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News Round UP: Week Ending 6/18/16

Bahamas

The Royal Bahamas Defence Force (RBDF) says it has detained nearly 200 Haitians who were seeking to illegally enter the country by boat over the weekend. It said that acting on a tip off, the 199 Haitians were detained off the west coast of northern Andros aboard a wooden sailing sloop. Caribzone_Bahamas

The RBDF said that the migrants were in urgent need of food and water, which were provided by locals from the Red Bays community and they have been brought to New Providence where they will be handed over to Immigration authority.

Acting Commander Defence Force, Captain Tellis Bethel commended local fisherman and residents of the area for helping the RBDF locate and secure the wooden sailing vessel and preventing the loss of lives as a result.
Bahamas have in the past complained about Haitians who brave the rough seas in a bid to enter the country illegally or use it as a point for entry into the United States.

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Guyana

The Guyana government says it has indisputable evidence that Venezuelan soldiers had fired shots at several officers of the Guyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) late last month.

 Island, who had furnished Guyana’s investigators with an explanation, which the government of Guyana believes and which it has found to involve unacceptable behaviour because it assumed they had rights of policing the river which is in Guyana’s territory,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

Caracas, which continues to lay claim to the Essequibo Region, has denied the allegation that its soldiers had fired upon the GGMC officials during the incident on May 30.

But Georgetown in its statement late Sunday, said “the statement, which the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has chosen to release to the media flies in the face of direct reports which the authorities of Guyana received from the victims as well as the explanation, which the representatives of Guyana’s military received on May 31st from the Venezuelan Corporal-in Charge of the six troops who were involved in the incident”.

Caribzone_Guyana
The David Granger government said that as a result it is firmly rejecting Venezuela’s assertions that the reported incident was part of an “international media campaign” and “an international effort to destabilize Venezuela”.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that the GGMC officials were returning from a monitoring and inspection exercise at Arau, when the chartered boat on the Cuyuni River came under attack, approximately one mile above the Eteringbang Police Station.

No one was injured during the incident, but in denying the claim that its military had shot at the GGMC officials, Venezuela said that its military had not been carried out any exercise in that area insisting “the Venezuelan military forces have not been involved in any incident.”

Venezuela is laying claim to parts of Guyana declaring that the 1899 Arbitral Tribunal was null and void. The two countries have in recent months stepped up their international campaign and the United Nations said it is assisting both countries settle their dispute amicably.

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SPORTS

There is “a very low risk” that the upcoming Rio de Janeiro Olympics will accelerate the spread of the Zika virus around the globe, the World Health Organization said Tuesday.

After convening a meeting of its independent Zika experts, the UN health agency reaffirmed its previous advice that only pregnant women should skip the August 5-21 games in Brazil, the epicentre of the ongoing outbreak.

The explosive spread of the Zika virus was declared a global emergency in February. The disease is largely spread by mosquitoes, but in rare cases can also be transmitted via sex. In most cases, Zika causes only mild symptoms like a fever and rash, but it is also responsible for severe birth defects including babies born with abnormally small heads and a rare neurological syndrome that can cause death or temporary paralysis.

After numerous outsiders raised concerns about whether or not the Rio games should be moved or postponed because of the Zika threat, WHO said the issue is under consideration.

 
The expert group acknowledged that mass gatherings like the Olympics “can result in the amplification of transmission” but still insisted that “the individual risks in areas of transmission are the same whether or not a mass gathering is conducted”.

Dr Bruce Aylward, WHO director of emergency programs, said that the increase in travel to Rio because of the Olympics would be “very, very marginal”.

“I am not invested in whether or not the Games happen in Brazil or not. I mean, it would be great if they do: I think the Olympic Games are a great thing, and I think the world needs them now more than ever,” Aylward said.Rio-2016-Logo

The committee issued various recommendations to Brazilian officials and said authorities should intensify mosquito control measures and “ensure the availability of sufficient insect repellent and condoms for athletes and visitors.”

Last week, Brazil’s new health minister said there was practically “zero” risk that any of the expected 500,000 Olympic visitors would be infected with Zika. Some athletes, journalists and others have expressed reservations about attending the games.

One of the leading critics of the WHO says he was invited to sit on the emergency committee, only to have his invitation rescinded when he refused to sign a confidentiality clause.

Last month, Canadian professor Amir Attaran and more than 200 colleagues wrote an open letter to WHO, accusing it of shirking its responsibilities by not considering whether to recommend delaying or canceling the Rio Olympics. He then received an invitation from WHO to sit on their Zika committee.

