by Joe Tortorici
Part 2 – The Future
My summation to Part 1 of this essay is overdue. The brief interim has proven to be a shifting political landscape and the crystal ball becomes murky. We will examine some solutions in any case.
Trace the chain of islands south from the Bahamas to Trinidad and we get an awareness of the physical continuum that forms the Caribbean community. From the Greater Antilles and Cuba through the Lesser Antilles (Leeward Islands), is an archipelago of temperate waters and tropical isles. It is a cultural bridge from Florida to the shores of Venezuela.
The fate of Venezuela is a key component of the future. The nation has enormous natural wealth, and not solely oil. Diamonds,bauxite, gold, iron ore, and natural gas remain largely untapped. At the January 24, 2019, meeting of the OAS (Organization of American States), United States Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo, decried the failing government of President Nicolas Maduro and called for the support of National Assembly leader Juan Guaido, in what can only be termed a coup d’état. Pompeo put twenty million dollars in “humanitarian aid” on the table to make his point. As the opposing parties vie for legitimacy, the issues at stake are not simply political. It’s overtly about the material resources.
The 18th century diplomat von Metternich famously opined “When France sneezes, the rest of Europe catches cold.” So too when Venezuela is in disarray, the Caribbean and Central American region suffers the viral spread of that chaos. The quest for Venezuelan stability becomes a worthy effort. Both the United States and Russia struggle for influence with all the might of their vast treasuries. The current malaise is far from resolved and one can only hope that peace, prosperity, and self-determination for the Venezuelan people is in the offing. It will bode well for the entire Caribbean basin.
In the mean time, there are several overlapping supra-national organizations wrestling with the area’s future; The Association of Caribbean States (ACS), the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), and the ever-present Organisation of American States (OAS). The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) represents a hopeful template for a unified Caribbean body. It administers a broad range of civil institutions ranging from humanistic, environmental, agriculture and food, welfare, and disaster relief, to secretarial functions such as telecommunications, meteorology, legal education, aviation safety, and the like. CARICOM is a recognized delegation with the U.N.
All of these councils strive for a “single market system” in the model of the EU and NAFTA. Even Cuba, once considered a rogue state, has an “associate” status commensurate with its weight in the region’s economy. It’s worthwhile to remember Cuba was the Las Vegas of another era. Entertainment moguls from across the globe await the democratization of Cuba. One can only imagine the projected plans for beachfront properties.
Puerto Rico is conspicuous in its absence from these bodies. Is statehood for Puerto Rico a viable reality? Viable, yes; uniformly desirable is still a cipher. Both the pro and con factions are organized and active. The over-arching sentiment is the “commonwealth/protectorate” era of foreign involvement by Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, and the United States in the Caribbean grows increasingly antiquated. Western democracies preach volumes about self-determination, to a point. Puerto Rico will become an outlier with statehood. The issue is not only self-determination, but self-reliance among all the islands. Puerto Rico will have to carry its own weight if it remains independent.
There is a logic to the vision of an autonomous association of the Caribbean Sea. Once again, trace your finger along the curve of islands and grasp the role of “guardian’ this area enacts. The dream of sailing from port-to-port, unassailed by artificial borders is not so far fetched.
Hoist the anchor.