September, 2016


Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News 09/30

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados 

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

Today is Budget Day in Trinidad and Tobago.  Breadwinners in one-salary homes are “quaking” over the possibility of higher fuel prices which could mean higher food prices in the near future.

A new study by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has found that agricultural exports from Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) to China could increase by almost 10% if the Asian country reduces its tariffs by more than 50%.  The study also found that manufacturing goods could jump by 37% if Beijing’s import tariffs were reduced to the levels of the Paris-based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OEC D) whose average is 3.6%.

Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris says that although the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is relatively small compared to other countries, it is poised to be among the best performing economies in the region, well above the standard.  Speaking at the National Consultation on the Economy, Harris said:”For 2016, St.  Kitts and Nevis is projected again to be among the best performing countries in the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union (ECCU) and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) member states.  While we are projecting a growth rate of 3%, countries such as the United States ands Canada are recording growth rates in 2016 of 2.2% and 1.47% respectively.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

Union leaders in The Bahamas have “declared war” on the government, a week after it was revealed that Attorney-General Allyson Maynard-Gibson stopped a private prosecution against the top management of Sandals Royal Bahamas Resort, the same day the property made 600 workers redundant back in August.  “I expect for all members to start to circle the van, start to rally the rest of the troops, sharpen our gears and get ready for battle” said National Congress of Trade Unions Bahamas (NCTUB) President, John Pinder at a Press Conference.  “We are going to have to battle this out.”

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News 09/29

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados 

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS:

As Tropical Storm Matthew moves away from Barbados, forecasters are warning that it could develop into a full-blown hurricane within the next 24 hours.  “Strengthening is expected during the next couple of days and Matthew is forecast to become a hurricane by tonite (Thursday) or tomorrow (Friday)” warned officials at the National Hurricane Centre (NHC) in Miami, who also reported that tropical storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles (295 km)   primarily to the north and east of the centre of the developing system.  Meanwhile,  in Barbados, the national shutdown has been lifted and an all-clear issued for the island, which was on lockdown yesterday during the passage of what was described as a tropical disturbance.  Schools, however, remain closed.  In St. Lucia, there are reports of heavy flooding and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Gonzalves says there has been heavy rain, flooding, and one confirmed death.

Caribbean start-up, early stage and growth businesses now have another means for raising capital.  The World Bank Group, together with the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) have launched LINK- Caribbean, an investment facilitation programme, aimed at enabling early stage Caribbean entrepreneurs to raise capital from private investors, particularly business angel investors.  With funding of US$1.6 million from the World Bank, the programme will contribute towards the development of the angel investment ecosystem across the Caribbean.  It provides investment facilitation grants to entrepreneurs seeking investment as well as non-funding activities to stimulate angel investing.  It also supports the development of deal-flow for early stage investors.  LINK-Caribbean is part of the World Bank Group’s Entrepreneurship Programme for Innovation in the Caribbean (EPIC) a seven-year $20 million programme funded by the government of Canada.

Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

Public and private sector officials are gathered at the Marriott Resort to discuss ways to move the St. Kitts and Nevis economy forward.  Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris is reporting a strong performance of the St. Kitts and Nevis economy while encouraging greater effort to improve the quality of, life in the Federation.

Dateline Havana, CUBA:

Alaska Airlines will launch its historic new service to Havana, Cuba on January 5, 2017.  The daily non-stop flight from Los Angeles is among the first regularly scheduled commercial flights to the island country in more than 50 years and is the only non-stop flight to Cuba.

Dateline Port of Spain, TRINIDAD:

The deadline for Trinidad and Tobago to become a signatory to the United States Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is tomorrow (September 30, 2016).  The law, which the US Congress enacted in 2016, strives to ensure that UIS citizens and residents with financial assets outside of the country,  are paying taxes.  The Bill has still not been passed in Trinidad and Tobago’s Parliament.  Even though the government is unanimously voting for compliance, the current Opposition, which had put forward the Bill when they were in government, now appears to be stonewalling its passage.  The government has 23 members in the House of Representatives but 25 votes are needed to pass the Bill.

MH17 was shot down by Russian-made missile fired from rebel-held area: prosecutors leftright 8/8leftright

NIEUWEGEIN, NETHERLANDS (Reuters) – A Malaysian airliner shot down in eastern Ukraine was hit by a Russian-made Buk missile launched from a village held by rebels fighting Ukrainian government forces, international prosecutors said on Wednesday.

