Jean Michel Lapin

Lapin Is Haiti’s New Prime Minister

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Haitian President Jovenel Moise confirmed the appointment of Jean Michel Lapin, who has served as acting prime minister since March 21, following the removal from office after a mere six months of the government of Jean Henry Céant. Lapin becomes Haiti’s third since February 2017 to direct the affairs of 11 million residents and a country facing a record $450 million deficit this year.

Government corruption, dysfunction, law-breaking and contempt for the rule of law have been mainstays of the dismissal of previous governments. This has been accompanied by violent street protests and security concerns, prompting a level four travel warning from the US State Department.

Lapin will be required to form a new government with the approval of both chambers of parliament, utilizing his extended years of service in public administration and service to the last four Haitian presidents as a courier in the public administration and the former culture and communications minister.

The capacity to tackle economic challenges and manouver within a failed system to create an institution for economic growth and investment to gain confidence in Haiti and the international community is of utmost importance.

Lapin’s political program faces challenges of US$290 million deficit, and a national budget estimated at US$1.8 billion. Lack of job creation has unemployment at 50 percent; the rising cost of living has inflation at 17 percent, while 60 percent of the population is living under the poverty line, compound the country’s economic problems.

In the forefront of Lapin’s social and economic policy is the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pre-requisite for the disbursement of the first tranche of a US$229 million loan to Haiti.

Calls for Moise to resign have not subsided amid an investigation into the alleged misuse and embezzlement of funds from the PetroCaribe Venezuela oil program, while questions have been raised about government contracts and issues of accountability and transparency when the country is facing renewed blackouts and unable to pay fuel suppliers.

On the immediate horizon are further concerns to national security when the UN stabilization mission comes to an end. Local and legislative elections are also due by October. Meanwhile, Moise awaits President Donald Trump’s promise that a high-level delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets, would visit their nations in the next 90 days, following the Mar-a-Lago meeting of select regional heads of government to reinforce support for the US position on Venezuela.

TCI Opposition:

Sandals tax debt is $164 million

(BROOKLYN, New York):  While the current Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson-led government in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) has been praised by some members of the public for potentially bringing a resolution to a 22-year outstanding tax dispute with Sandals Resorts International, the largest hotelier in the TCI, the leader of the opposition, Washington Misick, has now claimed that the amount of unpaid taxes owed to the government by Sandals is in fact more than six times the $26 million figure generally referred to.

Misick, who is also the newly elected leader of the opposition Progressive National Party (PNP), took to local radio as a guest on The Breakfast Club Show (TBCS) with his new party chairman, Calvin Green, to level several allegations against Premier Cartwright-Robinson and her government.

Amongst the litany of scorching assertions against the premier, Misick has alleged that the Peoples Democratic Movement ((PDM) government is in bed with Sandals and its owner, Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart. The allegation was made during the interview when Misick told listeners, “There is a perception, rightly or wrongly that the current government has a very, very, close relationship to Stewart, one that is perhaps beyond just pure business.”

Misick was not slow to get to the big issues surrounding the Sandals tax dispute as a central topic and made allegations of malfeasance against the premier and minister of finance Cartwright-Robinson, claiming that she was disingenuous when she made it appear that she discovered the matter. Misick also alleged that she was not telling the truth and has hidden details from the public. Reading from an audit report that he had in his possession, Misick reeled off the figures discovered by the audit team at the government’s Revenue Control Unit, which falls under the portfolio of the premier as minister of finance.

Misick said that the true debt owed to the people of the TCI in uncollected revenue from the Sandals Beaches TCI property was massive and that the all-inclusive resort still owed US$15 million from 2014, US$17 million from 2015 and US$12 million from 2016 and, when added to the penalty for unpaid taxes, the total at 2018 stood at US$164 million.

Beaches TCI announced earlier in the year that it would be temporarily closing its Providenciales property in January 2021 — a move widely perceived as an attempt to pressure the government into granting it a tax amnesty — a tactic it has attempted to use in other Caribbean islands.

CARICOM: Still divided on Venezuela at OAS

(BROOKLYN, New York):  — Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries continue to adopt competing narratives and different visions of instructional authority that divide the region on supporting opposition leader Juan Guaidó, as the self-proclaimed interim president of Venezuela, this time on the acceptance of his permanent representative at the Organization of American States (OAS).

CARICOM has adopted a position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The Permanent Council of the OAS recently approved a resolution on the situation in Venezuela in which it resolved “to accept the appointment of Gustavo Tarré as the national assembly’s designated permanent representative, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government.” Guaidó, is recognized as the Interim presidency of Venezuela by the US and most of the 34 members of the OAS, which considers the administration of Nicolas Maduro illegitimate.

The resolution was approved with 18 countries in favor: Argentina, The Bahamas, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic and Saint Lucia.

Nine countries voted against the OAS initiative: Antigua and Barbuda, Bolivia, Dominica, Grenada, Mexico, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Uruguay. Six countries abstained: Barbados, El Salvador, Guyana, Nicaragua, St Kitts and Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago. Belize was absent.

Recently a select group of four CARICOM heads of government met with US President Donald Trump, as an opportunity to thank these countries for their support of the US position on Venezuela, contrary to the official CARICOM position on the issue of non-interference.

The selected leaders from The Bahamas, Haiti, Jamaica, and Saint Lucia, along with the Dominican Republic, were promised a high-level delegation from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), a US government agency that helps American businesses invest in emerging markets. These countries voted in favor of recognizing the opposition envoy designated at the OAS.

