Caribbean Political Economy

The Weekly 1804CaribVoices Newsletter, Vol. 1, No. 41

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Vol. 1 No. 41, 2013 View this email in your browser

Welcome to 1804CaribVoices Weekly


The Caribbean Diaspora

Alissa Trotz

Rather than take diaspora as a given, I want to explore how the idea of diaspora is being put to work by regional bureaucrats and state representatives. Who are the imagined subjects of such appeals, and what is the content of this summoning of a Caribbean extra-territorial population? Precisely because this relationship seems incipient, I imagine these encounters as alive with possibilities and challenges. It is in that spirit that I offer these tentative observations.

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US-Venezuela relations: Imperialism and anti-Imperialism

James Petras     

With virtually no collaborators of consequence, Washington turned toward the ‘outside’ destabilization strategy using its only loyal regional client, the death squad narco-President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia. Bogota granted Washington the use of seven military bases, numerous airfields and the establishment of Special Forces missions- preparatory for cross border intrusions.

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The Moral case for Reparations for Slavery

Sir Ronald Sanders

The Caribbean governments are targeting the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands even though the initiator of the Atlantic slave trade was Portugal followed closely by Spain.

Indeed, while Britain passed legislation to end the slave trade in 1807 – almost three hundred years after it started – and to abolish slavery in 1838, the Spanish and Portuguese kept their trade alive, exploiting African slave labour for their economic benefit until the second half of the 19th Century.

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Are you Haitian?

Myriam J. A. Chancy

The implications of the ruling of September 23 by the Constitutional Tribunal of the Dominican Republic, stripping citizenship from the offspring of non-resident Haitians born in the Dominican Republic, where nationality is conferred “jus soli,” by place of birth, are only beginning to be understood by the international community with the OAS, Amnesty International, and the governments of Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, openly condemning the violation of human rights it represents.

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Organically exporting
Mervyn Claxton 

The region’s middle-income status would make grant aid particularly difficult to obtain. Concessionary financing might be more accessible but it would increase already high national/regional debt levels, albeit at a slower rate. But even that slower rate of increase might be unsustainable. Patrick Kendall, Senior Economist at the Caribbean Development Bank, has stated that the national debt of many Caricom countries are close to, or exceed, 100% of their GDP.

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12 Ward Street, Tunapuna, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean
Copyright © 2013 1804CaribVoices, All rights reserved.

The worm turns; the world changes

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Mervyn Claxton’s latest essay (Opium as Trade Imperialism, is is extremely revealing on a number of counts. Mervyn documents the humiliation imposed on China by the West through the Unequal Treaties of the 19th century, which forced China to open its markets to Western goods and permit the spread of opium addiction in China. The sequel to these squalid events was, ultimately, the downfall of the last Chinese Imperial Dynasty and the rise of Mao’s Chinese Communist Party and the establishment of the People’s Republic in 1949, known officially as the ” Liberation”. It is just one example of Western Imperialism’s sowing the wind and reaping the world wind, because the present Chinese leadership is very clear about their ultimate destiny being to regain the place they had as the world’s largest economy prior to 1800. The latest commentary by Xin Hua which heaps scorn on the irresponsibility of US management of its economic affairs while being the source of the world’s principal reserve currency, and the call for the ” De-Americanisation of the world”, is the latest manifestation of the Chinese determination to exercise a leading role in the management of the world’s affairs. Here is what is reported:

Chinese News Agency: Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.

Time to start considering building a de-Americanized world.

The Chinese have a very long memory and take a very long view of things.

A second point of interest from Mervyn’s essay relates to the use of international treaty law by the West as a means of institutionalising international relations of inequality and egregious injustice. This of course has a long history in the West’s relations with Africa since the onset of the Atlantic slave trade in the 1400s and its relations with the indigenous peoples of the Americas since the 1500s. This use of the law was also widely employed in the internal relations of the European settlers in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other white settler colonies. The use of Law for this purpose has a three-fold effect: (i) providing an elaborate cultural apparatus of norms, values etc. of what constitutes “civilised”, “‘acceptable” and “peaceful” behaviour for the contestation of existing relations of power (contestation is legitimate but must be ” lawful”, that is, within established parameters of property, etc.) (ii) establishing an elaborate system of procedures and mechanisms for the resolution of disputes and the contestation of power, and (iii) providing a justification for the use of state violence for repressive ends, asserted as means of ” enforcing the law”.

