Cuba To US: Show Us The Proof
(BROOKLYN, New York): Cuba is challenging the Trump administration to back up its allegations that the communist government has embedded troops and intelligence agents throughout the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
At a recent news conference, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez called the U.S. national security adviser, John Bolton, a “pathological liar” for saying that some 20,000 Cubans in Venezuela are providing security support for Maduro. Rodriguez said those Cubans are mostly medical workers. He also criticized what he said was a classified document circulated among U.S. embassies in the region containing talking points on Cuba and Venezuela.
“That State Department memorandum says Cuban special forces were deployed to the border between Colombia and Venezuela to engage in provocative military exercises. That’s a lie. I invite them to provide evidence,” Rodriguez said. “The infamous document says tens of thousands of Cubans in Venezuela have infiltrated the institutions and services of that country. I invite them to provide proof.”
Rodriguez said Cuba will continue to seek stronger relations with a wide array of U.S. interests, including businesses, in spite of what it regards as a “hostile” Trump administration and the tightening of American sanctions against the island.
“We will continue to expand our ties with all United States sectors … we will use all the tools on hand to intensify communication and cultural relations between our people. So, while the government of the United States attempts to shut off and tighten, Cuba will continue to be even more open to healthy relations,” he said.
Trump administration officials say they want to damage the Cuban economy in order to dissuade the island’s leaders from supporting the governments of Venezuela and Nicaragua, both of which are being confronted by domestic opposition movements.
Jamaica’s Best Tourism Season Pulls 1.7 Million Visitors
(BROOKLYN, New York): Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett says Jamaica experienced the best winter season in its history, welcoming, in the first four months of 2019, 1.7 million visitors, who spent US$1.25 billion. “In the first four months of the year, we have had double-digit growth every single month from January to April 30,” he said.
Bartlett further noted that the tourism industry has achieved record growth in the last three consecutive years, which has surpassed “our aspirational average growth of five per cent per annum”. “Last year, we welcomed 4.23 million visitors who spent US$3.3 billion, representing 8.6 per cent increase over the period 2017,” he said.
The Minister said this notable performance is against the background of the 2013 to 2015 period, during which Jamaica experienced an incremental growth of about 120,000 visitors. “In three months and one day, we have surpassed the 120,000 additional visitors to arrive in the country,” he emphasized.
Antigua Tells Barbados – We Want LIAT Shares
(BROOKLYN, New York): – Antigua and Barbuda has formally indicated its interest in purchasing the shares of LIAT that are currently owned by the airline’s largest shareholder government Prime Minister Gaston Browne recently told the Antigua Observer that his government submitted a document indicating its expression of interest to authorities in Barbados. And it’s expecting a favorable response.
“We are looking towards the sustainability and viability of LIAT. We now have to await a response from Barbados and then we will develop an action plan on the way forward,” he told the newspaper.
Browne had expressed his government’s intention to purchase Barbados’ shares in the Antigua-based airline at last month’s meeting of shareholder governments at which he also presented a proposal to keep the cash-strapped airline from going under.
Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley was not at the meeting, but the country’s representative indicated he would raise the issue with her on his return. The Antigua move also comes on the heels of Grenada becoming the fifth shareholder government of the regional carrier.
Minister of Trade, Industry and CARICOM Affairs Oliver Joseph made the announcement last week, explaining that Grenada would provide funding under a Minimum Revenue Guarantee (MRG) framework – which the shareholders have been pushing for from islands that benefit from LIAT’s service. Under the MRG model, governments would pay a minimum guaranteed amount to LIAT if passenger numbers on flights fell short.
Schumer, Jeffries “Weed” Talk
(BROOKLYN, New York): U.S. Sen. Charles “Chuck” Schumer and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries teamed up with BRIC to reintroduce a year-old bill proposal that would decriminalize marijuana on a federal level. In the video, lawmakers sat face-to-face for two-and-half minutes discussing weed legislation and dubbed the “Marijuana Freedom Opportunity Act” which would give states the right to create their own policies on recreational marijuana.
“It’s time to decriminalize marijuana, and this bill is a critical first step,” said Schumer, noting the bill would help communities disproportionately impacted by marijuana’s criminalization. The proposal authorizes half-a-billion dollars for the next 5 years to study the effects of marijuana as a medicinal product and its effects – if any – on the brain. An additional $100 million would go to programs dedicated to sealing the records of some individuals convicted of marijuana charges, with no less than 50% of those funds directed to public defenders. A portion of the funds would be left in an investment fund to aid people of color and women-owned businesses in securing loans to enter the cannabis industry.
“For far too long, the impact of America’s repressive, archaic marijuana laws has been felt most heavily by people of color,” said Jeffries. “This critical effort works to correct that injustice by providing $100 million toward expungement programs and creating an investment fund for people of color and female entrepreneurs who wish to enter the lucrative legal cannabis industry.”
The proposal also authorizes $250 million investment towards research in determining the effects of driving under the influence after smoking weed. The Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau will regulate marijuana-related advertisement targeted at minors.
British Gov’t Rejects Same-Sex Marriage Call
(BROOKLYN, New York): The British Government has said ‘no’ to forcing its overseas territories (OTs), including those in the Caribbean, to legalize same-sex marriage. It has also rejected a recommendation that United Kingdom (UK) citizens be allowed to vote and hold elected office in those territories.
Responding to recommendations made by the Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) of the House of Commons in February this year, the Government said those decisions should be made by the Overseas Territories (OTs), and declined to give any timelines for the changes the FAC had asked for.
In its report, entitled ‘Global Britain and the British Overseas Territories: Resetting the Relationship’, the FAC gave nine recommendations, including that the Government should initiate a consultation with the elected Governments of the OTs and work with them to agree a plan to ensure that there is a pathway for all resident UK and British Overseas Territory citizens to be able to vote and hold elected office. It also wanted the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to lay out a timetable for that consultation process and set a deadline for phasing out discriminatory elements of belongership, or its territory-specific equivalents.
However, the Government said that while it understands the committee’s concerns and continues to impress upon OT Governments the importance of allowing people who have made their permanent home in the territories the ability to vote and engage fully in the community, it also recognizes the desire of island communities to maintain their cohesion, hence the need for a reasonable qualifying process, and also understands the OTs’ concerns, sensitivities and historical background on this issue.
“In the spirit of a relationship based upon partnership, we will continue to support and encourage consistent and open political engagement on belongership and its territory-specific equivalents, whilst respecting the fact that immigration decisions are primarily a matter for OT Governments,” the Government said in its official response to the FCA.
A similar stance was taken on the issue of same-sex marriage.
The FAC had asked the Government to set a date by which it expects all OTs to have legalized same-sex marriage, and if that deadline is not met, the Government should intervene through legislation or an Order in Council.
The Government said it remains committed to equal rights, including LGBT rights, but rejected that recommendation.
“The British Overseas Territories are separate, largely self-governing jurisdictions with their own democratically-elected representatives. Our relationship with the Overseas Territories is based on partnership and therefore as policy on marriage law is an area of devolved responsibility it should be for the territories to decide and legislate on,” it said.