Caribbean RoundUp

Cuba Explosion Hotel – Church
A view of the damaged Hotel Saratoga and the 19th century dome of the Calvary Baptist Church, in Old Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, May 11, 2022. The May 6 explosion that devastated the hotel and killed dozens also badly damaged Cuba’s most important Baptist church, which sits next door.
Associated Press/Ramon Espinosa
The Bahamas economy has registered growth of 13.7 percent last year, following COVID-19 pandemic-related 23.8 percent contraction in 2020, the Central Bank of the Bahamas (CBB) said.
In its just released 2021 Annual Report, the CBB said that the domestic economy exhibited a measured pace of recovery during 2021.
It said, “amid widespread vaccination efforts and the gradual easing of globally imposed restrictions, a recovery commenced in tourism output, led by a rebound in the high value-added air segment and joined later in the year by a restart of cruise activity.”
“Several varied-scaled  foreign investment-led projects and to a lesser extent continued post -hurricane construction sector and by extension to economic growth.”
The Central Bank said average consumer prices firmed during the year, reflecting the pass-through effects of higher global oil prices and other costlier imports.
It said that that indications are that unemployment remained above pre- covid levels, though significant workforce re-engagement began in the tourism plant, with impact also from sustained construction activities.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley has expressed solidarity with the government and people of Cuba and offered any assistance her country can render, following an explosion at a luxury hotel in  Havana last week which claimed at least 30 lives.
In a letter dispatched to Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez last week. Mottley said; “Lett me first express my sincere regret, great sadness and solidarity with you regarding the unfortunate gas-related explosion on the center of your lovely city Havana. I have heard the media reports, with accompanying frightening images, that confirm loss of lives and great damage done”.
Part of the letter said; “Let me assure you that Barbados stands ready to give any assistance you may need as you attend to this matter and I wish you every success in your response actions.”
Barbados has maintained a friendship with Cuba, having established diplomatic relations 50 years ago.
There are more than 100 Cuban nurses and doctors working with local authorities to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque said he would have preferred the Caribbean having a single candidate for the position of Commonwealth secretary general.
Last month, Jamaica launched its campaign for the  position even as the CARICOM grouping is yet to announce a date as when a regional sub-committee with the two Caribbean candidates for the post.
CARICOM leaders remain divided in their support for the two candidates for the position agreeing instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.
A three-paragraph statement issued after their deliberations on April 6 indicated that the CARICOM leaders were still divided on whether to support the incumbent, Baroness Patricia Scotland, who has been nominated by Dominica or Kamina Johnson-Smith, Jamaica’s nominee
Speaking with state-owned Dominica Broadcast Service (DBS) Radio recently, LaRocque, who stepped down as CARICOM secretary general last year said: “The region should have one candidate going forward. That’s what I think should happen,” adding that “as far as I am aware” Scotland had performed well in her post.
Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta in 2015 and her re-election is scheduled to take place during the June 20-25 Commonwealth summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The Dominican-born Scotland is the second secretary from the Caribbean and the first woman to hold the post.
Guyana’s Minister of Finance, Dr. Ashini Singh, said thousands of Guyanese are already seeing the benefits of the oil and gas sector, whether directly or indirectly and while most of those benefiting are in Regions Three and Four, this will soon change.
“It is for this reason that we have committed ourselves to ensuring that the economic development that will flow from oil and gas, that is geographically decentralized”, he said.
He stated that this is the reason for the president’s recent announcement of major investments in Bernice like the new commercial center and provision for co-investment in other regions of Guyana.
Speaking with the country’s Department of Public Information recently he said: ” We want to make sure that in those region’s too, the positive consequences of the oil and gas sector are visible and felt. We want young people in Bernice and in Essequibo and in Linden and our hinterland region’s to also see the experience and participate in and benefit from what’s happening in the oil and gas sector.”
He said hundreds of Guyanese are either employed by ExxonMobil or one of their many contractors and have received training both locally and internationally.
Police say that members of the notorious criminal gang “400 Mawozo” are said to behind the kidnapping of 17 people including eight Turkish nationals last Sunday.
Reports are that a tourist transport bus of the Metro Tours Company left the Dominican Republic last Sunday afternoon with 17 people on board, including including eight Haitian nationals, when it was intercepted by armed men from the “400 Mawozo” gang in the Papaya locality, the same area where Dominican Republic diplomat Carlos Guillen Tatis had been kidnapped on April 29.
Haitian media have given the names of the Haitian and Turkish nationals as well as the driver, who is from the Dominican Republic.
Police said one of the kidnappers, He puts Joseph 21, who was watching a hostage was arrested.
Haitian police are struggling to contain the gang violence and kidnappings of foreigners and others by criminal gangs, demanding large ransoms, have been on the rise, according to reports.
In 2021, more than 1,200 people were kidnapped-81 percent were foreign nationals.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson-Smith recently visited Africa as part of her lobbying efforts to replace incumbent Commonwealth Secretary General Dame Patricia Scotland.
Johnson-Smith visited eight African Commonwealth member states to discuss the future of the Commonwealth.
She met with various government officials from Lesotho, Botswana, South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria and Ghana to discuss her vision for the Commonwealth.
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has remained divided in their support for the two candidates for the position, agreeing instead to appoint a sub-committee to delve further into the matter.
Caricom is yet to announce a date to when  a regional sub-committed of leaders will meet with the two candidates for the post.
Dominican- Scotland was elected to the post at the Commonwealth at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Malta in 2015 and her re-election is scheduled to take place during the June 20-25 Commonwealth Summit in Kigali, Rwanda.
The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other foreign law enforcement are working with Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) in the country’s crime fight.
US Embassy Charge d’ Affairs, Shane Moore disclosed at a news conference last week at the Police Administration Building, Port of Spain that a US$1,5 million Gang Reduction and Community Program (GRACE) was donated to the TTPS in collaboration with the Pan American Development Foundation (PADF) and the United States Department of State’s Bureau of  International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
Moore said the GRACE program will work to address the root causes of criminal gang activity within a community and seek to end it.
He said the GRACE project will directly address this issue by supporting the TTPS’ ability to conduct intelligence-led investigation of gang leaders while also improving community policing initiatives and supporting grassroots organizations in areas with high concentration of gang activity.
The program is funded through the Caribbean Basin Initiative.
Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob said at the launch that there are 134 gangs in Trinidad and Tobago which are behind numerous crimes, including the majority of murders. The murder count has surpassed 200 so far for this year, compared with 125 for the same period last year.
— Compiled by Azad Ali

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