Mervyn starts his by pointing out that “the history of the East India Company presents a textbook case study of the North’s entrenched practice of establishing unequal trade agreements and commercial relationships with the South” . The example that immediately springs to mind, of course, is the Economic Partnership Agreement imposed on the Caribbean by the EU in 2008. It is no ordinary coincidence that a similar comparison to the made by Mervyn was made in relation to the Treaties imposed by the United States on Japan in the second half of the 19th century, by a colleague economist, of European extraction, who worked for many years as a research economist on trade at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. Here is what he wrote to me:

” The EPA negotiations have been extremely depressing for those of us who had, perhaps naively , believed that EPAs might actually lead to some development. I was given a book by Ed Vrkic on ” Breaking Open of Japan? about US commodore Perry mission to Japan in

1853 . President Filmore sent a letter with Perry asking for a treaty opening up Japan to trade. He sent Perry with 4 huge battleships to Tokyo (clearly the Americans postal service was even then very poor). The following year Perry came back for a reply with 10 gunships. (this was a quarter if the US navy – the Japanese clearly got the message!). He signed the Treaty of Kanagawa which ” opened Japan? to what they politely called ” commercial intercourse? in the 19th century. (The obvious comments about men with big guns looking for ” commercial intercourse? seems inappropriate !)

Four years later Commissioner Harris was dispatched by Washington and he signed what was called the „Treaty of Amity and Commerce? or the Harris Treaty. Below is summary of some provisions as described in the book by Feife (Breaking Open japan, page 321

„ They (Japan) relinquished the right to establish tariffs on incoming or outgoing goods, which the treaty set …. [ In other words no EXPORT TAXES (EPA)

2) „Another tenet carried over from Perry?s Kanagawa Treaty was a MFN clause that automatically gave the US any privilege Japan might grant. That feature of so – called „hitch – hiking imperialism? delivered further profit by sharing advantages secured by other countries – advantages that put a straightjacket on Edo?s(Tokyo) foreign policy by depriving it of the ability to manoeuvre among nations [EPA–MFN clause]

3 ) Placing many goods on a tariff free list and setting a maximum of 5% …it prevented Japan from protecting its infant industries…. To raise the capital required for continued industrialization the government turned to oppressive domestic taxes. [removal of infant industry].

All of this is painfully familiar to anyone who has been through the EPAs in the last six months.

The humiliation of Japan in this treaty by US and European powers is, in part, what fed the militaristic backlash in Japan and lead inexorably to WWII.”


Finally, a fourth count on which Mervyn’s essay is revealing is in tearing away the claims of the English to being paragons of justice and fair play of which the British ruling class is so proud and into which we colonials were so profoundly conditioned, which is still exercised as a major instrument of British “soft power” in international affairs. As a child growing up in colonial Jamaica, the statue to Queen Victoria in the centre of Kingston was imprinted on my consciousness and the one thing I remember is that it was Victoria who “freed the slaves”. Now I learn from Mervyn’s essay of Victoria’ s complicity and material benefit from turning a foreign nation into a community of drug addicts so that one of the largest companies in her realm could make millions from selling tea produced by exploiting thousands of poor defenceless workers in the largest British Colony. Of course, these facts were conveniently hidden in history taught in colonial schools, just as we were taught that Elizabeth I was one of England’s most brilliant and successful Monarchs, while her role in licensing and benefiting from the infamous English slave trade is either omitted or relegated to a footnote.

Thanks a lot to Mervyn for this and his other essays in teh serries on Culture and Development.


1804CaribVoices Weekly Vol. 1, No. 39, 2013

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Vol. 1 No. 39, 2013 View this email in your browser

Welcome to 1804CaribVoices Weekly


Exploding The Myth Of African Responsibility For Slavery (Part 1)

David Comissiong

Now that our Caribbean governments have launched a serious effort to secure the payment of Reparations for the tremendous damage inflicted on the people of Africa and the African Diaspora during the centuries of European orchestrated slave trade and enslavement, a number of “fifth columnists” have crept out of the proverbial woodwork and are seeking to confuse the issue with allegations that our African ancestors not only collaborated with the European enslavers, but were so accepting of the slave trade that they refused or neglected to resist it.

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Ending Guatemala’s claim to Belize

Assad Shoman

The Guatemalan claim to our territory could have been ended, and not only in the 19th century, when, most famously, Britain refused to pay a paltry sum of £50,000 that would have spared us all the troubles we’ve had, but also at least twice since independence. But here we are, more than thirty years later, still burdened by a claim that just won’t go away.

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Health Consequences of Food Production: A Feminist Perspective 

Cherise Charleswell

Globally, women and girls are actively and directly involved in the processing, packaging, and distribution of food, and these activities expose them to a number of health consequences; including those found in the environment. Thus, this paper will take an analytical approach that expands beyond the tendency to consider humanity in gender undifferentiated terms

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Black Radical Thought: Pedagogy and praxis

Scholars, educators and activists from across the Caribbean and further afield will be arriving in Kingston this week to participate in a conference to honour University of the West Indies Professor, Rupert Lewis.