But when the agency sent him a number of forms needed for his participation, including one with a clause that deems the committee deliberations to be secret, Attaran refused to sign and struck out that particular clause.

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said that because Attaran did not agree to the standard confidentiality form required of all experts, he was not issued a formal invitation and, thus, there was nothing to rescind. Lindmeier said that WHO was unaware of any previous cases of a potential committee member refusing to agree to keep deliberations secret.

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National

 Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith has sought to assure Jamaicans here that their concerns about challenges associated with doing business in Jamaica are being addressed.

She issued the assurance while addressing an awards banquet of the Jamaica Diaspora for the North East United States (US) Saturday night, and urged Jamaicans to “take advantage of the many investment opportunities” in their homeland.

Kamina2Arguing that there is no denying that “Diaspora engagement and involvement have tremendous potential to bolster Jamaica’s economic advancement,” the minister acknowledged that interested investors are sometimes turned off by the many hurdles they encounter.

Despite this, Johnson Smith said that there is an increasing number of avenues through which Jamaicans can maximize the value of their contributions to national development, “and in particular towards the attainment of economic growth and job creation”.
She touted the Jamaica Stock Exchange and the Junior Stock Exchange, which she noted, are attracting increased global attention “as they are well regulated and have strong governance frameworks”.

As part of plans to deepen and increase the engagement with Jamaicans abroad, Johnson Smith disclosed that the Jamaican Government will, in short order, adopt a National Diaspora Policy that will provide a framework for maximizing the value of their contributions to Jamaica’s overall development, while simultaneously addressing issues of concern.

Regarding the matter of Jamaicans abroad voting in elections, the minister said the Government has obtained information from countries that have implemented such frameworks and is in the process of analysing various options to determine which would be in the best interest of both sides.

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Regional

HARMONY of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, is slated to make its inaugural call to Jamaica in November. The vessel, owned by Royal Caribbean, is scheduled to dock at the Falmouth Pier in Trelawny.

Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said the visit will provide a major boost for Jamaica’s growing cruise-ship sector, which is still celebrating a 13.6 per cent growth for the 2015/16 winter season.

Bartlett made the disclosure during an interview with JIS at the annual general meeting of the Jamaica Hotel and Tourist Association held Saturday at the Sandals Ochi Beach Resort in St Ann.
“In addition to Royal Caribbean’s other vessels — Oasis of the Seas and Allure of the Seas — Jamaica will now have the three largest ships in the world calling on our ports,” Bartlett pointed out.

He said that Harmony of the Seas is on its inaugural voyage in Barcelona, Spain, and will remain in Europe for the summer before going to Fort Lauderdale in the fall for its Caribbean cruise, when it will make its Jamaica stop.

Bartlett said that Royal Caribbean has had a long relationship with the local cruise industry, with the Falmouth Pier accommodating most of the cruise line’s flagship vessels.

Harmony of the Seas Rendering 3.jpg
Harmony of the Seas

“As a matter of fact, it’s not just Royal Caribbean,” the minister pointed out.

“It is no secret that all the cruise lines that ply the western Caribbean route continue to see Jamaica as a marquee destination, boasting some of the Caribbean’s finest attractions,” he said “When itineraries are being put together, the quality attractions we have here in Jamaica have to be taken into consideration. Where else in the Caribbean or in this hemisphere will you find a natural gem like Dunn’s River?” he asked.

Meanwhile, the tourism minister said that the cruise sector is poised for further growth.

“I am actually going to Miami next week to meet with the Florida Caribbean Cruise Association to discuss additional ships for Jamaica. We see Kingston coming into the picture now as a cruise destination… these are really exciting times,” he said.

At 226,963 tons, Harmony of the Seas has been described as a “floating mega resort”. It boasts three main pool areas, a water slide complex, adults-only solarium, an ice skating rink, two rock climbing walls, a basketball court and a mall-like indoor promenade with shops, bars and eateries.

Wider than Oasis and Allure by about 2.5 feet, Harmony holds nearly 100 more passengers than its sisters at double occupancy. Its total capacity is 6,780 people, not including crew, which is a record for the cruise industry.

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Barbados

Britain’s Caribbean Overseas Territories could suffer significantly if it votes to leave the European Union in the June 23, referendum, according to a report released in London.