Secretary-general of the OAS, Luis Almagro, welcomed Tarré to the hemispheric institution stating, “We will work to deepen the path to democratization, peace and justice for Venezuela.”

He claimed that “the voices in favor of democracy in the hemisphere” voted for the resolution that accepted his appointment. Tarré highlighted the struggle of Almagro for the freedom of his country, and the step taken by the Permanent Council in recognizing him in his post, adding, “The usurpation ended concerning the chair of Venezuela, now we will work for a transition government and free elections.”

On social media Tarré celebrated, saying, “Today we achieved the cessation of the usurpation of our chair in permanent council of the OAS, an important step to achieve the objectives set by President Juan Guaidó.” Maduro called the OAS’s decision a “criminal and rampant violation of international law and the OAS charter.”

The Venezuelan foreign ministry said in a statement. “The government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela reaffirms its irrevocable decision to leave the Organization of American States on April 27, 2019… given that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela cannot remain in an organization that goes to its knees before the imperial interests of the US administration.”

Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN, Samuel Moncada, said that, with this decision, the US government is aiming to expel the representatives of Venezuela in international organizations and impose people “that we are not sure whom they represent exactly.”

Cuba Gets Venezuelean Oil despite US sanctions

(BROOKLYN, New York):  The Venezuelan government has vowed to continue to fulfil its oil commitments to Cuba despite new sanctions imposed on President Nicholas Maduro’s administration by the United States. The April 5, 2019, communication through the US Department of State via the US Treasury Department, outlines sanctions that the US is imposing on companies doing business with Venezuela, which they claim are enabling them to support the island nation of Cuba with oil shipments.

The sanction notification from the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) states that it has designated two companies operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy, pursuant to an Executive Order (E.O.) 13850, as amended.

Additionally, the OFAC note stated that OFAC had identified one vessel that transported oil from Venezuela to Cuba, as a “blocked property” already in contravention to the E.O of 13850 and that the blocked vessel has been indicated to be a wholly owned entity that is already blocked and/or sanctioned by the US

Separately, OFAC is also identifying 34 vessels as blocked property of Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), which was designated January 28, 2019, for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy.

The three vessels the OFAC had clearly identified were:

Despina Andrianna is a crude oil tanker (IMO: 9182667) which is said to have delivered crude oil from Venezuela to Cuba during February and March 2019. Ballito Bay Shipping incorporated is based in Monrovia, Liberia, and is the registered owner of the vessel, Despina Andrianna. ProPer In Management Incorporated is based in the port city of Piraeus, Athens, Greece, and is the operator of the vessel, Despina Andrianna.

In a corresponding note on the sanctions, the US State Department issued a statement that said in part:

“The former Maduro regime continues to line its pockets with the profits from natural resources that rightly belong to the people of Venezuela. Meanwhile, Cuba is propping up the former government and facilitating its repression of the Venezuelan people, through its military and intelligence support to Maduro.

“The United States is taking action to curtail this and other ongoing corrupt activities of Nicolas Maduro and malign actors. We encourage companies, banks, and other institutions to refrain from providing services that support his repressive practices. We also urge countries to take appropriate legal measures to deprive Maduro and his cronies of assets held overseas and to prevent travel to their countries,” along with promising to put the full weight of US power on that of the Maduro administration.

Foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, responded to the sanctions and said that we would continue to “fulfil our commitments to Cuba”, and he went further to add that “When the conventional power of capitalism attacks you, you have to know how to respond through non-conventional means, always respecting international law.”

The pressure is continually mounting on the Maduro regime, this among other national issues that he is faced with in addition to other international demands for him to step down and allow for the self-appointed president of Venezuela, Juan Guaidó, who is also the president of the Venezuelan national assembly, to take the helm of the flagging country. In addition to the ongoing political pressure, Venezuela has been amid a current electricity outage crisis that the Maduro administration has blamed squarely on the covert actions of the United States.

Also, the country with the largest known oil reserves watches as their once vibrant oil sector continually deteriorates. OPEC has announced in their monthly OPEC report, Venezuela reported an output of 960 thousand barrels per day (BPD), whereas secondary sources said 732 thousand BPD. These numbers are down from 1,432 and 1,021 thousand BPD, respectively. According to secondary sources, Venezuela’s output averaged 1,911 and 1,354 thousand BPD in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Venezuela’s oil production has also been crippled by successive rounds of US sanctions targeting state oil company PDVSA. OFAC measures have shut off PDVSA from financial markets, prohibited debt re-negotiations, frozen PDVSA’s US subsidiary CITGO, stopped imports of US-made refining products and imposed a de facto embargo on Venezuelan oil exports to the US. Oil shipments to US refineries fell from around 500 thousand BPD in late January to zero following a winding down period.

St Lucia Opposition Leader Calls Budget “Fiscal Illusion”

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): The government of Saint Lucia recxently released its budget for the financial year 2019/20 in the sum of EC$1,591,589,000, amid warnings of significant downside risks to the world economy, including mounting debt levels and increasing inequality and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) projecting a decline in growth this year for 70 percent of the global economy. The estimates of expenditure represent a marked increase of $104,005,800 from the previous financial year, requiring net financing of EC$332,357,207, an overall increase of EC$135,153,801.

Leader of the opposition, Philip J Pierre, responding to the budget presentation in parliament said, “I have no confidence in the estimates. No hope in the estimates to change lives in Saint Lucia. This government is living in a world of illusion.”

“The low growth rate of just over 1 percent can be attributed to the government’s poor performance in capital expenditure. This means that the economy is not growing, hence the relatively flat unemployment figures. The budget summary shows that the current account to be in deficit of EC$20 million in 2017/2018,” Pierre said.