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Pan-Caribbean Civil Society Reparations Network
It should also be noted that in addition to the governmental deliberation and decisions, the representatives of civil society organizations held their own caucus and made the historic decision to establish a Pan-Caribbean Civil Society Reparations Network.  The network was mandated to mobilize the Caribbean people in support of the quest for reparations, and to collaborate with and support the work of the National Reparations Committees and the CARICOM Regional Commission.

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Culture, Trade and Globalization (1)
I do not know if coffee and sugar are essential to the happiness of Europe, but I know well that these two products have accounted for the unhappiness of two great regions of the world: America has been depopulated so as to have land on which to plant the

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Stark Warning on Climate Change
Meena Raman

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of

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12 Ward Street, Tunapuna, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Caribbean
Copyright © 2013 1804CaribVoices, All rights reserved.

New life in the Revised Treaty


The Caribbean Court of Justice makes a landmark decision

Norman Girvan

The Caribbean Court of Justice has handed down a landmark decision in finding in favour of Ms Shanique Myrie in the case brought against Barbados for being denied entry, verbally and physically abused, and deported back to Jamaica, on March 14-15 2011.

In handing down its decision the CCJ has done more than give justice to the young woman, then 22, for the psychological trauma and stress caused by the incident. The Court declared that the decision of the Conference of the Heads of Government of CARICOM on the right of entry of Caricom nationals to Caricom member states for six months, is legally binding on Member states without the requirement that it be enacted into their domestic law. In this regard, the Court makes a crucial distinction between domestic law and Community law.

In this finding the Court has not only upheld the right of Caricom nationals to unimpeded, hassle-free travel throughout the Community provided for under the Revised Treaty. Allowed exceptions are where the national is “undesirable” or would become “a charge on public funds”, but the Court laid down strict criteria for the application of such exceptions and made it clear that such decisions are subject to the Court’s jurisdiction.

The Court has also clarified the legal status of decisions of the Conference of Heads of Government in such a way as to enhance the understanding of the legal force of such decisions on the governments of member states. In effect, it says that the decisions of Conference do  have legal force, at least “at the level of Community law”.

The Court also found that the wording “agreed” in the Reports of Conference is that same as “decided”, and that the entry of a reservation by a member state to a decision does not violate the unanimity required for decisions.

In several important respects therefore, I read the decision by the CCJ as an important step in strengthening the legal basis for the operation of the Caribbean Community. It gives teeth to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and meaning to the decisions of Caricom organs; and hence can be the basis of addressing the “implementation deficit”.

Most importantly, it gives assurances to ordinary Caricom citizens that they can have meaningful recourse to a Court set up by and for Caricom nations, when their rights under the Revised Treaty  are breached by arbitrary and insulting actions by functionaries of member states.

The decision will be undoubtedly be controversial, welcomed in some quarters and denounced in others. But in the opinion of this writer, it can and should be seen as shot in the arm for the integration movement.

Reference may be made to the Executive Summary paras. (7) to (15) and to the full text of the Court’s Decision.

October 4, 2013

Click below for
Myrie v Barbados MEDIA RELEASE Final 4 October
Myrie v Barbados -Executive Summary 4 October 2013

Forward Ever–Killing the Grenadian Revolution: A Review

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I watched Bruce Paddington’s film last night. It is an excellent film; as far as it goes. After thinking about it all night, I wonder if it goes far enough.


Since this review appeared I have been engaged In several email conversations with people who have their own personal Grenada story to tell. Those who saw Paddington’s film all agree with me that there is much more that needs to be uncovered about the events leading up to October 19, 1983 as well as the events on that fateful day itself. Most of those who have not yet seen the film are looking forward to seeing it. Much additional imformation has been provided. Were I to write my review today, it might be more nuanced; but the conclusions would likely be the same. The full story has yet to be told. Until then, there will be real reckoning, no full accounting, no real lessons learned, and no true resolution.
October 13, 2013

Passing of Saul Landau

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Maduro-Ramotar Joint Declaration August 31 2013

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The two Presidents noted the accelerated progress being made in relations between Guyana and Venezuela, in particular the greater impetus given to the United Nations Good Offices Process on the border controversy.

Click HERE for Joint Declaration

Social and Solidarity Economy: real alternative to neoliberal development or just another intellectual fashion? A Note

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A reflection, from a Caribbean perspective,  on a recent international conference on the potential and limits of social and solidarity economy.

