Posts tagged ‘Caribbean’

04/16/2012

Guantanamo Bay Base: Give It Up

The U.S. Navy Base at Guantanamo Bay, on the island of Cuba, has been operated illegally, against the wishes of the Cuban government for 114 years, and it should now be torn down, and the port should be returned to the Cuban people.

As far back as 1854, the U.S. has made frivolous claims to Cuba. When Franklin Pierce (1853-57) was President, future President James Buchanan, a member of his administration, issued the Ostend Manifesto, which claimed the U.S. had a right to seize the island by force, if Spain refused to sell it. Buchanan was afraid a slave rebellion would turn the island into a disorderly republic, like Haiti, but his real motive was to create another slave state.

After a revolt broke out in 1895 between the Cubans and colonial Spain, the Maine, an American ship, was blown up in Havana Harbor in 1898, and though there was no proof the explosion was caused by the Spanish, the U.S. invaded, and won the Spanish-American War.

When the Americans first occupied the island, they were greeted as liberators, but the mood soon changed, as the newly liberated people were forced, under the Platt Amendment (1901), to give the U.S. a right to intervene in their internal affairs. Although President Theodore Roosevelt granted independence, under the Cuban-American Treaty (1903), the catch was they had to give the U.S. a perpetual lease to Guantanamo Bay.

A generation later, President Franklin Roosevelt offered to annul the right to intervene, provided the Cubans signed the Treaty between the U.S. and Cuba (1934), which allowed the unwelcome U.S. military presence at Guantanamo to continue. Realizing they would never get a better deal from a conservative American President, the Cubans accepted a half a loaf from liberal FDR, instead of nothing at all.

The Cubans have since continued to protest the American military presence on the island. When Fidel Castro took over in 1959, he escalated the objection by shutting off the water to the American base, in an attempt to get the U.S. to go home, but the U.S. Navy started filtering seawater through a desalination plant in 1964. To this day, Cuba does not cash rental checks from the U.S.

The U.S. has no legitimate right to use the Guantanamo Bay Navy Base, as the lease was forced upon Cuba under what international law would refer to as an unequal treaty. Since President Obama promised to close Guantanamo, now would be the perfect time to give the port back.

06/17/2011

Puerto Rico: Choose Independence

President Obama’s recent visit to Puerto Rico serves as a reminder that a plebiscite will be held there before the end of 2012, on whether the island should: 1) become independent; 2) remain a U.S. Territory; or 3) seek statehood. Independence would affect U.S. aid; statehood would be an unwarranted U.S. expansion; and keeping the current arrangement would perpetuate an outdated neo-colonial system. Although plebiscites in 1967, 1993, and 1998, resulted in leaving things just as they are, this time, Puerto Ricans should vote for independence.

If Puerto Rico requests statehood, the U.S. Congress would have the final say, since the U.S. Constitution provides: “New states may be admitted by the Congress” (Art IV, Sec. 3). The problem is the Congress now has no appetite for new states. 45 were added before the end of the 19th Century, and only three joined in the early 20th Century: Oklahoma (1907), New Mexico (1912) and Arizona (1912). As Arizona became the 48th state, nearly 100 years ago, the continental U.S. was filled in and completed.

Alaska and Hawaii were admitted in 1959 by a Congress of young WWII veterans, who had developed sentimental ties to the Pacific in WWII. The problem with Alaska and Hawaii is their physical disconnection from the contiguous mainland. Since it is 1,500 miles from Alaska to Seattle, Washington, and 2,400 from California to Hawaii, it would have been much better if Alaska had been sold to Canada, and Hawaii was granted independence.

The two wrongs of adding Alaska and Hawaii, do not justify a third mistake of admitting Puerto Rico, located 1,000 miles from Florida. If Puerto Rico is joined, under a theory that distance is no object, then why not add Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands? At some point, we need a physical boundary.

The other issue as to Puerto Rico is their deep-seated historical tie to the Spanish culture. Even though English is taught in schools, anyone who has ever visited San Juan is well aware the island is a Spanish-speaking commonwealth. It was ruled by Spain for 405 years, from 1493, when Columbus arrived, until 1898, when the U.S. seized control, in the Spanish-American War.

The U.S. should have immediately granted independence to the island in 1898, but Republican President McKinley kept it. Things became more complicated in 1917, when citizenship was granted to Puerto Ricans, so they could serve in the U.S. Army in WWI.

It is time for the most successful island in the Caribbean to stand up as an independent state and to rid itself once and for all of their status as an American dependency. Upon independence, those born on the island would become Puerto Rican, not U.S. citizens. Those with U.S. Citizenship could keep that status. Puerto Rico and the U.S. must now finally end the colonial era dependency, reject the idea of statehood, and support total independence.