“Public trust in this government has long gone and with justification. On page 66 of the estimates, route permit fees are to increase by over 500 percent in the year 2019/2020. It is proposed that there will be EC$246.7million for capital expenditure, but there is little hope for many contractors looking for work. The experience to date has been an unprecedented number of government contracts awarded without contractors being invited to tender.

“Signs are that the minister of finance is getting desperate to get the economy moving having wasted almost three years, has planned to plunge the country into a deficit position in the hope that he can revive the economy with the next elections on the horizon,” adding that, “There are good reasons why the estimates don’t add up. The total national debt is EC$33 billion,” he said.

Saint Lucia recorded a flat year of economic growth notwithstanding prime minister and minister for finance’s wishful thinking a year ago that, “It is imperative that we remove the impediments to further growth… focuses on maximizing growth capacity and building resilience as a nation” calling on citizens to “stay the course” as the country is “starting to show positive signs of an uptick in the economy and a slight downturn in unemployment figures.”

JetBlue to begin Guyana flights

(BROOKLYN, New York): After indicating its interest in adding Guyana to its network, JetBlue has made the decision to enter the Guyana market, according to media reports in Guyana. Reports say that the  Guyanese public is euphoric that a “world class airline’ will serve the NY-JFK/Georgetown market.

In the past JetBlue has said, “We are always looking to expand and fly to the places people want to go. We have no decisions regarding service to Guyana to announce at this time.” However, JetBlue said in response to an email inquiry, “We are always looking to expand and fly to the places people want to go, however we have not made any public announcements regarding service in Guyana.”

This is viewed as significant because JetBlue did not deny media reports that it will enter the Guyana market — it just hasn’t made “any public announcements regarding service to Guyana.” JetBlue officials met with the foreign affairs minister of Guyana, Carl Greenidge, in 2015, and the airline had some concerns. Greenidge said, “The interested airline’s team (JetBlue) is looking at the traffic and facilities, safety and fuel issues and will make a decision after acquiring additional aircraft.”

Jet fuel prices at CJIA have dropped and a new and expanded Cheddi Jagan International Airport (CJIA) is scheduled to be completed by this summer. According to the Guyana Chronicle, a state-owned newspaper, “Reports are that the company executives discussed several routes with which the airline will be establishing in the months ahead and, on Wednesday, JetBlue officials discussed the lucrative nature of the Guyana-New York route.”

The government newspaper claimed that ”JetBlue sources told Guyana Chronicle that officials are brainstorming the type of aircraft to service this route.” Just recently American Airlines (AA) began flying to Guyana from Miami, which left the lucrative JFK/GEO route still under-served.

JetBlue flies only the Airbus and it is awaiting delivery of extended range A321s for its news 2021 transatlantic flights, and could ply the Airbus 321neo on the route because it is within the nonstop range for NYC/GEO.

Islamic Bank Will fund Suriname’s Developmental Programs

(BROOKLYN, New York):  – Suriname and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC), an independent organization within the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) recently signed two agreements with the minister of finance, Gillmore Hoefdraad, and the chief executive officer, Hani Salem Sunbol.

One is a Murabaha agreement for US$25 million. This agreement is a credit facility intended for the import of basic goods, medicines and medical consumables as well as imports for the agricultural sector. The second agreement is a framework agreement in which Suriname and the ITFC will enter into a strategic partnership for a maximum amount of US$75 million for the next three years. The focus will be on the financing of goods, the provision of ‘Line of Finance’ to support small and medium-sized enterprises, providing technical or financial assistance and promoting trade and trade relations.

In December 2018, Suriname became the 45th member of the Islamic Corporation for the Insurance of Investment and Export Credit (ICIEC). The CEO, Osama Abdel Kaissi, said he is therefore delighted to support the public and private sector in Suriname. Both the CEO of ITFC and ICIEC will visit Suriname this year to build stronger cooperation, according to Hoefdraad.

Dr. Bandar M.H. Haijar, CEO of the Islamic Bank Group and Hoefdraad on April 4, also signed a loan agreement with the bank for the expansion of P\power generation, transmission and distribution systems in Suriname for the amount of US$41.3 million. The project aims to guarantee steady and sufficient energy supply for Suriname.

The project was prepared by a unique joint mission in January and is being funded by three other international partners alongside IsDB. The Kuwait Funds, OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) are also funding the project.

In Marrakech, Hoefdraad also met with the director-general of the OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Abdulhamid Al Khalifa. OPEC will support the energy and health sectors of Suriname. The minister signed also two donation agreements. The first donation concerns the strengthening of the Bureau for Gender Issues for US$280,000. The second donation is for the Reverse Linkage project in cooperation with the IsDB and Indonesia for technology regarding the artificial insemination of cattle. The IsDB will contribute US$280,000, while the government of Indonesia will fund US$380,000.

Hoefdraad and Hajjar also discussed the progress of ongoing projects, including education and housing, and the other Reverse Linkage projects in the field of rice with Malaysia, and air traffic control with Turkey. The IsDB president was also invited to visit Suriname soon and Guyana will be part of that Caribbean visit. Also, in 2020 the the IsDB gave a firm commitment to open a regional hub in Suriname.

Further support for Islamic financing in Suriname was pledged in this case to Trust Bank Amanah and also the possibility of an introduction course of Islamic Finance at the Anton de Kom University was discussed according to Hoefdraad.

