A side note: Why the issue of colonial status in the United States Virgin Islands is a non-issue …

For years the Virgin Islands of the United States has struggled with the issue of whether it should remain an unincorporated territory, become a state, or go the route of an independent sovereign nation.  The territory is nowhere near self-governance, not even a recipient of all the constitutional rights guaranteed to citizens living on the mainland. 

Going its own way by shedding its colonial status requires a process that goes deeper than a constitutional convention or ballot referendum.  Besides the issue of creating a national identity that not only includes ancestral Virgin Islanders (those who can directly trace their ancestry to a grandparent born and living in the old Danish West Indies on 31 March 1917) and native Virgin Islanders like myself who were born in the territory but have no lineage to March 1917, there is the political economic issue that undergirds the definition of colony. 

Getting clarity on the definition is important because clarity will guide you to the primary stakeholders whose buttons have to be pushed.  In my opinion, the button-pushing has focused heavily on 80% of the USVI population of African descent who are being treated as second- or third-class citizens by the world’s best-known democracy, and for this painful reason the status of the USVI has to be resolved.  Status has become another civil rights issue on steroids.

Let’s look at “colony.”  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a colony is a group of settlers in a distant land that is under the jurisdiction of their native land.  It is territory ruled over by a distant state with a community of the same nationality or pursuits.  As a territory, a colony is part of a country or empire that does not have full status.

What is missing from this definition is the economic aspect of colonization.  If you take the classic case of the original thirteen British colonies in North America in the 17th and 18th centuries, we had transplanted Brits that extracted natural resources and sent those resources to Great Britain for further processing and packaging where part of the finished product was sold back to the colonists.  This was the basic crux of the relationship.  We had landowners in North America trading with investors and manufacturers in Great Britain, trading on a platform of cheap land and free labor in the form of African slaves.

But when it was time to press for independence, the philosophy and narrative came from the landowners in the colonies.  The philosophy and narrative were created by a wealth class that stood to benefit from reallocating Great Britain’s monopoly on taxes from the monarch to American government.

Fast forward to the 21st century Caribbean.  I believe that if the USVI is going to move from its unincorporated status, that move will have to be initiated by the group that has the most to lose or gain economically from a change in status.  That group is not the 80% of the population that descended from African slaves.  The groups calling the shots on removing colonial status will be the owners of USVI tourism assets and financial institutions and the investors on the US mainland and in Europe. 

Should these groups see economic benefits and political influence stemming from a change in status being greater than the current political economy status, that is when the non-black wealth class will agitate for that change in status.

In the meantime, change in status is a non-issue for the majority of Virgin Islanders.  They have no control over the political economy and will settle for now with the current level of American citizenship.

Alton Drew

20 May 2022

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The strategic message behind US-Caribbean relations: Russia and China should not be invited to the Caribbean …

On 29 April 2022, Kamala Harris met with a number of political leaders to discuss the furtherance of relations between the United States and the Caribbean.  Topics in the closed-door meeting supposedly ranged from immigration, trade, and climate change.  The discussion reportedly leads up to next month’s Summit of the Americas, a meeting of Caribbean and Latin American leaders with the reported purpose of addressing economic, political, and these days, climate challenges impacting the region.

I note here that former U.S. senator Christopher Dodd met with the leaders of CARICOM member states reportedly on the issues of climate change, energy security, and disaster preparedness.    

From a narrative perspective, given the economic leverage the United States has in the western hemisphere, last week’s meetings and next month’s forum is about getting the rest of the region “on code” as to the wants and needs of the United States. 

Given the American perception that an emerging People’s Republic of China and an ever-pesky Russian Federation pose economic and political threats to the United States, the United States has to craft and transmit a narrative that the Caribbean can itself adapt and spread among its constituents.   

The most recent example of Chinese threats to United States’ hegemony in the Caribbean region is the new republic of Barbados’ willingness to establish a relationship with China as indicated by Barbados membership in China’s Belt and Road Initiative. 

Barbados recently became a republic, ditching Queen Elizabeth II and installing its own elected president.  This change in the head of state comes with a declining level of United Kingdom investment in Barbados currently pegged at approximately USD 5 billion.

China’s investment in Barbados reportedly exceeds the U.K.’s amount although China has a way to catch up with U.S. investment in Barbados which stands around USD 45 billion.

U.S. concerns with Russia appear to be more along the lines of political and military threats than China’s economic threats.  The U.S. is concerned that Russia is leveraging security deals with Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela in order to straighten its posture in America’s backyard.

Politically, Russia’s support of authoritarian-populist regimes in Latin America poses a challenge to the U.S. political philosophy of democratic elections and private ownership of capital.

I am not privy to what Ms Harris shared with Caribbean leaders in their closed-door session.  I don’t think that Caribbean leaders took Ms Harris’ opening remarks as a pledge of altruism.  Like any holder of monopoly power, where there is a threat of entry, the monopolist offers special services or discounts in order to keep customers loyal while taking steps to kick new entrants out of the market.

If Ms Harris made this kind of appeal behind closed doors, then her strategic messaging was on point.  The goal of strategic messaging is to maintain optimal political positioning.  Optimal political positioning for the United States means maximizing sought after benefits such as a minimally challenged trade position in the Caribbean region and securing firmer support for Ukraine as that country attempts to repel an invasion from Russia. 

The Caribbean reaction from has been mixed,  While the majority of Latin American and Caribbean countries opposed Russia’s invasion, most have been ambivalent about imposing sanctions even though their trade with Russia is overall minimal.

Alton Drew

1 May 2022

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Remarks by Vice President Harris in a Virtual Meeting with Caribbean Leaders

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everyone.  Good afternoon.  Thank you all for joining us today for this very important meeting.  I am Kamala Harris, and I’m pleased to welcome you all to this conversation and this convening.