The report commissioned by the United Kingdom Overseas Territories Association (UKOTA) on the benefits of the European Union (EU) to the United Kingdom Overseas Territories (UKOTs) notes that the UKOTs have benefitted “in several important ways from their relationship with the EU, and many of these will be placed at serious risk if the UK decides to leave the EU”.

The UKOTA said that the overall aim of the report is not to force the UKOT’s onto the campaign agenda but to demonstrate the value of the EU to the UKOTs and the prospects for their future relationship with the EU pending the referendum outcome.

There are 14 UKOTs spread across the globe, of which nine are directly associated with the European Union (EU) via the Overseas Association Decision (OAD) adopted by the EU in 2013. These are Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Montserrat, Pitcairn, St Helena and Turks and Caicos Islands. Ascension and Tristan da Cunha fall under St Helena in the OAD.
The report notes that the UKOTs benefit currently from economic and environmental cooperation with the EU, as well as development assistance and policy dialogue.

Caribzone_BarbadosPractical aspects of cooperation are welcomed by the UKOTs. For example, Bermuda’s financial services industry with its focus on insurance is aided by its close links with the EU, both in terms of it being a large market, but also as the EU recognises Bermuda’s regulatory system as equivalent to its own.

The report, titled “The United Kingdom Overseas Territories and the European Union: Benefits and Prospects,” notes that the EU market is a major one particularly for Bermuda, with its focus on insurance. Service sector imports from Bermuda to the EU amounted to Euro21.7 billion (One Euro =US$1.29 cents) in 2014 according to the European Commission.

“In addition, Bermuda benefits from the EU’s recognition that the standard of the island’s insurance regulation is equivalent to its own. Second, within the institutional structures highlighted previously the OCTs (Overseas Caribbean Territories) are able to discuss financial services and tax issues and initiatives with the EU before they are implemented. “

The report also noted that the British Virgin Islands (BVI) is the Co-Chair of the OCT/EU Financial Services Partnership Working Party (PWP), which brings together technical experts from the OCTs and EU to discuss issues of mutual concern.

“This platform is important for mutual understanding and to make sure that the interests of the OCTs are taken into account by the EU in its decision making.”

The report said that a number of the UKOTs are highly dependent on a small number of industries, and this increases their vulnerability.

“Thus several are investigating ways in which they can diversify their economies. For instance, BVI is exploring the commercial expansion of its fisheries industry, with the EU as a potential export market,” the report added.

It said that funding from the EU is also having a positive impact on the UKOTs, amounting to at least Euro 80 million between 2014-2020.

The report notes that recent and ongoing projects are focusing on supporting their economies, and helping the territories to address environmental challenges such as climate change, disaster preparedness and the conservation of their biodiversity.

“Beyond the policy benefits, the deepening institutional links between the UKOTs and the EU, particularly via the European Commission, have been supported by the Territories, providing as they do more direct access to EU policy makers.

“In addition, the growing cooperation between the UKOTs and Dutch, French and Danish territories in the Overseas Countries and Territories Association (OCTA) has brought real gains, including greater political visibility of the territories in Brussels and a higher international profile,” the report added.

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Jamaica

The police have charged four men, including three Trinidadians, for involvement in a major credit and debit card racket here.Caribzone_Jamaica

The police report that the men have been accused of defrauding a hotel in the business district of New Kingston of over US$3,000 by using fictitious credit cards.

The investigators charged the men last week after seizing 16 cards in the hotel room occupied by the men.

Those charged are Trinidadians – Rhienalvo Dickson, Akil Sullivan, Rohan McKain and Jamaican, Chad Williams. The men are scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing.

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National

A bill to increase engagement with the governments of the Caribbean region and the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, June 13, 2016 at 6:14 P.M after 40 minutes of debate.

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, had introduced the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, H.R. 4939, on April 14, 2016 with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).

Engel on Monday praised the passage of the bill which would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean and enhancing outreach to Diaspora communities in the United States.

Caribzone_us flagThe legislation also puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, and other priority areas.

“We spend a great deal of time focusing on challenges and opportunities in faraway places.  But it’s important that we never lose sight of our interests closer to home.  Indeed, we should be working to strengthen our ties with countries in the Caribbean,” Rep. Engel said on the House floor. “That’s the aim of this bill, which would prioritize U.S.-Caribbean relations for years to come.”