US Report: CARICOM Is “Money Laundering Center”

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): – In the latest US International Narcotics Control Strategy Report (INCSR), volume two dedicated to money laundering, the report lists all major Caribbean and Central American countries as “Major Money Laundering Jurisdictions” for the year 2018: Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Maarten, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela.

In fact, the only Caribbean/Central American countries left off of this year’s INCSR are the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, both US protectorates, along with Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana, all three of them overseas departments of France.

The US even added itself to the list of major money laundering jurisdictions along with the United Kingdom, Spain and The Netherlands all founding members of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with the OECD working closely in conjunction with the European Union (EU) on tax-avoidance issues and creating the “Tax Haven Blacklist” that seeks to name and shame and then penalize countries that it has found to be tax havens and money laundering centers.

The US is a founding member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the international financial crimes watch dog that also works in conjunction with the OECD on tax avoidance and tax fraud related matters.

The INCSR also stated in its report that: ”the development and implementation of effective Anti-Money Laundering (AML) regimes consistent with international standards and the ability to meet evolving challenges is clearly vital to the maintenance of solvent, secure, and reliable financial, commercial, and trade systems,” and went further to state that this law enforcement’s objective is consistent with the US’s “2018 national security strategy and the 2017 executive order 13773, enforcing federal law with respect to transnational criminal organizations and preventing international trafficking.”

The report also indicates the work of its parent US governmental department, the US State Department, through the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (BINALA) and the work they have done in regard to bi-lateral and multi-lateral cooperative efforts to strengthen criminal justice systems and law enforcement agencies around the world. Through the BINALA various international programs, as well as in coordination with other DOS bureaus, US government agencies, and multilateral organizations, the INL addresses a broad range of law enforcement and criminal justice areas.

The INCSR report does not indicate if whether or not US sanctions or additional pressure will come as a result of being put on the major money laundering centers list, unlike the EU’s money laundering and tax haven blacklist, the INCSR list is primarily short note on to further guidance on AML regimes around the world as the report went on the flesh out the rationale behind every country on the list.

Dubai boosting ties with Caribbean markets

(BROOKLYN, New York):  — Government and business leaders from the UAE and the Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC) reinforced their commitment to improving bilateral ties and expanding economic cooperation at the third global business forum (GBF) on Latin America, which was recently held in Panama City, Panama.

Organized by Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry in partnership with inter-American Development Bank (IDB), GBF Latin America – Panama 2019 was attended by Juan Carlos Varela, president of Panamá; Jovenel Moïse, president of Haiti; policymakers, ministers, top government officials and business leaders from the LAC and GCC regions. Speaking at the forum, Varela revealed that Panama and Dubai would plan to establish special working groups to foster cooperation in crucial sectors of mutual interest, including tourism, real state, free zones, among others, to achieve short term results and boost bilateral relations.

Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdulaziz Al-Shehhi, undersecretary of economic affairs for the UAE ministry of economy noted that the UAE’s policy of openness and a strong commitment to economic diversification had enabled the country to look outward and build partnerships in different parts of the world. He noted that GBF Latin America is a continuation of that strategy as the event is key to increasing trade and business exchange.

Majid Saif Al Ghurair, chairman of Dubai Chamber, revealed Dubai Chamber’s plans to open a fourth Latin American representative office in Mexico City later this year which he described as a strategic move that will enhance its efforts to expand trade between Dubai and Latin America.

He noted that GBF Latin America – Panama 2019 comes at a time when bilateral economic ties are multiplying as reflected in Dubai’s non-oil trade with Latin America which has surged 46 percent from $4.6 billion in 2011 to $6.7 billion in 2018, while the emirate continues to boost its exports to the region.

Trinidad and Tobago signs economic partnership agreement with UK

(BROOKLYN, New York): Trinidad and Tobago recently became the latest Caribbean Community (CARICOM) regional country poised to take full advantage of the ten-year-old economic partnership agreement (EPA) signed between the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the European Union. Signing the EPA between CARIFORUM states and the United Kingdom on behalf of the government of Trinidad and Tobago, was Orville London, high commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago to the UK.

The high commissioner also signed the related memorandum of understanding between Trinidad and Tobago and the UK concerning the arrangements for the continuation of the effects of the EPA between CARIFORUM states and the European Community and its member states.

Signing on behalf of the UK was George Hollingberry, minister for trade policy. According to the UK government, the agreement will allow businesses and many others across the Caribbean to trade like they do now, without any additional barriers or tariffs.

The EPA will eliminate all tariffs on all goods imported from the signing CARIFORUM states into the UK, while those Caribbean states will continue gradually to cut import tariffs on most of the region’s imports from the UK.

Trinidadian Arrested as US Officials Foil Terror Plot

 

(BROOKLYN, New York):  – A Trinidadian-born man has been accused in the United States of plotting to plow a stolen van into a crowd at a large shopping and entertainment compound outside of Washington, in what prosecutors said was an ISIS-inspired attack.

According to court documents, 28-year-old Rondell Henry, a naturalized US citizen who lives in Maryland, allegedly admitted to the plot after being arrested on March 28. The charging documents have only just been unsealed. He has been charged with interstate transportation of a stolen vehicle, and faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

Although Henry faces no terrorism charges, court documents detail terrorism-related accusations. According to prosecutors’ detention memo, Henry stole a U-Haul van with the intention of using it as a weapon against pedestrians on sidewalks within the National Harbor complex along the Potomac River in Maryland. 

Prosecutors said that for two years, he harbored “hatred” for those who do not practice the Muslim faith. And, allegedly inspired by videos he watched of foreign terrorists, he decided to conduct a vehicular attack similar to the 2016 truck attack in Nice, France, for which ISIS claimed responsibility.