As a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere, the United States shares a common bond with the nations of the Caribbean.  As neighbors, we know our partnership is key to our shared prosperity and security. 

We also know that we have common challenges.  And that is why I’ve convened this meeting: to strengthen our partnership and chart a path forward together.

As we all know, our nations have extensive people-to-people ties.  Millions of Americans have Caribbean heritage.  Millions of Americans travel to the Caribbean each year for vacation, to visit friends and family, and to engage with the richness of that history.

From South Florida to New York and beyond, Caribbean culture has become a meaningful part of American culture.  And we are all grateful for that. 

At the same time, we recognize that we find ourselves collectively in a challenging time.  The pandemic has upended so many aspects of our lives and the lives of our people.  And economic recovery has been difficult and uneven for so many in this region. 

There is also an existential threat we collectively face in the climate crisis, and we are acutely aware that the world’s emissions have an outsize impact on the Caribbean.

In light of this, I want to be clear: The United States is committed to you, our neighbors, and we will take on these challenges together. Convenings like this haven’t happened very often.  So, today, as a demonstration of our administration’s commitment, I propose this be an annual meeting.

We have, of course, today, a lot to discuss.  And there are three areas in particular that I will ask us to focus on — areas that I know are a priority for many of you: economic recovery, security, and climate and energy.

On the issue of economic recovery, the United States is the Caribbean’s biggest economic partner.  This partnership benefits the economy of the United States just as it benefits your economies.  So we will explore today how we can strengthen that economic partnership.

On the issue of security, I know for many of you that you are particularly concerned about the trafficking of drugs and guns, and the associated violence.  That is why today’s agenda includes a discussion of additional funding and other support the United States can offer to reduce violence in the region.

And third, we will discuss the urgent issue for our entire planet: the issue of the climate crisis.  In particular, we will discuss ways to strengthen your climate resilience and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. 

Your input will help guide the United States’ effort in the days and months ahead.

To each of you: I thank you for being here, and I thank you for the work we have done and will continue to do together.  I look forward to our discussion today and to our gathering in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas in June. 

Thank you to the members of the press who are watching these opening remarks.  We will now proceed with the rest of our meeting.  Thank you.

                             END                4:41 P.M. EDT

Source: The White House

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 10:50 am AST

Currency Pair14 March 202215 March 202216 March 202217 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.0000
USD/JMD151.469151.847151.451151.49
USD/HTG105.441105.114104.584104.887
USD/DOP54.587554.510754.42454.4181
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.7000
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.0000
USD/TTD6.645496.665676.653046.66022
USD/GYD199.77200.46200.121200.334
USD/VEF428,490.0428,249425,659423,634
Dollar Index98.9198.6798.5998.10
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 10:15 am AST

Currency Pair14 March 202215 March 202216 March 202217 March 202218 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.00001.0000
USD/JMD151.469151.847151.451  
USD/HTG105.441105.114104.584  
USD/DOP54.587554.510754.424  
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.70002.7000
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.00002.0000
USD/TTD6.645496.665676.65304  
USD/GYD199.77200.46200.121  
USD/VEF428,490.0428,249425,659  
Dollar Index98.9198.6798.59  
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 9:01 am AST

Currency Pair14 March 202215 March 202216 March 202217 March 202218 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.00001.0000
USD/JMD151.469151.847   
USD/HTG105.441105.114   
USD/DOP54.587554.5107   
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.70002.7000
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.00002.0000
USD/TTD6.645496.66567   
USD/GYD199.77200.46   
USD/VEF428,490.0428,249   
Dollar Index98.9198.67   
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 9:40 am AST

Currency Pair14 March 202215 March 202216 March 202217 March 202218 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.00001.0000
USD/JMD151.469    
USD/HTG105.441    
USD/DOP54.5875    
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.70002.7000
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.00002.0000
USD/TTD6.64549    
USD/GYD199.77    
USD/VEF428,490.0    
Dollar Index98.91    
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 9:13 am AST

Currency Pair7 March 2022(10:35 am AST)8 March 20229 March 202210 March 202211 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.00001.0000
USD/JMD153.474153.114152.178152.018151.647
USD/HTG104.162104.034103.91104.6104.774
USD/DOP54.515254.671854.565454.426854.2854
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.70002.7000
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.00002.0000
USD/TTD6.678876.653296.613316.653486.63509
USD/GYD200.983200.636199.732199.837199.447
USD/VEF433,957.00433,230.00431,338431,230431,063
Dollar Index98.7398.9498.4598.3798.59
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates as of 10:48 am AST

Currency Pair7 March 2022(10:35 am AST)8 March 20229 March 202210 March 202211 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.00001.0000 
USD/JMD153.474153.114152.178152.018 
USD/HTG104.162104.034103.91104.6 
USD/DOP54.515254.671854.565454.4268 
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.70002.7000 
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.00002.0000 
USD/TTD6.678876.653296.613316.65348 
USD/GYD200.983200.636199.732199.837 
USD/VEF433,957.00433,230.00431,338431,230 
Dollar Index98.7398.9498.4598.37 
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch

The Caribbean: Foreign exchange rates of interest at 9:52 am AST

Currency Pair7 March 20228 March 20229 March 202210 March 202211 March 2022
USD/BSD1.00001.00001.0000  
USD/JMD153.474153.114152.178  
USD/HTG104.162104.034103.91  
USD/DOP54.515254.671854.5654  
USD/XCD2.70002.70002.7000  
USD/BBD2.00002.00002.0000  
USD/TTD6.678876.653296.61331  
USD/GYD200.983200.636199.732  
USD/VEF433,957.00433,230.00431,338  
Dollar Index98.7398.9498.45  
Sources: OANDA, MarketWatch