America is flexing its muscle on Jamaica

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Trump - Vanity Fair photo

Anthony Barrett

The USA has begun to flex its diplomatic and military muscle against Jamaica. First, it leaked that Jamaica has pulled out of a security Memorandum of Understanding with their three traditional partners – the USA, Canada and the U.K. Secondly, we saw the revocation of visas held by a government minister, a senior opposition parliamentarian and senior members of the security forces and lastly, a cryptic warning by US Admiral Craig S Faller, Commander of the United States Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), when he warned of China’s campaign of “disinformation” in Latin America and the Caribbean, hinting that President Xi Jinping’s ties with Venezuela were part of a hemispheric axis, worsening security concerns in the region. That, my friends, is the US overtly linking China to Venezuela and to a lesser extent Cuba, part and parcel of their grand hegemonic design.

This column warned in February 2018 when it posited the following; “The people of the Caribbean and Latin America must make known that we are vehemently opposed to any regime change in Venezuela, a good neighbour and friend. Through its PETROCARIBE oil credit facilitation to Caribbean nations, Venezuela saved the region from greater economic ravages and social tumult during the 2008 global economic meltdown.

According to one research site, as of 2015, while the United States remained the principal trading partner of the Caribbean, China and Venezuela had emerged as new challengers. I quote from another report, “Beijing likely views the Caribbean as strategically important by virtue of its proximity to the United States and major maritime trade routes and infrastructure, such as the Panama Canal and the region’s many ports.” Chinese government donations, aid, loans, and investments in construction of roads, port facilities, new government buildings, cricket and soccer stadiums have tempered American influence in the region.  China’s economic expansion in the Caribbean and Latin America must be of serious concern to the Americans who, for centuries, saw the Caribbean and Latin America as their backyard and third border.

Jamaica has been the greatest Caribbean beneficiary of this Chinese largesse. Therefore, Tillerson’s visit should not be looked at naively. It is possible under a Trump presidency the United States will more forcefully resort to the 1823 James Monroe doctrine.  I doubt that this American administration has the capacity to accept a changing Latin America and Caribbean where they are no longer the ones calling in the plays so they will revert to bullying.”

WARNING NOT HEEDED

That warning went unheeded or was not finessed enough by this government. Diplomatic events over the last few days have given local and international political watchers and pundits one clear and irrefutable impression – confusion reigns in Jamaica’s foreign policy. The government seems to be out of step or ignorant of the subtleties and nuances involved in international relations. A number of previous events ultimately brought us to this ignominious place in our brief history as an independent nation. Only the obtuse or the arrogant would not have seen the ominous writing on the wall.

In an era when international relations are dominated by the foibles and whims of the transactional US President Donald Trump, Jamaica should have known that dalliance with those considered enemies of the USA would be fraught with intemperate acts of retaliation, rather than cogent diplomacy which respected sovereignty. Under the Trump administration, the US is determined to block China’s assent as a super power. With China’s Belt Road policy manifesting itself in the Caribbean, the US wants to reassert the Monroe Doctrine or big stick diplomacy in an area long considered the USA’s backyard.

So, as to not get ahead of myself, I will offer this chronology: On September 21, 2011, before running for president, Trump tweeted verbatim, “China is neither an ally nor a friend — they want to beat us and own our country.”  On May 2, 2016, while campaigning for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, Trump said, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”

On July 6, 2018, the Trump administration slapped China with $34 billion in tariffs and promised another $16 billion would be added at a later date. On July 6, 2018, China responded with similar amounts of tariff. To date, the US has slapped tariffs on US$550 billion worth of Chinese products. China, in turn, has set tariffs on US$185 billion worth of US goods.

FALLER’S BROADSIDE NOT COINCIDENTAL

It is in this milieu of economic warfare, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, opted to visit China on a nine-day working trip. Therefore, I do not think Admiral Faller’s broadside is coincidental. This will not be the first time that Jamaica has embarked on an independent diplomatic path and faced American aggression and threats. One needs only to look at the international accomplishments and vilifications of successive Michael Manley governments between 1972 and 1980.

In the words of Delano Franklin, “During his period in office, he deepened and strengthened, despite the opposition from certain political quarters, Jamaica’s relationship with, among others, Cuba, China, Venezuela, South Africa, Russia and China. Not only does Jamaica now enjoy warm fraternal relations with these countries, but the Jamaican economy has also benefited from large projects from some of these countries”.

According to Professor of Public Policy at UWI, Denis Benn, “Michael Manley was a true internationalist who understood the complex interplay among national, regional and global processes. He was an articulate and persuasive spokesman in fora such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the Group of 77. 

“Indeed, during the 1970s and 1980s, Manley became the most articulate voice on behalf of the developing world in championing the cause of the New International Economic Order (NIEO), which dominated the international economic agenda during the period. Almost single-handedly, he challenged the forces of oppression both at home and abroad”. Incidentally, Benn is a professor at The Cyrus Vance Professorship at the Centre for International Relations at Mount Holyoke University.

Holness is no Michael Manley; he has not built the requisite relationship with our CARICOM partners to weather an onslaught by the Americans.  Lest we forget the disdain and contempt in which we are held by some in the Caribbean, I will quote from a previous column. “According to UWI Professor Rupert Lewis, Kingston (Jamaica) should have abstained from the OAS vote, adding that it would not have been a cowardice move. From the end of December 2017, I saw the drift of the Jamaican government, by and large, faced with a Trump administration, faced with Nikki Haley’s ultimatum to people that we’re watching how you vote.”

According to Professor Lewis, Jamaica is aligning itself with the ideology of the United States because it is still in a difficult fiscal situation. “I can understand the economic aspect, but I can’t understand the separation of the economic aspect from the political position which the government has not taken.” 

PLAYING TOADIE TO UNCLE SAM

This country is once again willing to play toadie to Uncle Sam for financial aid considerations. No one should ever forget the October 25, 1983 invasion of Grenada by the USA. No one should ever forget the role played by Jamaica’s PM Edward Seaga (JLP) as he toadied up to warmongering President Ronald Reagan (Rep). Today, Seaga’s protégée seems to be in lockstep with another warmonger. Under his leadership, Jamaica has been taking some unpopular positions, positions diametrically opposed by most Jamaicans but are in America’s interest. That was written in January 2019.

This administration is woefully out of its diplomatic depth or the Prime Minister would not be publicly waving this red flag, “Jamaica has benefitted from China’s support in several areas including human resource, capacity-building in areas of education and training as well as scores of Jamaicans benefitting from training in the areas, of agriculture, security, logistics, medicine and urban planning in China.”

Amateur hour is here folks, sit back and watch this charade of foreign policy play out. America is not averse to regime change and or destabilization in their backyard – just look to Cuba and Venezuela. Peace!

To compound insults, he also noted that Jamaica shares China’s aspirations for a more “open, inclusive and balanced economic globalization for the common development and prosperity of all countries, as well as the need to make the economies resilient to climate vulnerabilities and economic shocks”.  Adding that 16 Chinese companies; registered in Jamaica; have already invested more than US$3 billion in the country’s economy.

That is like; with bravado but no fortitude; telling Uncle Sam, “go to hell with your bellicosity.” Amateur hour is here folks, sit back and watch this charade of foreign policy play out because as sure as there are small potatoes there are big potatoes. America is not averse to regime change and or destabilization in their backyard just look to Cuba and Venezuela. Today, despite his posturing, the Holness administration must be feeling the apprehension and uncertainties of the Maduro government now that Uncle Sam has begun to flex its varied muscles against it.  Peace!

mocobarrett@yahoo.com

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