We know that we can’t speak for all of our fellow citizens, but we would like to publicly declare that one of the major things that we hold on to as sons and daughters of the Caribbean to give ourselves a feeling of pride, accomplishment and hope for the future, is our Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
We Caribbean people currently live in an era that is filled with much disappointment and despondency. In many of our countries, several of our most important national institutions have precipitously declined and fallen into various states of crisis and dysfunction, and many of the most precious social gains that previous generations have fought for and won have slipped away from us.
Truth be told, even our once mighty world championship West Indies cricket team has fallen from its exalted perch and is no longer the automatic and constant source of pride and accomplishment that it used to be.
But in the midst of such decline and disillusionment, we Caribbean people can still celebrate the fact that we have managed to keep our regional integration institution (CARIFTA/CARICOM) going for a solid half century now, without ever having any member state break away, or without falling victim to any crisis – financial or otherwise – that threatened the destruction of our splendid regional headquarters and secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana.
And we say “a solid half century” because it was on Labour Day in the year 1968 that the CARIFTA agreement — the agreement that would morph into the 1973 CARICOM Treaty of Chaguaramas– came into effect.
So, this year of 2018 is the very, very significant 50th anniversary year of our CARIFTA / CARICOM regional integration institution. And, we want to emphasize that it has been 50 years of accomplishment. Not — admittedly — unrelentingly constant and ever increasing accomplishment, but accomplishment none the less.
Indeed, we would like us all to recognize that CARICOM constitutes the highest institutional expression of the Caribbean people’s historical struggle against enslavement, genocide, colonization, racial and social oppression, big power domination, exogenously imposed separation and division, poverty and under-development.
CARICOM — properly understood — constitutes the zenith of a super-human effort on the part of our people to construct an autonomous Caribbean civilization out of the detritus of centuries of colonialism — a Caribbean civilization that is built upon and that exemplifies and upholds the principles of freedom, national sovereignty, self determination, anti- racism, anti-imperialism, people empowerment and the inalienable right to human dignity and to personal and national development.
Let us recall, for example, that when the four major Caribbean political leaders of the decade of the 1970’s — Trinidad & Tobago’s Eric Williams, Barbados’ Errol Barrow, Guyana’s Forbes Burnham and Jamaica’s Michael Manley — met at Chaguaramas in Trinidad in October 1972, that they not only decided to transform CARIFTA into a Caribbean Community (CARICOM), but that intrinsic to that process were their simultaneous decisions to commence the practice of coordinating the foreign policy of all CARICOM member states and presenting one unified CARICOM front to the outside world, commencing with such “outside” international organizations as the Organization of American States (OAS) and the European Economic Community (EEC), and to defy the mighty United States (US) and establish diplomatic relations with the revolutionary Republic of Cuba.
In other words, these historic leaders of the Caribbean were clearly and boldly establishing that at the very core of CARICOM would be a commitment to unity, self-determination, Third World solidarity, and a courageous willingness to speak truth to power and to stand up and champion important principles of international law.
So that is our record! That is our heritage! That is what we are entitled to celebrate!
But even as we celebrate our CARICOM in this 50th anniversary year, we would like to draw to the attention of our fellow Caribbean citizens some recent very disturbing happenings that should cause all of us to pause and take stock.
After some 45 years of our CARICOM functioning as the solid and outstanding bloc of nations within the OAS, we suddenly learnt — a mere seven months ago — that a rival bloc of nations had emerged in the OAS in the form of the so-called “Lima Group of States”.
It was in August of 2017 that, on the invitation of one president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of Peru, some 11 OAS member states met in Lima and established the “Lima Group of States” and dedicated themselves to do the bidding of the capitalist establishment of the US by engaging in a hostile and illegal “regime change campaign” against the current socialist government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
To date, the most striking so-called “achievement”of the Lima Group has been its collusion with the president Kuczynski in withdrawing president Nicolas Maduro’s invitation to attend the 2018 Summit of the Americas that is scheduled to be held in Peru — a thoroughly illegitimate and despicable act, but the type of thing that Kuczynski is known for.
Incidentally, it has since transpired that the president, who definitely will not be attending the Summit of the Americas, is the said Kuczynski himself. On March 21, 2018, Kuczynski was forced to resign from office in disgrace, in order to avoid impeachment on several charges of corruption.
The tragedy for CARICOM in all of this is that two of our CARICOM member states — St Lucia and Guyana — broke ranks with CARICOM and actually joined president (now former president) Kuczynski and his johnny-come-lately Lima Group of States, and no less than three other CARICOM member states have gone on record as “supporters” of the Lima Group — Barbados, Jamaica and Grenada.
Surely and truly, Errol Barrow, Michael Manley, Forbes Burnham and Eric Williams must be turning in anguish in their graves!
How do we go from leading the entire Western Hemisphere in 1972 by breaking the USA’s diplomatic isolation of Cuba and extending recognition to the Fidel Castro-led government, to becoming sheepish followers of the likes of Kuczynski in a thoroughly unprincipled and cowardly attack on a socialist Third World government that is determined to wrest its people’s precious petroleum resources from the hands of greedy American multi-national corporations?
How do we justify or rationalize that type of supine, divisive, and myopic behaviour in the 50th year of existence of our regional integration institution? How can we countenance an imperialistic big power like the US using a lackey like Kuczynski to break up our precious “CARICOM Consensus” and employing a few errant CARICOM governments to do their dirty work?
If prime ministers Chastanet, Holness, Stuart and Mitchell, and president Granger don’t know any better, it is up to us, the masses of ordinary CARICOM citizens, the true heirs of Manley, Barrow, Williams and Burnham, to speak up and admonish them, and set them right in this 50th anniversary year of our CARIFTA/CARICOM regional institution.
And it is particularly important that we make this intervention now, approximately one month before the Summit of the Americas, if we are to ensure that all of our governments attend that important convocation solely and exclusively as members of our CARICOM bloc of nations, and equipped with one common and righteous CARICOM foreign policy position on Venezuela and on every other important international issue.
CARICOM is too important to us — too critical to our future — for us to sit back and allow it to be divided and brought into disrepute by a small group of unwise, neophyte, temporary politicians.
Let us ensure that we do not permit our still mighty and impressive CARICOM to go the same way that our once mighty and impressive West Indies cricket team so unfortunately went.
Caribbean people wake up and protect your CARICOM!
INTERNATIONAL NETWORK IN DEFENSE OF HUMANITY