2003-11-20 / Caribbean Corner

caribbean roundup

Caribbean Leaders To Meet Powell To Discuss Deportees, Blair On Economic Issues; Caribbean
Court Delayed
caribbean roundup

Caribbean Leaders To Meet Powell To Discuss Deportees, Blair On Economic Issues; Caribbean

Court Delayed

CASTRIES, St. Lucia (AP) – Ca-ribbean leaders will meet U.S. Secre-tary of State Colin Powell to discuss deportees blamed for increased crime and British Prime Minister Tony Blair about preferential trade cuts hurting their economies, officials said.

The news came at the end of a two-day Caribbean Community summit where leaders acknowledged that their plans for a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace Britain’s Privy Council will be further delayed.

That court, which was expected to start operating in Trinidad this month, is unlikely to become a reality before March or April, Leonard Robertson, the community spokesman, told a news conference.

Earlier, Robertson told The Asso-ciated Press that Jamaica’s Prime Min-ister P.J. Patterson will lead a delegation to Washington to meet Powell and discuss anxieties about U.S. deportations of Caribbean nationals convicted for crimes committed in the United States.

Since the U.S. Congress passed a law in 1996 to repatriate immigrant criminals, more than half a million criminals have been deported, 80 percent of them to seven Caribbean and Latin American countries – Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia, Mexico and Gua-temala.

In Jamaica, one out of every 106 males over the age of 15 is a criminal deportee, creating a 10,000-strong force that police blame for hundreds of murders.

Caribbean officials say the criminals, some of whom had lived in the United States from childhood and no longer have family connections in their homelands, have introduced new and more violent crimes.

In Guyana, the South American country that hosts the headquarters of the Caribbean community, more than 600 criminal deportees have been ab-sorbed into a population of 700,000.

Before their arrival, drive-by shootings, car hijackings, kidnappings and bank robberies were uncommon. Now such crimes are part of life.

Patterson will lead the delegation to meet Powell that will include Cabinet ministers from Guyana, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Bahamas, Robertson said.

He said Caribbean leaders see the meeting as a chance to revive high-level talks with U.S. leaders. They were begun in 1997 by then-President Bill Clinton to address the region’s concerns about decreased U.S. aid at a time when Washington dealt a death blow to several island economies by successfully challenging at the World Trade Organization the preferential im-ports of Caribbean bananas to Europe.

The loss of that favored status will be discussed by Caribbean leaders meeting Blair in London on Dec. 2, on their way to a summit of the Common-wealth of Britain and its former col-onies in Abuja, Nigeria, Patterson told reporters.

He said Blair wants to talk about global economic development, trade, security and ongoing cooperation. Ca-ribbean leaders want to focus on the dearth of aid, rich countries’ efforts to stifle tax havens that proliferate in the region, and their loss of preferential trade.

The summit also approved the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice but acknowledged that it still must overcome some political hurdles, according to Prime Minister Lester Bird of Antigua and Barbuda.

Bird said leaders still were confident that the court would be operating within six months. It would replace a colonial hangover that has London’s Privy Council, made up of members of the House of Lords, being the final arbiter for several former British col-onies.

Bird noted that several countries still must make constitutional changes that require parliamentary approval or a referendum by voters.

Political infighting in Trinidad and Tobago, the chosen seat for the court, might prevent that country’s Parlia-ment from approving the court, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of St. Lucia told reporters.

The leaders also discussed their hosting of the 2007 World Cricket Cup by the once-invincible West Indies, and the region’s decades-long effort to create a single market, now targeted for 2004, a year before the Free Trade Area of the Americas goes into effect.

Opposition Senator Dies From Heart Failure

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) _ An opposition senator known for his work in helping the poor died recently from heart failure, officials from his party said.

Sen. Arnim Smith, who would have turned 57 on Monday, died at a hospital in the capital after checking himself in with chest pains, said Wade Mark, chairman of the main opposition Uni-ted National Congress.

He suffered from hypertension and his aorta ruptured, Mark said.

Smith, appointed senator after Oct-ober elections, ran a boxing gym for poor youths and often spoke out against crime and poverty in Trinidad’s downtrodden neighborhoods. He grew up poor himself right outside Port-of-Spain and stayed connected to his roots, party officials said.

"He is the epitome of the person who moves from very humble beginnings to senator in the country’s highest decision-making body,’’ Mark said.

Smith’s party will have to name a replacement for him in the 31-member Senate, an appointed body. The re-placement must be approved by President Maxwell Richards, a process that is usually a formality.

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