The findings challenge Moscow’s suggestion that Malaysia Airlines flight 17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur in July 2014, was brought down by the Ukrainian military. All 298 people on board, most of them Dutch citizens, were killed.

The prosecutors cannot file charges but victims’ relatives have been seeking details of who shot the plane down in the hope that it might lead eventually to prosecutions over an incident which led to a sharp rise in East-West tensions.

The Buk missile system used to shoot down the plane fired one missile from the village of Pervomaysk and was later returned to Russia, said the prosecutors, from the Netherlands, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia and Ukraine.

They told a news conference in the central Dutch city of Nieuwegein that the investigative team had identified 100 people who were described as being of interest to them but had not yet been formally identified individual suspects.

It was not clear whether an order had been given for fighters to launch the missile or whether they had acted independently, the prosecutors said.

A civilian investigation by the Dutch Safety Board also concluded last year that MH17 was hit by a Buk missile fired from eastern Ukraine, but Moscow denied that pro-Russian rebels were responsible.

Repeating those denials on Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “First-hand radar data identified all flying objects which could have been launched or were in the air over the territory controlled by rebels at that moment.”

“The data are clear-cut…there is no rocket. If there was a rocket, it could only have been fired from elsewhere,” he said.

The investigators said they had not had access to the new radar images on which Moscow was basing its latest statements.


Victims’ families were informed of the findings shortly before the prosecutors’ news conference.

At the time of the incident on July 17, 2014, pro-Russian separatists were fighting Ukrainian government forces in the region. The Boeing 777 (BA.N) broke apart in mid-air, flinging wreckage over several kilometers (miles) of fields in rebel-held territory.

Prosecutors cannot file charges because there is no international agreement on what court a case would be heard in.

Speaking before the news conference, Silene Fredriksz, whose 23-year-old son Bryce was on the airplane with his girlfriend, Daisy Oehlers, said the victims’ families wanted justice.

“As a family we are impatient. We want to know what happened, how it happened and why. We want those responsible to face justice,” she said.

The downing played a significant part in a decision by the European Union and United States to impose sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Ukrainian and Western officials, citing intelligence intercepts, have blamed pro-Russian rebels for the incident. Russia has always denied direct involvement in the Ukraine conflict and rejects responsibility for the destruction of MH17.

Prosecutors have sought legal assistance from Moscow since October 2014, and visited in person for a week in July.

“Russian authorities have offered information in the past, but have not answered all questions,” they said in a statement at the time.

(Writing by Timothy Heritage; Editing by Pravin Char)

Argentina lost 12% of national flock to severe drought in north Patagonia

North Patagonia in Argentina is suffering the worst drought is 17 years which has meant the loss of 1.8 million sheep, since 2007, and so far this year rainfall has been 45% below the historic average.

(Merco Press) – “It is possible that the situation worsens in coming months since the flocks won’t have enough grass to feed during this coming summer and the 2017 fall and winter” indicates a report from the University of Buenos Aires Agronomy School. The report was based on a survey of sheep farms in the provinces of Chubut and Rio Negro.

The lack of humidity is recurrent in these Patagonian provinces with the most impact between 2007 and 2011, when two of the worst droughts in six decades were recorded together with bottom rock temperatures and the eruptions of the Chaiten and Puyehue volcanoes.

According to estimates from Argentina’s Agro-industry ministry in the eight years starting in 2007, an estimated 1.8 million sheep were lost in Chubut and Rio Negro, which is equivalent to 12% of the country’s total flock of 14.5 million. The two provinces make up 43% of Argentina’s total sheep.

“This climatic situation is of an exceptional magnitude” points out the Agronomy School and INTA (Agriculture Technology Institute) report indicating that lack of grass growth is evident in the region anticipating a complicated scenario for the rest of the year and the first half of 2017.

With a poor spring forage resources for the next winter will be insufficient, and thus the report intends to warn farmers to prepare for a significant contraction in feeding resources during the next twelve months.

“Emergency measures are needed since it it statistically most improbable that sufficient rainfall will occur before April 2017 Further more it is possible that not even the historic average will be reached”.

Given that the sheep load will have to be lowered considerably, the report recommends a drastic reduction of flocks by selling old ewes, reject rams and all discards as soon as possible following lambing and shearing. The objective must be to conserve the young ewes to ensure wool and lambs in 2017, and if possible advance weaning this season to help mothers build a strong structure, concludes the report.