04/08/2011

Haiti Needs A Cultural Revolution

As Haiti elected a new leader, Michel Martelly, the issue now is whether he can lead the Caribbean island-nation out of poverty? With nine million people, Haiti has about the same population as a typical U.S. state, but it differs in nearly every other respect.

Haiti is a relatively isolated island-state. Unlike the 50 U.S. states, where commerce flows across borders with ease, Haiti has only one neighbor by land, the Dominican Republic, which is over a mountain range, on the east side of the island. Cuba is by sea to the west, but they are of no help to Haiti. The U.S. is of course to the north, by water, but the U.S. Coast Guard stands in the way.

With natural barriers to trade, Haiti is largely on their own. They grow coffee, bananas, corn, beans and mangoes, but the export market is competitive, and these industries can only hire so many, and pay so much. Haiti has problems developing skilled jobs via the internet, or by any other means, since 47% of the people remain illiterate. Unemployment has at times hit 50%. To make things worse, a major earthquake struck the island in 2010. So, they rely on aid, as the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.

Why is Haiti not more prosperous, like the nearby Puerto Rico, or at least Jamaica, on another island? The answer is they have had different colonial backgrounds, economic alliances and languages.

Haiti was ruled by France for 157 years (1647-1804), which explains why they speak French-Creole. When the black slaves revolted and Haiti became independent (1804), France ignored their economy. Haiti has been on their own for the past 207 years.

Puerto Rico was governed by Spain for 405 years (1493-1898), which is why they speak Spanish. After the Spanish-American War (1898), they became a U.S. territory, raised their literacy rate to 94%, and added English as an official language. Their success is due to their linkage to the U.S. economy for the past 113 years.

Jamaica was a British colony for 307 years (1655-1962). They were a part of the British Empire and enjoyed the benefits of the Commonwealth of Nations. English was taught in their schools and literacy climbed to 88%. Since independence 49 years ago, they have used the English language to develop U.S. tourism.

Haiti needs to change their culture, so it is not so much of an orphan in the Americas. It is the only independent state in this Hemisphere that uses French-Creole as a primary tongue. The principle language in the other 34 sovereign states is English, Spanish or Portuguese. Haiti needs to be able to communicate with ease with the English-speaking U.S.A.

The new Haitian president should conduct a Cultural Revolution to make all of their children primarily fluent in English, and secondarily in Spanish. While Haiti cannot expect the kind of aid the U.S. has given to the Puerto Rican territory, and will probably not gain their standard of living any time soon, if all Haitians would primarily learn and practice English, they could do more business with the U.S., and improve their economy, at least to the level of Jamaica’s. If Haiti would increase their literacy rates and emphasize English, they would do much better with economic development in this English-Spanish speaking Hemisphere.

03/17/2011

Cuba: End the U.S. Trade Embargo

The U.S. has had a trade embargo against Cuba since 1962 and it is time to end it. After 49 years, it has no purpose and most people now have no idea why it was imposed in the first place.

The story begins with Gen. Batista, who came to power in a coup backed by the U.S. (1952). He ran a dictatorship that censored the press and suspended constitutional rights (1953). Fidel Castro, a lawyer, led the overthrow of Batista’s regime in the Cuban Revolution (1953-59). While Castro’s dictatorship had some of the same faults as Batista’s, most Cuban people accepted Fidel, because at least he eliminated illiteracy and provided health care.

Anger at Cuba from abroad was not because Batista was removed, but instead due to Fidel’s subsequent confiscation of land from foreigners and the nationalization of U.S.-owned oil refineries, sugar mills, casinos and utilities. What Castro did was not however unique. Scores of nations that declared independence at that time also nationalized their natural resources and industries.

In any event, diplomatic relations with Cuba were severed. When President Kennedy took office, anti-Castro exiles unsuccessfully staged a military invasion at the Bay of Pigs (1961). Once the U.S. banned trade with Cuba (1962), Castro turned to Moscow for help. The Soviets said Cuba had a right to be free of foreign interference and supplied Cuba with weapons for their defense. This is when U.S. reconnaissance observed nuclear weapon sites in Cuba, triggering the Cuban Missile Crisis (1962). Although the weapons were removed when the U.S. Navy blockaded the island, the friction between the U.S. and Cuba continued.

The U.S. now trades with the People’s Rep. of China, Vietnam, and other communist countries. There is no logical reason not to trade with Cuba. Fidel Castro recently turned the presidency over to his brother Raul (2008), and soon both of them will be gone.

Today, the streets of Havana still show the effects of 1962 embargo. Most cars pre-date the 1959 revolution and there are no recreational boats in the harbor. Opening trade would not only benefit the Cuban people, it would create jobs for many U.S. businesses and their employees, particularly here in Florida.