“He had no escape plan, intending to die while killing others for his cause,” the detention memo stated.

According to the criminal complaint and other court documents, on March 26, the Alexandria Police Department was contacted concerning a leased U-Haul vehicle that had been stolen from a parking garage at a mall in Alexandria, Virginia. The driver who had rented the U-Haul vehicle had noticed a man driving a blue BMW follow the U-Haul off Interstate 395 and onto mall property, then follow the U-Haul into the parking garage and park a few spaces away. When police responded to the garage, they found the BMW near where the U-Haul had been stolen. A check of the BMW’s registration records revealed that the BMW was registered to Henry.

The next day, the stolen U-Haul was located at the National Harbor in Maryland. Before he arrived at the Maryland complex, however, Henry spent nearly two hours at Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on March 27, assessing crowds there.

However, he found too few people for the scale of the attack he envisioned and moved on to National Harbor where he parked the U-Haul and walked around a popular part of National Harbor before breaking into a boat to hide overnight.

Henry wanted to create “panic and chaos” at National Harbor, the “same as what happened in France”, the detention memo said. However, by the following morning, police officers had discovered the location of the stolen U-Haul, and when Henry jumped over the security fence from the boat dock, they arrested him.

Carnival Continues Cruise Calls to Antigua


(BROOKLYN, New York): – Carnival Corporation and the Antigua and Barbuda Government have reached an agreement that will see the cruise company reversing its decision to cancel some of its calls to the twin-island republic. The details of the agreement have not been made public, but in a joint statement issued after a second round of talks in Miami the two sides said the deal provides a foundation for Carnival to continue to operate in Antigua for many more years to come.

“While some calls were rescheduled, other calls that were being considered for cancellation will now call as planned and both parties agreed to continue discussions on the possibility of having more summer calls,” the statement disclosed, although it did not state which calls were rescheduled or which would continue as planned.

Last month, President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cruise Tourism Association Nathan Dundas said that the Florida-based Carnival Cruise Lines was cancelling its scheduled calls. Dundas had told the media that Carnival had dropped Antigua and Barbuda from the itinerary of its Carnival Breeze, Carnival Magic, Carnival Legend and Carnival Pride cruise ships which were scheduled to sail to the twin-island nation for the 2019/2020 winter season. The Government subsequently accused Dundas of scaremongering and causing unnecessary fear among cruise stakeholders. But officials subsequently held talks with Carnival on the matter.

In the statement issued after that second meeting last weekend, Prime Minister Gaston Browne said his Government was extremely pleased to have reached an agreement with Carnival, “our very valued partner”. “We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship that will bring even greater prosperity to our people,” he said.

Tourism Economic Development and Investment Minister, Charles Fernandez said the brands of Carnival Corporation have been partners with Antigua and Barbuda for many years, contributing approximately US$48 million to the economy over the past five years.

“Certainly we appreciate and respect their desire to provide a greater experience and value to their guest visiting Antigua,” he said, adding that the government has invested an estimated US$110 million in cruise facilities and other upgrades beyond the port, and further upgrades will be done, bringing the total investment to US$200 million.

“This will create the basis for more cruise visitors as well as opportunities and added jobs for our people,” Fernandez said.

Consumer and Business Confidence Up in Jamaica

(BROOKLYN, New York); – Consumer and business confidence in the economy have recorded increases for the first quarter of 2019. The consumer confidence index was 177.5 points compared to the 175.5 points in the fourth quarter of 2018, while the business confidence index increased to 151 points.

The survey of consumer confidence and the survey of business confidence were undertaken by Market Research Services on behalf of the Jamaica Chamber of Conference (JCC). Managing Director of Market Research Services, Don Anderson, said consumers’ expectations for jobs is at the heart of the surge in consumer confidence.

In addition, the index was driven by consumers’ views on government initiatives, as well as their observations of ongoing infrastructural changes.

“Especially over the last three years, consumers have been buoyed by the prospects of new jobs, particularly in the construction sector, the business process outsourcing (BPO) sector and to a lesser extent in the tourism sector. Over the last three years, the consumer’s confidence has been consistent, and it is clear that consumers are upbeat about their prospects of getting a job,” Anderson said.

Regarding the business confidence index, he noted that companies remain bullish on their plans to invest. According to the data, firms’ willingness to invest in new plants and equipment records the highest in the history of this survey, soaring to 159 points, surpassing the record set in the last quarter of 2018 (151 points).

More than 70 per cent of all firms surveyed continued to agree that the time was right for expansion. More than 56 per cent of the firms surveyed indicated having solid plans to increase the level of capital investment in their firms over the next 12 months.

In addition, expectations for economic growth increased marginally to 67 per cent compared to 65 per cent in the last quarter of 2018. Businesses also report that they expect the economy to improve in the next 12 months.

Cayman Islands Court Presses Same-Sex Marriage Pause Button

(BROOKLYN, New York);  – On the same day two women were to become the first same-sex couple in the Cayman Islands to get married, a Court of Appeal stayed the High Court decision that would have made the wedding possible. The right given to same-sex couples to marry in the British Overseas Territory has been suspended, pending the hearing of government’s appeal against Chief Justice Anthony Smellie’s rewrite of the law to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Court of Appeal handed down that decision after government sought a stay to prevent the Chief Justice’s ruling – which was handed down in a challenge to the Marriage Law filed by Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush after they were refused an application to wed in April 2018– from taking effect until its appeal is heard.

