort, and I’m ready and excited to take on the responsibility.”
CUBA AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL REACH AGREEMENT ON SIGNING PLAYERS
The baseball players’ association in the United States, Major League Baseball (MLB) has made an agreement with the Cuban Baseball Federation that will permit players from that country to sign contracts in the big leagues without having to defect. The arrangement is meant to stop the dangerous trafficking in players that has existed for many years. Under the agreement, which runs through October 31, 2021, permits Cubans to sign with big league teams under rules that are similar to those for players under contracts to baseball clubs in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. MLB has sought such an agreement for years in order to end the trafficking of baseball players from Cuba by criminal organizations.
CARICOM TO GRANT FREE MOVEMENT FOR MORE CATEGORIES OF WORKERS
More CARICOM nationals will be permitted to look for work in member states other than their home states under a new commitment by the organization’s leaders to implement free movement and a shared market. Under a new agreement, CARICOM members will expand the categories of workers to the skilled nationals able to move freely throughout the Single Market to agricultural workers, beauty service practitioners, barbers and security guards. Additionally, a skills certificate issued in one member state will be recognized in all member states.
TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO WINS TOP AWARDS AT TASTE OF CARIBBEAN 2018 EVENT
Trinidad and Tobago was named the Caribbean National Culinary Team of the Year for 2018 and the Taste of the Caribbean event. T&T’s team won the top spots in the final of the culinary competition, which was held in Miami, Florida. The country also won the top spot in the Bartender, Best Non-Alcoholic Drink, and Beef categories. Shana Rajahram won the Caribbean Bartender competition, and Tricia Gregoire took home captured the Certified Angus Beef-sponsored Beef competition. The highly anticipated event attracted twelve teams from around the Caribbean and was hosted by the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association. The participating nations included the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bonaire, Cayman Islands, Curaçao, Jamaica, St. Lucia, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Turks and Caicos
MARINE LIFE AT RISK AS SEAWEED THREATENS TOURISM IN CARIBBEAN
Sea turtles and other marine life were threatened when a strange outbreak of Sargassum, a brown seaweed, massed off the shores of Barbados on June 4, 2018. Many sea turtles were rescued from the heavy, foul-smelling, thick, brown layers of seaweed, but others, along with baby dolphins, were found deaf, according to the Barbados Sea Turtle Project. A similar incident occurred in 2015 and killed hundreds of eels, crabs, and fish. Continuing incidents of seaweed inundation could threaten popular vacation spots and have a negative impact on Caribbean tourism. Sargassum is a brown algae species that usually floats on the surface of the North Atlantic Ocean, but have recently been found in the waters between Africa and northeastern South America. The outbreaks may be related to ocean currents, sea temperature, patterns of rainfall, hurricanes, and nutrient levels.
LEGISLATOR IN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO CALLS FOR DECRIMINALIZATON OF MEDICINAL GANJA
Senator Dr. Dhanayshar Mahabir of Trinidad and Tobago wants the government to permit the use of ganja for medicinal purposes. He believes its use could be help to diversity the country’s economy, which currently relies on oil. A lecturer at the University of the West Indies, Dr. Mahabir stated that several licensed producers of medical cannabis based in Canada were obtaining billions of dollars in sales of the drug each year. Local companies attempting similar operation sin T&T are hampered as sales of marijuana are illegal. Mahabir presented his case during debate on the Finance and Appropriation Bill. He informed legislators that companies in Canada were generating CAD$15 billion in market capital, or twice the annual revenue of T&T.
ANTIGUA-BARBUDA SIGN AGREEMENT FOR FINANCIAL AID FROM RUSSIA
The Russian Federation and the governments of Antigua and Barbuda have made a direct funding arrangement that will provide humanitarian financial aid for rebuilding Barbuda, which was seriously damaged by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. The agreement provides for the Russian government to put US$200,000 for financing Barbuda’s recovery effort. According to Charles Fernandez, Barbuda’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, signed the agreement on behalf of the government and thanked Russia for its significant contribution, which will be used to pay for activities designed to revitalize the education sector by repairing the homes of 20 teachers, repairing homes of 20 students, and buying school and plumbing supplies for agricultural science.
PUERTO RICO FACES MULTIPLE CRISES SIX MONTHS AFTER HURRICANE MARIA
The people of Puerto Rico continue to struggle with life six months after Hurricane Maria devastated the country, knocking out all power and cellphone service. While the United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has said its response to the disaster in Puerto Rico is the “largest federal response to a disaster” in US history, much remains to be done, and funding is lacking for the recovery. Rural areas of still have no electricity. Few people can return to their homes because there is no housing; the storm destroyed over 87,0000 homes, with more than 385,000 sustaining major damage. The nation is facing a serious mental health emergency and a suicide crisis as a result of conditions there. Many Puerto Ricans have migrated to other countries, and the government still does not know how many people died as a result of the storm.
EXPLORING FOR OIL TO BEGIN OFF SHORES OF BARBADOS
According to Senator Darcy Boyce, Barbados’ minister with responsibility for energy, exploration of the country’s potential offshore oil resources is slated to start within the coming year Boyce made the announcement at a regional symposium entitled “Strengthening CARICOM Energy Collaboration.” Boyce noted that Barbados had conducted successful negotiations for exploration licenses for two blocks with BHP Billion, which is in the final stages of the Energy Information Administration process. Another block was awarded to Repsol.
CUBA HAS NEW PRESIDENT
Miguel Diaz-Canel is the new president of Cuba. In spite of being involved at high levels of the country’s government for over two decades years, Diaz-Canel is not well known. Their lack of knowledge of the new president has not stopped Cubans from being hopeful that the new official will implement reforms that will have a positive impact on their daily lives. Diaz-Canel will be the first Cuban president who was born after the 1959 revolution, but he has spent the past 24 years moving through the ranks of the nation’s Communist Party. He succeeds Raul Castro as the country’s leader.
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