Kerry and Maduro meet in Cartagena and agree to continue bilateral discussions

United States Secretary of State John Kerry met Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Monday, the first formal encounter between the two since Kerry became the top U.S. diplomat. The two sat down together after a ceremony in the Colombian city of Cartagena de Indias to mark the signing of a peace agreement to end a 52-year armed conflict.

(Merco Press) – “Kerry spoke of our concern about the economic and political challenges that have affected millions of Venezuelans, and he urged President Maduro to work constructively with opposition leaders to address these challenges,” said State Department Spokesman John Kirby.

Kerry and Maduro also agreed to continue bilateral discussions that began in recent months, Kirby said. Venezuela and the United States have been at loggerheads since the government of late President Hugo Chavez, with frequent exchanges of barbs and expelling each others’ diplomats. They do not have ambassadors in place following expulsions several years ago.

Maduro’s government is struggling under an unraveling chaotic economic system that suffers from triple-digit inflation, extensive shortages of staple products and food riots.

But Maduro says the country is victim of an “economic war” backed by the United States and the Venezuelan political elite. Venezuela’s opposition called on Monday for a nationwide rally on Oct. 12 to push for a referendum to recall Maduro this year as they seek to oust his Socialist Party in an early presidential election.

The recall effort has run into opposition from the election board, which is imposing restrictions and argues it will take until 2017 to put the proper conditions in place.

“Everybody knows we’re working toward this recall. It’s been delayed. That is problematic,” Kerry said before the meeting. “And we need to find a way forward that can provide a consensus that provides relief to a nation under siege.”

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC guerrilla leader Rodrigo Londoño, better known as Timochenko, signed the peace accord on Monday at a ceremony attended by international leaders and thousands of Colombians.

Santos’ predecessor, Alvaro Uribe, frequently accused the government of neighboring Venezuela of harboring and supporting the FARC.

Obama names first ambassador in Cuba in fifty years, but needs Senate confirmation

The United States has tapped Jeffrey DeLaurentis, United States’ top diplomat in Havana, to become the first official ambassador to Cuba in five decades. “The appointment of an ambassador is a commonsense step forward toward a more normal and productive relationship between our two countries,” President Barack Obama said in a statement.

(Merco Press) – Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro announced a thaw in relations in December 2014. The two countries restored full diplomatic relations in July 2015. Since then, Washington and Havana have taken once-unthinkable steps to mend ties after more than half a century of enmity. Obama has visited Cuba and relaxed portions of the US embargo imposed since 1962

Flights have resumed and cruise ships can now sail from Miami to Havana. US companies like Airbnb and Netflix now operate in Cuba and hotel group Starwood, acquired last week by Marriott International, opened a Sheraton in Havana last June.

DeLaurentis is already in Havana and previously worked in Bogota and at the United Nations. But his nomination, which requires Senate confirmation, is likely to face stiff opposition in Congress, where Cuban-American lawmakers have sought to garner local support by opposing Obama’s policies.

Any senator could place an anonymous hold on the nomination. Several Republican lawmakers have opposed Democrat Obama’s outreach to the regime led by the Castro brothers.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Cuban-American presidential contender in the Republican primary race who ultimately lost to Donald Trump, blasted Obama’s nomination.

“A US ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial and closed regime,” Rubio said in a statement. “This nomination should go nowhere until the Castro regime makes significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and political freedom for the Cuban people.”

Accusing the Obama administration of failing to confront Cuba over its repressive policies, Rubio said the US embassy in Havana’s Twitter account “seems more like a travel agency than an advocate for American values and interests.”

Trump embroiled in “Miss Piggy” misogynist controversy

Alicia Machado says that when she gained weight after being crowned Miss Universe for 1996, Donald Trump labeled her with a sexist nickname — “Miss Piggy” — that caused her shame and humiliation. Two decades later, Machado’s dealings with Trump, her one-time beauty pageant boss, are reverberating through the 2016 campaign as the Republican businessman and reality TV star seeks the White House.

(Merco Press) – Democratic rival Hillary Clinton told Machado’s story toward the end of Monday’s first presidential debate, scolding Trump for referring to the Venezuelan-born actress as “Miss Housekeeping,” as Clinton said, “because she was Latina.”

“Donald, she has a name,” Clinton said, prompting Trump to ask, “Where did you find this?” Clinton said, “Her name is Alicia Machado and she has become a U.S. citizen, and you can bet she’s going to vote this November.”

