Caribbean and Diaspora News Round-up
Thatcher and the Caribbean
Haiti loses its finance minister
Celebrity spotting in Barbados
A long life in Trinidad
The paper said her efforts to bring transparency to Haiti’s finances had not been easy.Tweet
Thatcher and the Caribbean
Caribbean people, like the rest of the world, have been expressing mixed views of the legacy of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who died on 8 April.
This ambivalence was summed up by Jamaican-born British MP Diane Abbott, speaking during a special House of Commons tribute session two days later.
“I’m happy to pay tribute to her historic significance and her historic role, and I know that history is written by victors,” she said. “But those of us who came of age in the Thatcher era know that there was another side to the glories that Conservative MPs have spoken about.”
In fact, there were as many highs and lows in the Iron Lady’s relationship with the Caribbean as in her dealings with bigger nations.
After the 1983 US invasion of, or intervention in, Grenada (depending on which Caricom nation’s viewpoint you take), Mrs Thatcher recalled that she received a call in her room at the House of Commons from President Ronald Reagan at a time when she was “not in the sunniest of moods”.
The US had not informed the UK, even though the Queen was also Grenada’s head of state, that its troops were to land on Grenadian soil.
Caribbean Intelligence© has checked archives in the Reagan Library, now shared with the Margaret Thatcher Foundation, which indicate that Mrs Thatcher took President Reagan’s phone apology for not letting her know in advance with relatively good grace.
She told the US leader that she knew about the “sensitivity” of such military operations because of the Falklands War and responded: “The action is underway now and we just hope it will be successful.”
President Reagan explained that the Grenadian landings had been “going beautifully” and that the two airfields and the medical school had been secured.
He went on to say that some combat forces were not Grenadian but “led” by “senior” Cubans, who had been captured.
Mrs Thatcher replied: “Well, let’s hope it’s soon over, Ron, and that you manage to get a democracy restored.”
The two went on to discuss the Caribbean backers of the US forced landing. President Reagan had the support of the leaders of Jamaica, Dominica and Barbados for the operation.
In their phone conversation, Mrs Thatcher described then Dominican Prime Minister Eugenia Charles as “a wonderful person”.
In response, President Reagan said: “She certainly is. She’s captured our city by storm. She’s right up on the Hill meeting with some of our Congress right now.
“And then, [Tom] Adams, from Barbados, we are getting him up here. We’ve got both of them on some of our television shows so they can talk to the people. We are getting him on, we've had her on. He’s a remarkable man also.”
Mrs Thatcher then went on to describe Barbados’ Prime Minister Tom Adams as “a very cultured man and very wise”.
However, according to Richard Aldous, the author of Reagan and Thatcher: The Difficult Relationship, she later told the Irish premier: “The Americans are worse than the Soviets… persuading the governor [of Grenada] to issue a retrospective invitation to invade after they had taken him aboard an American warship.”
Mrs Thatcher is also famously remembered in the Caribbean for her clash with the rest of the Commonwealth over full sanctions against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
In 1985, then Commonwealth Secretary-General Shridath Ramphal of Guyana had called for sanctions.
The British Prime Minister stood against the majority of her fellow Commonwealth leaders, saying that full sanctions would not work.
Her view of sanctions as an attack on free trade and against Britain’s economic interests have been closely documented by the British and African media.
She agreed to limited sanctions at a Commonwealth meeting in Nassau in 1985 and continued to hold out against full sanctions.
When questioned at a news conference in Australia about being one against 48 in the Commonwealth on the issue, Mrs Thatcher responded in characteristic fashion.
''When it is one against 48, I'm very sorry for the other 48,'' she said.
But her pugnacious style eventually proved her undoing when it became clear in 1990 that she no longer had the backing of her own cabinet.
Haiti - a tough job
There is no doubt that some Caribbean political jobs are tougher than others.
But even the most hard-boiled national security minister on the most crime-ridden island might flinch at taking on the role of finance minister of Haiti.
The latest holder of that post, Marie Carmelle Jean-Marie, handed in her resignation on 10 April.
At a time when the world was focusing on the death of another iron lady, the woman seen as Haiti’s own “dame de fer” let go of the impoverished country’s purse-strings after only a year in the job.
The Miami Herald described her as being considered "by many in Haiti and in the international community as one of the more credible and competent members of President Michel Martelly’s administration".
The paper said her efforts to bring transparency to Haiti’s finances had not been easy.
Reuters News Agency reported that she wrote in her resignation letter: "I can battle against adversity or against external hazards that regularly hit our country, but not against the lack of solidarity of my own peers."
International organisations have been pushing for accountability, particularly for money pledged in aid, before billions of further promised aid dollars can be disbursed.
However, legislation to deal with money-laundering has been stalled in parliament.
Emergency in Brazilian border state
The Brazilian state of Acre this week declared a state of emergency because of the growing number of Haitian migrants entering Brazil via the state.
Acre, which has borders with Peru and Bolivia and is part of Brazil’s Amazon region, has become a gateway to the country as migrant workers are finding work on projects in the countdown to the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics.
Local authorities in Acre are seeking help from the federal government to help curb the continuing flow of migrants through the state and to provide aid for those already there.
Acre’s Governor, Tiao Viana, said the declaration was a “formal recognition of the seriousness of the situation” and a way of calling for support.
The authorities said more than 1,100 immigrants had entered the state in the last few days.
According to official figures, since the 2010 Haiti earthquake, more than 4,000 Haitians have entered the Amazon region via small border towns.
Officials believe that Haitians pay large amounts of money to travel through the Dominican Republic, Panama and then Ecuador, arriving in Brazil at its small Amazonian border towns, where they can apply for legal work visas.
Migrants from the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, Senegal and Bangladesh have also entered Brazil through Acre.
Easter break means celeb spotting in Bim
Up there with New Year’s, Easter is the time to be celebrity spotting in Barbados.
Local and foreign paparazzi have spent the Easter fortnight tracking down the well-known and the beautiful strutting their stuff on the beaches of Barbados.
Recent discoveries have been Michael Flatley of Riverdance fame, rapper and actress Queen Latifah, US model Tyson Beckford and Danni Minogue.
Earlier pre-Easter sightings included Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, who masterminded the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.
We’ve highlighted the longevity of people in Dominica, but that island does not have the monopoly on centenarians.
The Trinidad Express reported on local twins reaching 100.
Identical twins Louise Pierre and Lousia Danzel live on Trinidad’s remote north coast village of Blanchisseuse.
And there must be something about village life.
When the twins were honoured by politicians, their 101-year-old neighbour Richard Morgan was also part of the ceremony.