President of the three-member panel, Sir John Goldring said the court accepted the point raised by attorney Reshma Sharma on behalf of the attorney general that there was a risk of creating a legal anomaly if same-sex couples were allowed to marry and the Chief Justice’s decision was later overturned on appeal.

He said the judges had read and considered Day’s “moving and detailed” affidavit and was in “no doubt” of the prejudices she and Bodden Bush faced. But, he said, there were cogent grounds for a stay to be put in place. The judge said the court was also conscious of the administrative changes that may be required to give effect to Smellie’s judgment.

“It is not without hesitation that we have concluded that the interests of justice do require a stay in this case, pending the decision of this court,” Justice Goldring said. The court will hear government’s appeal at its next sitting in August and make a decision on whether the Chief Justice’s ruling should stand.

In his judgment delivered on April 1, the Chief Justice ordered a rewrite of the Cayman Islands’ Marriage Law, saying that preventing same-sex couples from accessing marriage and the suite of rights that come with it was a clear violation of freedoms guaranteed in the Constitution, including the right to a private and family life, the right to freedom of conscience, and the right to freedom from discrimination.

The Chief Justice ordered that the clause in the law that specifies marriage is reserved for heterosexual couples should be amended to state that: “Marriage means the union between two people as one another’s spouses.” The government, in its appeal, maintains that the Chief justice overstepped his powers by revising the Marriage Law directly, to create what Sharma described as “a new species of marriage”.

But David McGrath, who was representing Day and Bodden Bush, said government’s grounds for appeal were simply a rehash of arguments that had been unsuccessful at trial. He said they were “totally without merit” and had “no chance of success”, and it would be unfair to his clients to deny them the “fruits of their judgment”.

Justice Goldring said the Alden McLaughlin-led administration did not have to prove that it had a realistic chance of success on appeal to be granted a stay. He said the government simply had to prove that it had an arguable case, which it did.

Lewis Hamilton wins Chinese Grand Prix


(BROOKLYN, New York): Lewis Hamilton, the British race car driving sensation who traces his roots to the Caribbean island of Grenada, took a comfortable victory in the Chinese Grand Prix to hold the championship lead for the first time in 2019. The Mercedes driver passed team-mate Valtteri Bottas, who started from pole position, off the line and controlled Formula 1’s 1,000th race from there.

 

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took third, after the team ordered team-mate Charles Leclerc to let him by in the opening laps. The decision led to Leclerc losing fourth place to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull.

And Ferrari’s young driver – in his third race for the team – questioned the decision over team radio, saying: “But I’m pulling away.” 

Ferrari will face questions about the wisdom of their approach to the race – and to team orders in general – but Hamilton was serenely distant from such concerns.

 

After taking the lead, Hamilton edged away from Bottas, building a five-second lead before his first pit stop on lap 22. Mercedes’ decision to bring Bottas in first to protect from Vettel behind dropped the lead to less than two seconds, but Hamilton soon pulled away again to take his second victory in a row. It was Hamilton’s 75th career victory, and it came on a weekend on which he had struggled throughout practice but pulled a lap out of the bag to grab a front-row spot, which proved the foundation for his win.

 

CCJ Tells CARICOM to “Get On Board”


(BROOKLYN, New York): There’s no need to fear the Caribbean Court of Justice’s (CCJ) ability to dispense justice in the region. That was the prevailing sentiment as the regional court embarked on a outreach program with a Media Open Day live broadcast that not only highlighted landmark decisions but gave viewers a walk through of its operations at the Trinidad headquarters.

 

Last year, Grenada and Antigua & Barbuda voted against switching to the CCJ as their final appellate court. In its bid to win over the region, the 14-year-old tribunal drew on a senator, lecturer, and its own line-up of respected jurists to push its cause as it beseeched other states to join Barbados, Guyana, Belize and Dominica as having it as their final court of appeal.

 

President Adrian Saunders said that to the often asked question as to why the regional states should have the CCJ as its final appellate court he had “not heard a single reason that persuades me that is a good idea to send final appeals of any of these countries to a tribunal other than the Caribbean Court of Justice”. 

 

To emphasize his point of Seeing from Near Judging from Far, a presentation he made in Barbados on Friday night, Saunders cited the case of Trinidadian media magnate Ken Gordon versus former Trinidad prime minister Basdeo Panday in which Gordon claimed Panday defamed him by calling him a pseudo racist. 

 

The losing Panday appealed all the way to the London-based Privy Council which also ruled against him and, said Justice Saunders, the law lords’ words then also gave weight to the need to have the CCJ. He said the overseas judges ruled that the Trinidad and Tobago judges were in the best position to assess whether in Port of Spain it would be a bad thing to call someone a pseudo racist and that assessing the seriousness of a libel and the quantification of an award were matters where judges with knowledge of local conditions were much better placed than they were to make a determination. 

Justice Saunders said the four states which had signed on were enjoying a tremendous advantage over the other states demonstrated in the volume of cases reaching the CCJ compared to those going elsewhere.

 

St. Lucia’s Baron Foods Wins Quality Awards

(BROOKLYN, New York): Venturing into a new awards segment, Baron Foods will yet again take a bow for its eminent attention to detail, taste and quality. The company has recently been awarded two Silver Medals at the Monde Selection 2019 International Quality Awards for its Banana Ketchup and Sweet Chili Thai Sauce products.

On the Monde Evaluation Graph, both product’s packaging and visual appeal ranked the highest followed by taste and texture. The quality of each product is evaluated by a panel of 8 jury personnel whom range from Michelin Starred Chefs, members of the “Académie Culinaire de France” and other prestigious associations.

