Barbados is keeping a close eye on recent political developments in the United States that have followed last month’s inauguration of president Donald Trump.
Speaking at a ceremony here last night marking the 58th anniversary of the Cuban revolution, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean made only a passing reference to the situation in the US, saying: “We are challenged by all that is evolving around us up north.”
However, she did not go into any of the recent policy positions espoused by Trump, who signed an executive order last week banning entry for citizens of seven predominantly Muslim countries, including refugees.
The order, which did not go through a normal review process, immediately caused chaos and heartbreak at airports in the US and around the world, as people with valid visas were turned back without warning, and even holders of green cards were detained.
This sparked renewed anti-Trump protests. However, the acting attorney general Sally Yates was made to pay a high price after she announced that the Department of Justice would not defend the ban in court because she was not convinced the executive order was lawful.
Within hours, Yates was fired, accused in a venomous White House statement of betrayal and weakness.
Meanwhile, the bans were celebrated by unions representing more than 21,000 immigration officers. The unions, in a joint statement, congratulated the president for his “swift and decisive action” to keep America safe.
With the world already looking on in awe, the temperamental US president today officially put Iran on notice over its missile-testing programme. And in an equally contentious move, Trump urged Senate Republicans to “go for it” and invoke the so-called nuclear option, preventing Democrats from using a filibuster to block his Supreme Court nominee.
However, while staying clear of his controversial policies, McClean expressed hope that workable hemispheric partnership could be found “to ensure that our people can realize their full potential”.
Also addressing last night’s cocktail reception at the Grande Salle, Cuban Ambassador to Barbados Francisco Fernandez Pena underscored the need for regional cooperation amid the challenges of a globalized and neo-liberal world. He said despite the decades-old embargo, the Raul Castro regime was simply not prepared to give up, especially given the recent restoration of relations with Washington, which Havana views as a clear signal that “it is possible to live with differences in a peaceful co-existence”.
“There are obstacles after six decades but we hope that we can keep trying to get better and we have the support of the region,” Pena said, adding that “for us, the developing countries, the Caribbean nations, will have to go ahead tied, very tied, in as many areas as they can”.
In this regard, he said Cuba, which currently holds the chairmanship of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), was looking forward to hosting the 22nd ACS Ministerial meeting in March this year, as well as preparatory talks for the CARICOM/Cuba Summit next December in Antigua and Barbuda.
Before an audience that included both Barbadian and regional officials, the ambassador also revealed plans for Cuba to join the Caribbean Development Bank. He also said special attention was being paid to the issue of natural disasters; development of a centre for special needs children in Guyana and a regional school of arts in Jamaica.
The Cuban diplomat also announced plans for the re-establishment of a ‘Caribbean Heroes Park’ in Havana, while stating that “culture is also about integration”.
Pena also joined with McClean in acknowledging the contribution of the late leader of the Cuban Revolution Fidel Castro who passed away last November 25, as well as the bold step made by Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana in establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1972 — a move that broke the isolation of the Communist Caribbean state.