Caribbean Round-Up


There is concern over the transportation of hazardous nuclear waste and other hazardous material through the Caribbean Sea, which are potential threats to lives, health, the environment and the environment.

This comes from Jamaican Ambassador Raymond Wolfe, speaking recently on behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to the General Assembly’s Social Humanitarian and Culture Committee.

He said that the focus on shipping and maritime commerce must also include improved measures, regulations and standards governing maritime safety, the training of seafarers and the safety of navigation at sea, including the safety of shipping vessels.

According to Ambassador Wolfe, CARICOM countries continue to work in partnership with the U.N. Environment Program in the implementation of the regional seas convention and action plans.

He said the region welcomed the establishment of two new working groups on reviewing lists under the protocol relating to Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the wider Caribbean.


Cuba says island banks have approved $150,000 in loans for 500 borrowers in the first month of a lending program that aims to support homeowners, small-business people and farmers.

The effort is part of President Raul Castro’s economic reform package and took effect on Dec. 20, 2011.

Central Bank Vice-President Francisco Mayobre says 3,100 loan applications were received and 526 approved.

Mayobre says 90 percent of the loans were for building materials or to pay for construction labor. Cuba has a severe housing crisis that some of the reforms attempt to address.

The rest went to agricultural producers and entrepreneurs starting their own businesses.

Mayobre’s comments were published recently in the Communist Party newspaper Granma.


Haitians still have much to do more to recover from the 2010 earthquake, President Michel Martelly said recently and he conceded to having made political blunders.

His remarks came as he presented his first government report since taking office in May and took on the task of rebuilding from a disaster that officials say killed more than 300,000 people and flattened the capital and surroundings areas.

“We need to help (Haitians) build back better communities, give them more support, bring them water, infrastructure, electricity, drainage and police,” Martelly said.

But the president conceded he made mistakes in his first few months in office, saying he was “young in power.”

The 30-minute report Martelly presented spelled out the many challenges his government faces as Haiti enters the third year of recovery. It noted the need for improved security, more jobs and children in school and help for the country’s farmers.


The U.N. is investigating two new allegations of U.N. police abuse and “sexual exploitation” of children in Haiti.

Spokesman Martin Nesriky said one case involves U.N. police officers in the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. They have been removed from duty while under investigation, he said.

The second case involves one or more members of a police unit in the northern city of Gonaives.

“The United Nations is outraged by these allegations and takes its responsibilities to deal with them extremely seriously,” Nesirky said.

The new charges of abuse come just months after six Uruguayan troops with the U.N. peacekeeping force in the Caribbean country were accused of raping a young Haitian man.


Jamaican authorities say the country ended 2011 with the lowest yearly murder toll in about a decade.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said recently that 1,125 slayings were reported in 2011, a nearly 22 percent drop from the 1,442 killings in 2010.

A record 1,683 people were killed in 2009. Ellington said the drop in murders is a result of police aggressively patrolling gang-infested communities in Kingston and in rural parishes including Clarendon and St. James.

Police say in the first two weeks of January 30 murders were recorded.

Jamaica has one of the world’s highest homicide rates.


Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar said recently that India’s largest private company, Reliance, plans to invest $1 billion in Trinidad and Tobago.

The company, she said, is looking at setting up an ammonia plant in Trinidad.

This is one of the proposals for Indian investment in T&T by private companies when she met with business officials during her two-week recent visit to India with a delegation of government officials and businessmen.

In the field of natural resources, the GAS Authority of India Ltd (GAIL) and the Oil and Natural Gas Commission signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago. As a result Trinidad will help India in this sector with its technical expertise.

The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, signed an agreement with the Indira Gandhi National Open University to introduce distance learning courses to Trinidad and Tobago.


St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves paid a visit to his close friend former Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Patrick Manning who is slowly recuperating from a mild stroke at the San Fernando Hospital.

Gonsalves told reporters after visiting Manning that he spoke to the former prime minister who was happy upon his visit.

“His eye lit up. He smiled. I wouldn’t tell you what I spoke about. The bond is there, there was a lot of joy. He will get better,” said an emotional Dr. Gonsalves.

‘I should tell you that I love Patrick. He has been my friend since university. We played pan together. We worked well when he was in government and I have remained his friend through all the ups and downs in politics,” he added.


A Russian company wants to invest US$600 million (TT3.84 billion) in Trinidad and Tobago.

International steel producer Severstal wants to create history by becoming the first Russian company to make a billion-dollar investment to set up an iron and steel facility in the southern part of the country.

The plan will provide 3,500 jobs during construction and 400 permanent jobs.

It would take between three to five years to establish the plant.

Through its North American subsidiary, Severstal – Russia’s second largest steel producer with plants around the world – recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Metaldondum of the Dominican Republic, the National Gas Corporation and Neal & Massy Holdings of Trinidad and Tobago to set up the facility.

Severstal International’s Chief Executive Officer, Sergei Kuznetsov and Metaldom board member Rafael Velez were in Trinidad to meet with officials of the local companies.

Kuznetosov said he was happy to be creating history by bringing the first Russian investor to Trinidad.

The complex in La Brea will consist of an iron plant with a capacity to produce 1.5 million tones of steel a year and with a production capacity of 300,000 metric tons of steel billets a year.

U.S. Virgin Islands

One of the world’s largest oil refineries, Hovensa in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands will close in February, the company announced recently.

More than 2,000 workers are expected to go on the breadline.

Industry analysts say the closure is unlikely to have a major effect on the global oil market, but Governor John de Jongh described the loss of the territory’s largest private employer as “a complete body blow” for the U.S. territory of about 108,000 people.

He said Hovensa generated a minimum of $60 million a year in revenue for the government, which recently laid off hundreds of public workers due to a budget crisis.

Losses at Hovensa, a joint venture of U.S.-based Hess Corp and Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, have totaled $1.3 billion over the past three years and were projected to continue due to reduce demand caused by the global economic slowdown and increased refining capacity in emerging markets, said Brian L Lever, president and chief operation officer of Hovensa.

Compiled by Azad Ali

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