Baron Foods continues to set the bar within the region by being one of the first Caribbean Food Manufacturing companies to be honored with such awards. The Baron Sweet Chili Thai Sauce is one out of the eleven products which makes up the Baron Gourmet Collection and was launched in October, 2011. This convenient gourmet collection was well received and has given birth to the jargon that’s typically gaining popularity with this range i.e. “meals in minutes.”

Being a results-oriented company coupled with a strong customer base, Baron Foods has evolved from being a local company with its roots in St. Lucia to a regional company with a full agro- processing plant in the island of Grenada and Trinidad & Tobago.

The Baron Banana Ketchup is no shocker at winning as it has also been recognized at the Top Innovations of Anuga 2013 and has won the iTQi Super Taste Award in 2015. Being launched short of a decade now; the product has gained recognition globally for its unique flavor profile.

“We came with a vision of providing innovative and quality products to our customers, by ingeniously fusing various local raw materials to replicate international flavors whilst adding our Caribbean twist!”, CEO Ronald Ramjattan said.

Above all, these achievements are cause for national pride and celebration. Capturing this distinguished award has allowed for the Baron Brand to be once again catapulted further into the international market arena and has legitimized the guarantee of buying a product recognized for its gustative qualities.

 

Castro warns Cubans to brace for shortages

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Communist Party leader Raúl Castro recently warned Cubans that they should brace for worsening shortages due to Trump administration policies, but said the island won’t return to the extreme deprivation of the post-Soviet period. In his first speech to the nation in more than three months, Castro said that U.S. pressure on Venezuela and Cuba could lead to serious shortages increasing sharply in coming months.

It has become hard to find basic goods such as chicken, cooking oil, eggs and flour throughout Cuba this year, due largely to a lack of hard currency to buy imported goods or equipment to process domestic products. State-run newspapers cut their page count last week due to shortages of newsprint, and Castro indicated that the government would engage in further cutbacks due to cash shortfalls.

“We’ve taken a series of decision to focus the development of the economy, and to resist and overcome the new obstacles imposed by the hardening of the economic siege,” Castro said. “We need to be aware of growing problems, and the situation could grow worse in the next few months.”

Cuba’s centrally planned economy has lost hundreds of millions of dollars in income in recent months due to problems in deals with leftist allies and former allies. Brazil’s new right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro canceled a contract employing thousands of Cuban doctors late last year. The collapse of Venezuela’s economy is believed to have cost an additional hundreds of millions in cutbacks to aid to Cuba, although neither country releases figures.

Castro spoke at a ceremony in which a new constitution, approved in a February referendum, went into effect. The National Assembly is now expected to pass a series of laws updating elements of the Cuban state, ranging from the electoral system to the family code. Cuban officials say there are no major economic reforms pending for one of the world’s last Soviet-style systems, despite the increasingly tough situation.

While he warned of worsening shortages, Castro said that the hunger and desperation that hit Cuba after the fall of its Soviet patron in 1991 would not return, thanks to Cuba’s diversified economy — with nearly 5 million tourists a year and direct investment from Europe, Asia and Latin America.

“It’s not about returning to the harshest phase of the Special Period of the ’90s,” Castro said. “Today it’s a different scenario in terms of the diversification of the economy, although we do have to be prepared for the worst.” Along with sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba’s closest ally and economic patron, the Trump administration has made it harder to visit Cuba and has threatened to allow U.S. lawsuits against foreign investors here.

Despite the pressure, Castro said Cuba would not abandon President Nicolás Maduro and his administration. “We will never abandon our duty to act in solidarity with Venezuela, or renounce a single one of our principles, and we energetically reject all pressure and blackmail,” Castro said. 

Buju Banton Needs Security Clearance For T &T

 

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Trinidad & Tobago’s Minister of National Security, Stuart Young says Jamaican reggae icon Buju Banton must apply for special permission to enter the twin island republic due to the singer’s criminal history. Banton is scheduled to perform at the Queen’s Park Savannah in Port of Spain, Trinidad on April 21. 

Speaking at a recent post-Cabinet briefing, Young said that he has informed the concert promoters of the requirement. However, he said he’s prepared to issue the exemption in order for Buju Banton to perform.

“That is squarely on my desk. Buju Banton falls foul of our immigration laws in Trinidad and Tobago. I have asked that it be conveyed to the organizers of the concert that they need to make an application to the minister…I can say at this stage I am prepared to give an exemption,” he said.

Buju Banton, whose real name is Mark Myrie, was held by US Drug Enforcement Administration agents in December 2009 in Florida, where he was charged him with conspiracy to distribute and possession of more than five kilograms of cocaine. He was released from prison in the US on December 7, 2018, after being convicted of drug trafficking in 2011. His return to Jamaica was greeted with fanfare and his first concert since his release, ‘Long Walk to Freedom’, was held in Jamaica on March 16.

Jimmy Cliff  “Likes” Statue In His Honor Idea  

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): Jamaica’s international reggae superstar Dr. Jimmy Cliff likes the idea to have a statue erected in his honor as a monument to his spectacular and distinguished music career. The ‘Son of Somerton’ recognizes the honor as a testament and fulfilment of a long strange journey. He has indeed come a long way. 

“It is a good thing to have a statue erected of me; it is something that encourages our people to love ourselves thus making us stronger in unity. I appreciate them doing this,” Cliff said in published reports.


“I leave the choosing  of an artist to do the work to the people who have given the honor  as  I’m sure they know a wide range of artists to chose from . My wife and I will be happy with their choice,” he added when asked about the final design or concept for the statue.