The bill directs the Department of State to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean region that:Identifies State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to prioritize U.S. policy towards the Caribbean region; Broadens State Department and USAID outreach to the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States to promote their involvement in Caribbean economic development and citizen security; Outlines an approach to partner with Caribbean governments to improve citizen security, reduce illicit drug trafficking, strengthen the rule of law, and improve the effectiveness of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI); Encourages efforts of the region to implement regional and national strategies that improve Caribbean energy security; Improves diplomatic engagement with Caribbean governments; and Assists Caribbean countries in diversifying their economies, reducing free trade and investment barriers, and supporting the training and employment of persons in marginalized communities.

The Government Accountability Office would be required to submit reports to Congress regarding: (1) the CBSI; and (2) diplomatic outreach from the U.S. embassy in Barbados to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.

The bill’s passage comes on the 10th anniversary of the observation of National Caribbean-American Heritage Month in June.

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Haiti

Last year’s presidential election fell apart amid cries of fraud. An interim government named in February was supposed to organize a new one. Now, no one is sure who is really in charge here.

Political transitions always make for volatile times in Haiti. But the latest political crisis is whittling away whatever is left of the dream that Haiti could come back better and brighter from its devastating 2010 earthquake.Caribzone_Haiti

The 120-day mandate of the interim president, Jocelerme Privert, expired at midnight Tuesday. Haiti’s parliament has not extended his tenure, nor appointed another caretaker figure. ­Privert’s opponents say his term has clearly ended; he and his supporters insist he remains Haiti’s de facto president unless lawmakers vote him out. The head of Haiti’s lower house has not been able to get lawmakers to decide on it.

This sort of standoff is the last thing Haiti needs, producing an all-consuming distraction from its many other problems: economic stagnation, a tanking currency, drought, cholera, the Zika virus, food shortages and a three-month-old strike by public-health workers.

Six years after the 7.0-magnitude earthquake that killed 200,000 and left more than a million homeless, the heady talk of rebuilding a stronger Haiti has given way to a sinking sense that the country’s political class is cracked beyond repair.

Foreign governments that largely financed Haiti’s failed elections last year, to the tune of $100 million, are running out of patience but seem to be wary of destabilizing the country any further. They have reluctantly embraced the plan to redo the October presidential vote.

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JAMAICA

From July 17 – 23, thousands of reggae music fans will converge in Jamaica’s tourist capital of Montego Bay for the 24th staging of Jamaica’s annual Reggae Sumfest. Dubbed the “Greatest Reggae Show on Earth,” the popular weeklong musical festival will be an all reggae and dancehall affair with beach parties and performances by popular Jamaican reggae and dancehall acts, including Grammy-winning Beenie Man, along with Popcaan, Spice, I-Octane, Tarrus Riley and more. In addition, Reggae Sumfest will introduce live 360o virtual reality streaming for the public to experience the festival on mobile phones via www.reggaesumfest.com.

Caribzone_Jamaica“Every year Reggae Sumfest attracts travelers and reggae fans from around the world,” said Paul Pennicook, Jamaica’s Director of Tourism. “Reggae music is an important part of our culture, and I am pleased that this year’s staging will feature a menu of reggae and dancehall performances from start to finish. Reggae music has been embraced globally and there’s no better place to feast on the genre than in its birthplace, Jamaica…the Home of All Right.”

Reggae Sumfest will kick off on Sunday, July 17 with a Sumfest Beach Party at the Aqua Sol Theme Park, followed by the All-White Party onTuesday, July 19. The festival now has two concert nights and the introduction of Sound Explosion on Thursday, July 21 at Pier 1. Sound Explosion will see sounds systems like Stone Love, Black Kat, Firelinks and Tony Matterhorn spin music from yester-year. Beenie Man, Assassin, Spice, Popcaan and I’Octane will headline Dancehall Night on Friday, July 22 at Catherine Hall. Reggae Sumfest will end onSaturday, July 23 with Reggae Night featuring performances from Barrington Levy, Sanchez, Busy Signal, Tarrus Riley, and more.

For those traveling to Jamaica for the festival, below is a sampling of summer packages being offered at resorts in Montego Bay and Ocho Rios.

For more information on Reggae Sumfest, visit www.reggaesumfest.com or to plan your next vacation to Jamaica, visit www.visitjamaica.com.


First staged in 1993, Reggae Sumfest quickly became the world’s premiere reggae music event.  The festival showcases the best of Dancehall and Reggae music, as well as top R & B/Hip Hop performers and offers delicious Jamaican cuisine and arts and crafts.  Each year, the event which is billed as the Greatest Reggae Show on Earth attracts more than 30,000 patrons to the tourist capital of Montego Bay.

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