Asked about the exchange during an interview Tuesday with “Fox and Friends,” Trump said Machado was “the worst we ever had,” adding: “She gained a massive amount of weight. It was a real problem. We had a real problem.”

On CNN Tuesday night, Machado said she thinks Trump believes women are “a second class of people.”

“I love this country,” Machado said. “I don’t want to have some misogynist president”

Clinton’s embrace of Machado brought comparisons to her campaign’s defense of Khizr Khan, whose son was killed while protecting other U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Khan spoke at the Democratic National Convention, holding up a copy of the U.S. Constitution while accusing Trump of smearing the character of Muslims.

Clinton’s campaign is trying to mobilize Latinos and women in November’s election and has assailed Trump for derogatory comments about women in the past. It quickly released a web video detailing Machado’s story, portraying her as a mortified pageant winner whom Trump called “fat” or “ugly” and blindsided by inviting reporters to watch her work out.

Machado went on a diet in 1997 after saying she gained at least 15 pounds. Trump said during Machado’s workout in front of the media that year that “she likes to eat — like all of us” and supported her weight-loss efforts.

Now a U.S. citizen, Machado told reporters Tuesday in a conference call arranged by the Clinton campaign that her experience with Trump could “open eyes” in the presidential election. She said she was “really surprised” to hear Clinton refer to her story during the debate — she said she was overcome with emotion and started crying — but wanted to help Clinton in the election.

After the debate, Machado tweeted her thanks to Clinton, writing in Spanish: “Thanks Mrs. Hillary Clinton. Your respect for women and our differences makes you great. I’m with you.”

Iran-Saudi Arabia can’t agree on limiting oil supply: “maybe in November”

Iran rejected on Tuesday an offer from Saudi Arabia to limit its oil output in exchange for Riyadh cutting supply, dashing market hopes the two major OPEC producers would find a compromise this week to help ease a global glut of crude.

(Merco Press) – “The gap (in views) between OPEC countries is narrowing. I don’t expect that an agreement will come out of the consultations tomorrow,” Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told reporters.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said earlier: ”It is not the time for decision-making.“ Referring to the next formal OPEC meeting in Vienna on Nov. 30, he added: ”We will try to reach agreement for November.“

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries will hold informal talks on Wednesday. Its members are also meeting non-OPEC producers on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum, which groups producers and consumers.

Oil prices have more than halved from 2014 levels due to oversupply, prompting OPEC producers and rival Russia to seek a market rebalancing that would boost revenues from oil exports and help their crippled budgets. The predominant idea since early 2016 among producers has been to agree to freeze output levels, although market watchers have said such a move would fail to reduce unwanted barrels.

A deal has also been complicated by acute political rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which are fighting several proxy-wars in the Middle East, including in Syria and Yemen. On Tuesday, several OPEC delegates said the positions of Saudi Arabia and Iran remained too far apart.

”There is a move forward, but they (OPEC) haven’t got to the finish,” Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said after meeting Falih and Zanganeh. Novak and Falih said a deal was still possible later this year.

Three OPEC sources said Iran, whose production has stagnated at 3.6 million barrels per day, insisted on having the right to ramp up to around 4.1-4.2 million bpd, while OPEC Gulf members wanted its output to be frozen below 4 million. Several OPEC sources said Iran effectively rejected the offer despite last-minute attempts by Russia, Algeria and Qatar to rescue a deal.

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News 09/28

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados

Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

A recent statement by the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court’s chief justice that attempts are being made to influence the courts shows that the judiciary is on guard against the practice, according to attorney David Dorsett.  “Having made that announcement, it indicates that the judiciary is on guard, so that when these attempts are being made that the attempts are successful.  What would be tragic is if the attempt was made and the judiciary was asleep or hypnotized by the person attempting judicial interference.”

The President of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) Karolin Troubetzkoy, believes that regional heads of state would have to play a greater role in the industry if the Caribbean is to improve its competitiveness in the global market place, especially in the area of regional travel. “When you compare the Caribbean tourism to international and other competitive destinations, I think then the heads of state will realize this is a very important dialogue to be had because right now when you look at Caribbean tourism,  we have an  aging plant, we have aggressively priced six star products being available to travelers in the Maldives and Dubai, and these are serious issues for us because we have at this time no easy access to finance.”