Earlier Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport, Olivia Grange, said she would support the mounting of a statue in honor of the international reggae icon. In a release, Grange said a monument of Jimmy Cliff can serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration to future generations.

“We must have monuments, so that future generations can recognize and look at those… as inspirations. It would be fitting and most appropriate,” she said.

“I would like to see a statue of Jimmy Cliff in Montego Bay, in the heart of the city. We have commissioned and mounted statues of our athletes… [and] we started, in treating with our culture, [by mounting] a statue of Louise “Miss Lou” Bennett-Coverley… so there will be many more statues,” she added.

The government recently honored the Grammy awardee and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee by renaming Gloucester Avenue in Montego Bay, St James, Jimmy Cliff Boulevard. The corridor is popularly called the ‘Hip Strip’. An official renaming ceremony was held on the vibrant thoroughfare on March 28, where the famed reggae musician and actor was in attendance, along with government ministers, family and friends.

Cliff thanked the Jamaican government and the society for choosing to honor him in such a monumental manner.

“The naming of this street after me is in deed a wonderful honor  that  my wife and I appreciate  .I have been shown much honor all over Africa as recently as February in Liberia so it is quite fitting for the land that I incarnated in this life gives it as well. My rock, business partner and wife shares this great honor with me 
So we say it’s a good long way this son of Somerton has come,” he said.

The signage bearing Jimmy Cliff’s image have been erected at both ends of the Hip Strip.

A native of Somerton in St James, Jimmy Cliff began making music as a child. He rose to international prominence in 1972 with the Jamaican film The Harder They Come in which he starred as the troubled musician Ivan. The movie’s soundtrack includes some of Cliff’s most successful records like ‘You Can Get It’ (If You Really Want) and ‘Wonderful World’, ‘Beautiful People’.

Three Jamaicans On Windies squad for Ireland Series

 

(BROOKLYN, New York): The new Cricket West Indies interim selection panel has chosen three Jamaicans in a 14-man squad for the One Day International (ODI) Tri-Series involving Ireland and Bangladesh to be played in Dublin from May 5-17. The Jamaicans selected in the squad are fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell, batting all-rounder Fabian Allen, and opening batsman John Campbell.

The squad sees the return of batsman Jonathan Carter after a two-year absence, having last played in the home series against India in 2017. West Indies Test wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich makes his ODI debut in the squad.

Director of Cricket Jimmy Adams said, “the selection panel consisted of interim head coach Floyd Reifer, captain Jason Holder and interim chairman of selectors Robert Haynes. They have selected a squad to Ireland that allows a slightly wider pool of players to get 50-over experience in UK conditions which I think is very important. This is not the World Cup squad, as a number of players are not available for this series as they are still participating in the IPL.”

Interim chairman of selectors Robert Haynes added: “We are immediately implementing the new policy of having the best West Indies team selected based on availability, form, and fitness. The pace attack of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, and Jason Holder will only serve to enhance the performances we expect from the team. We felt that the composition of the team brought together a harmony of experienced international players and players who have been on the periphery of international cricket.”

The West Indies will use the Tri-Series against Ireland and Bangladesh as key preparations ahead of the Cricket World Cup being played in England and Wales from May 30 – July 14.

West Indies Tri-Series Squad: Jason Holder (captain), John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Sheldon Cottrell, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Sunil Ambris, Raymon Reifer, Fabian Allen, Ashley Nurse, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Jonathan Carter.

 

Williams, Pinnock Lead 80-member Jamaica Carifta Games squad

 

(BROOKLYN, New York); Double World Under-20 sprint champion Briana Williams and World Under-20 long jump bronze medalist Wayne Pinnock will headline an 80-member Jamaica track and field team to the 48th staging of the Carifta Games in Grand Cayman from April 20-22. The Jamaica Athletics Administrative Association released the names of the athletes on its website, four days after the Carifta Games Trials at the National Stadium.

Twenty-three Under-20 boys and 20 Under-20 girls were named, as well as 19 Under-17 boys and 18 Under-17 girls for the Easter weekend championship. Williams easily won the Girls’ Under-20 sprint double at the Carifta Games Trials. Twenty four hours after winning the 100m unchallenged in 11.67 seconds (-2.1m/s), the 17-year-old, who is based in Florida, USA, returned on Sunday’s third and final day to win the 200m in 23.26 seconds. At the 2018 edition of the Carifta Games in the Bahamas, Williams won three gold medals and with it the Austin Sealy Award.

Pinnock of Kingston College won the Boys’ Under-20 long jump at the Carifta Games Trials with an effort of 7.82m. A week before the Carifta Games Trials, Pinnock won three gold medals at the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships at the National Stadium.

Two of Pinnock’s gold medal were achieved in meet record times. The KC star achieved his meet records in the Boys’ Class 1 long jump and 110m hurdles. Pinnock, after leaping a record 8.05m on the second day of the ISSA GraceKennedy Boys and Girls’ Athletics Championships, returned to face a crack field of hurdlers, including the Champs record holder, Dejour Russell of Calabar on the fifth and final day of action.

Pinnock clocked a stunning 13.06 seconds to break Russell’s 2018 record of 13.10, finishing ahead of teammate Akeem Cargill, 13.28, and Rasheed Broadbell of St Jago High, 13.33. Other notable inclusions are the St Jago High pair of Rasheed Broadbell (13.14) and Vashaun Vascianna (13.22), who ran world-leading times to finish first and second in the Under-20 110m hurdles final at the Carifta Games Trials and Ackera Nugent of Excelsior High (13.26), who also set a World Under-20 lead in the 100m hurdles.

 

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