In the Caribbean SSE is a tradition that goes at least as far back as to the mutual aid practices in free villages formed by newly emancipated persons after 1838; and similar practices of formerly indentured labourers…



Caribbean Plantation Economies in Historical Perspective

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Frank Moya Pons, the most widely read historian of the Dominican Republic, set out to write a book that reveals the structural similarities of Caribbean economies of diverse colonial affiliation and the continuities of their experience through historical time. For my review of this excellent book click here

Underachieving T&T

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I comment on a new book by Dr Terrence Farrell on the economic development experience of Trinidad and Tobago since Independence. Click here 

The Political Economy of Race in the Caribbean and the Americas, Norman Girvan

First published in 1975, this paper argues that the vastly different terms on which Africans, native Americans and Europeans were incorporated  into capitalist accumulation in the Americas underlie the concrete forms of embedded racism that continue to be seen in these societies, as well as the ideologies and politics of resistance. Of relevance to the on-going debate over race in the Americas. 

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La economía política de la raza en el Caribe y las Américas, Norman Girvan

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Publicado originalmente en 1975, este ensayo sostiene que los términos muy diferentes en los cuales los africanos, los pueblos originarios americanos y los europeos se incorporaron a la acumulación capitalista en las Américas subyacen a las formas concretas de racismo implícito que siguen se observa en estas sociedades, así como las ideologías y la política de resistencia. De relevancia para el debate en curso sobre la raza en América.

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David and Goliath, Norman Girvan

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Remember that great story you learnt at Sunday School, about the little guy with the slingshot who took down the big bully with a single stone to a part of his anatomy where it really hurts? Well, its happening right here in the Caribbean.

In the 21st century Caribbean version of the timeless Biblical story, the little guy is Antigua and Barbuda; the big bully is the United States; the slingshot is the World Trade Organisation and the stone is international trade law…

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Internet restrictions target political activism, Norman Girvan


Sitting in my hotel room in Geneva Thursday night, I tried to access my personal website for a document I needed. Imagine my amazement when the following message popped up on my computer screen:

“ The web access is restricted. Please contact with administrator.(Political/Activist Groups)”

Continue reeadng at Girvan-Internet-restrictions-target-political-activism

Jasmine Thomas-Girvan wins the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award, National Gallery of Jamaica

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The National Gallery of Jamaica is pleased to announce that Jasmine Thomas-Girvan, jeweller and sculptor, has been awarded the 2012 Aaron Matalon Award…








Jamaica Women’s Coalition Marks First Anniversary, Marcia Forbes

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About 15 organizations representing a broad cross-section of Jamaican society, including NGOs, the government and the private sector participate din a forum marking the first anniversary of the 51% Coalition: Women in Partnership for Development and Empowerment through Equity.  This coalition’s primary thrust is to increase women’s participation in decision-making at the highest levels …

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A Significant Victory, Norman Girvan


A release from the Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM) in Trinidad and Tobago late on December 5, 2012 indicates that agreement has been reached to conduct a full independent review of the proposed Debe to Mon Desir Highway with terms of reference that address their main demands; pending which no work will begin on the contentious highway. Accordingly, Dr Wayne Kublalsingh ended his hunger strike the same evening.  On the face it this constitutes a significant victory, not only for him and the HRM, but more broadly for civil society in Trinidad and Tobago; with wider regional implications…


A hunger strike in a hungry nation, Gabrielle Hosein

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Today marks Day 19 since Trinidadian Wayne Kublalsingh, a 53 year old environmental activist and member of the Highway Re-route Movement in Trinidad and Tobago, went on hunger strike to demand an independent technical review of a portion of a planned highway that will connect San Fernando and Point Fortin in the southwestern part of the island…

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Click here to sign the Petition  of support for Dr Kublalsingh’s campaign

Wayne Kublalsingh explains the Highway Re-Route Movement (Video)

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Wayne Kublalsingh’s hunger strike is now in its 14th day. Contrary to popular belief, the movement that he represents is not opposed to the construction of the San Fernando to Point Fortin highway, but to an ancillary branch of it that goes right through a lagoon and several settled communities. Watch his explanation, not reflected in the coverage by the mainstream media. Spread it around.

Watch Wayne Kublalsingh explain on YouTube

More Questions Than Answers Trevor Sudama

A series of searching  articles by a former minister of government poses disturbing questions about the contentious section of the highway.

Click here to sign the Petition  of support for Dr Kublalsingh’s campaign

The Arab Revolt And The Imperialist Counterattack, James Petras

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When the popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia overthrew the public faces of the imperial-backed regimes in the region, it inspired supporters of popular democracy worldwide. However, as the Arab revolt spread from North Africa to the Gulf and deepened its demands, the Empire struck back…



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