Dateline Castries, ST. LUCIA:

Seemingly determined to prove accuracy of the well known saying “Plus  la change, plus c’est la meme chose” (the more things change the more they stay the same) lawyers acting for  St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, have embarked on the well-trodden path of threatening to sue local media for alleged defamation on grounds that are at best tenuous.  The latest blatant abuse of political and economic power in this regard stems from a report by  Rehani Isadore, a journalist with HTS Television in St. Lucia, that Britain’s Prince Harry would be staying at the island’s Coco Palm Resort, which is owned by the Chastanet family and run by the newly elected Prime Minister’s sister, during a forthcoming royal tour of the Caribbean.

Dateline Nassau, THE BAHAMAS:

The Bahamas Prime Minister, Perry Christie, has announced construction on the stalled Baha Mar project has restarted, while also indicating a March, 2017 date for the opening of the casino, hotel, the convention centre and the golf course, in phases. However, Christie is yet to identify the buyer and operator of the resort, even though he has indicated that negotiations are on-going with the Export-Import Bank of China and the would-be buyer.

Dateline Philipsburg, ST. MAARTEN:

The Latin American and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC) and the Internet Society (ISOC) will host an international technical conference called St. Maarten On The Move in Philipsburg from October 27 to 28.  St. Maarten on The Move is a unique opportunity for open dialogue about the development of a free, open, stable and secure internet in the Caribbean, said Carlos Martinez, chief technical officer of LACNIC.

Ricardo Blackman’s Caribbean Headlines News 09/27

By Ricardo Blackman | CDN Barbados 

Dateline Bridgetown, BARBADOS;

The ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) must either be prepared to shoulder the blame for Barbados’ worsening economic situation or step down from office.  This stern warning from Opposition Leader, Mia Mottley as she addressed a political meeting of here Barbados Labour Party (BLP) in the wake of the island’s latest economic downgrade – the 17th the country has suffered since the DLP came to power in 2008.  Warning that the situation would negatively impact government’s ability to repay its debts, Mottley explained that ”every credit downgrade means that there are certain existing loans” on which interest will be higher.

Dateline Basseterre, ST. KITTS:

Countries like St. Kitts and Nevis and Antigua and Barbuda should first fix their local courts before seeking to accede to the appellate jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice.  That position is being advanced by defence attorney Chesley Hamilton who argues that the high court and magistrate’s court need to be given more autonomy of the kind enjoyed by the CCJ.

Dateline St. John’s, ANTIGUA :

After months of rhetoric and a great deal of anticipation, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has revealed that the “high level” conference on the regional threat to correspondent banking relations (CBR) will be held in October.  The conference, which will attract officials in the global finance sector, will be held in Antigua and Barbuda.  Prime Minister Browne made the disclosure while addressing the United Nations General Assembly.  “I have already issued invitations to key global stakeholders to the conference, which will be held on October 27th and 28th of this year, Browne said.

Dateline NEW YORK:

Declaring that Caribbean countries are being treated “as if they are hell on earth” due to new financial rules against tax havens, Bahamian Foreign Minister, Fred Mitchell mounted the podium of the United Nations General Assembly to denounce the “immoral withdrawal of normal banking services that inflict hardship on ordinary citizens.”  “This problem must be solved by those who imposed the regulations.  It is a moral imperative” he told the Assembly’s Annual General debate.

Dateline Castries, ST. LUC IA:

Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said he spent his first 100 days in office working on a plan to reduce St. Lucia’s debt to GDP ratio, as the island’s deficit is larger than anticipated.  Chastanet said the new government’s term in office began with the realization that the 2016/2017 budget grossly understated certain areas such as school maintenance and the operations of the new hospital.  There was no policy debate on the budget for this fiscal year.  Chastanet said St. Lucians can expect a four year plan in April, 2017.

Brazil would like to see the small islands of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) region do more business with it – and the giant Latin American neighbour to the south is ready to open its doors and markets to its tiny northern businesses.  The Brazilian Embassy in St. Lucia is bringing a 20-30—member high-powered business mission to the OECS capital; there are also plans to arrange for its members, accompanied by Brazilian parliamentarians, to visit other OECS territories in the near future.

Dateline Paramaribo, SURINAME:

With a soft loan of US$1.8 Billion from the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), Suriname will invest $1.287 billion from that sum to finance a series of more than 40 projects in energy and infrastructure, as part of President Bourtese’s government’s Framework for the Stabilization and Restoration Programme 2016-2018.