The top news from around the Caribbean included stories about the support of the Caribbean Congress of Labor for Black Lives Matter, the major poetry prize won by Trinidadian dub poet Roger Robinson, an offer of a loan from China to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America to ensure they had access to COVID-19 vaccines, a new policy in St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda to facilitate obtaining citizenship in those countries, and the development of an “underwater space station” by ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau for the island of Curacao. The news also included stories about the action taken by Barbados to remove the British Queen as head of state, the establishment of a cultural home for the Caribbean Diaspora in Florida, the election victories of many Caribbean Americans in the New York State elections, and the entry of Barbados into the medicinal cannabis industry.
CARIBBEAN CONGRESS OF LABOR GAVE SUPPORT TO BLACK LIVES MATTER
The Caribbean Congress of Labor (CCL) has expressed its support with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States. The CCL issued a statement expressing condolences to the family of George Floyd and supporting the demonstrators who took to the streets in protest of the continuing incidents of brutality committed by US police against black individuals. The CCL expressed its concerns about the state of policing in the US and supports calls from the Black Lives Matter organization for an overhaul of police and state structures to remove systemic racial biases from their operations. and the suspension of primary elections in Puerto Rico due to a lack of ballots.
TRINIDADIAN POET WON MAJOR POETRY PRIZE
Roger Robinson, a dub poet from Trinidad, won the prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize. His collection entitled “A Portable Paradis” was cited in the award. John Burnside, a poet and the chair of the judges’ panel, wrote in The Guardian newspaper that the collection, which covered topics such as violence, dealing with racism, and the fire at the Grenfell Tower in London in 2017, “ is built on observations of ordinary daily life.” The T.S. Eliot Prize is presented in the United Kingdom in recognition of new poetry in English published in The UK or the Republic of Ireland.
CHINA OFFERED LOAN TO CARIBBEAN, LATIN AMERICA TO ENSURE ACCESS TO COVID-19 VACCINE
China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced that his country had offered a $1 billion loan to the Caribbean and Latin America for access to Covid-19 vaccines. He said the vaccine developed in China will be a “public benefit of universal access” and that the nation will mark $1 billion for a loan to support the Caribbean and Latin American region’s access to the vaccine. Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry, noted that China and countries in the Caribbean and Latin America have “stood together” against the virus as a common enemy and will continue to fight the pandemic jointly to build a community built on mutual trust and multilateralism for the future of the region.
THREE CARIBBEAN NATIONS MADE IT EASIER TO OBTAIN CITIZENSHIP
As more Americans considered making a move to another country in light of the COVID-19 crisis in the United States and issues relating to the pending presidential election, three nations in the Caribbean have responded by making it easier and less expensive for foreigners to obtain a second citizenship. St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Antigua and Barbuda implemented new options under COVID-19 relief rules that would allow foreigners to invest lesser amounts of money to gain citizenship. The cost reductions range from $25,000 to $250,000. Wait times for citizenship were also reduced under the relaxed rules. The changes were attributed to the need for these countries to find additional sources of revenue due to the drop in tourism resulting from the pandemic.
PUERTO RICO ELECTIONS COMMISSION SUSPENDED PRIMARIES DUE TO LACK OF BALLOTS
Puerto Rico’s State Elections Commission (SEC) suspended the country’s primary elections on August 9, 2020, due to a lack of ballots. More than 50 percent of the island’s election precincts did not receive their expected ballot delivery and so stated that voting at those places would resume on August 16, 2020. The decision was reached by Juan Ernesto Davila, SEC president and the presidents of the New Progressive Party and the Popular Democratic Party. Many voters were turned away from their attempts to vote at places that had not received ballots. The situation was attributed to a delay in printing the primary election ballots by Printech Inc., which was said to have failed to deliver over a half a million ballots despite being granted almost $3 million under a contract to do so by the SEC.
“UNDERWATER SPACE STATION” SLATED FOR CURACAO
Ocean explorer Fabien Cousteau has announced that he is planning a project to build an “underwater space station” in the Caribbean island of Curacao. The project was named PROTEUS and was described as an “underwater version” of the International Space Station. It is designed to be the most advanced scientific research station and habitat in the world. Cousteau noted that the ocean is “our life support system” and must be part of solving the planet’s problems arising from climate change, rising sea levels, extreme weather, and viruses. These issues represent a multi-trillion-dollar risk to the world’s economy, he said. PROTEUS is planned as the first in a network of underwater habitats meant to find meaningful ways to protect Earth’s future. It will be four times larger than any previous underwater habitat and be powered by wind, solar, and ocean thermal energy sources.
BARBADOS ACTED TO REMOVE QUEEN ELIZABETH II AS HEAD OF STATE
Queen Elizabeth II of England will be removed as the monarch of Barbados in 2021, according to an announcement from Dame Sandra Mason, Governor-General of Barbados. Mason stated that the people of the Caribbean island nation “want a Barbadian head of state.” The country claimed its independence from Britain in 1966, but the Queen remained a constitutional monarch and the technical head of state. Replacing the Queen with a sovereign Barbadian head of state will make the island nation a republic. Mason said this was the next logical step toward full sovereignty of the country, which intends to become a republic by its 55th Anniversary of Independence in November 2021. The country has discussed becoming a republic for many years and will not be the first Caribbean nation to take this step. Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and Guyana have already become republics, and Jamaica has the action under consideration.
CARIBBEAN DIASPORA TO HAVE CULTURAL HOME IN SOUTH FLORIDA
A new Caribbean museum will soon be opened in Broward County, Florida. Described as the first Caribbean museum in the United States, the Island SPACE Caribbean Museum will hold a “soft” opening on October 29 and 30, 2020. The “SPACE” acronym stands for the “Society for the Promotion of Artistic and Cultural Education.” Its grand opening will occur in January of 2021. According to Calibe Thompson, who was born in Jamaica and is the executive director of Island SPACE, the soft opening will allow people to see the “work in progress.” The museum has three spaces that cover 5,000 square feet and include archives of the story of the Caribbean from the times of its indigenous people to the colonial period to the emancipation and independence of the islands. The museum’s sections will explore arts and entertainment, Caribbean religions, and notable people of Caribbean heritage, including US vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris.
CARIBBEAN AMERICANS DECLARED VICTORS IN MANY NEW YORK STATE ELECTIONS
Most of the Caribbean American legislators running for office in New York on November 3, 2020, were victorious, according to unofficial results from the New York State Board of Elections. Democratic Congresswoman Yvette D. Clarke, who is the daughter of Jamaica immigrants, won her re-election campaign with a landslide vote. She represents the chiefly Caribbean 9th Congressional District in Brooklyn. She had called on voters to stand with her to defeat Donald Trump. Other Caribbean American legislators who won in New York included Phara Souffrant, daughter of Haitian immigrants; Diana Richardson, daughter of immigrants from St. Marten and Aruba; Kimberly Jean-Pierre, a Haitian American; Michaelle C. Solages, a Haitian American; Jamaican N. Nick Perry, Haitian.
BARBADOS PLANNED DEVELOPMENT OF MEDICINAL CANNABIS INDUSTRY
Dr. Shantal Munro-Knight, CEO of the Barbados Medicinal Cannabis Licensing Authority (BCLA), announced that the nation’s administration is going ahead with plans to develop a medical cannabis industry. Despite setbacks arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is extremely high interest among investors in the sector. Investors will be able to submit applications and proposals for cannabis industry development beginning in January of 2021. The cost of licenses for the industry is five times less than those in other Caribbean countries. Additionally, the BCLA is working to lower infrastructure costs and improve procedural efficiencies, elements that have made it difficult for locals in other Caribbean nations to do business.