Thursday, June 20, 2013

U.S. Reiterates Support For Economic Growth & Development Of The Caribbean

U.S. Reiterates Support For Economic Growth & Development Of The Caribbean

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U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, second from l, with Trinidad & Tobago PM, Kamla Persad-Bissesar during his arrival in T&T Sunday night, May 26, 2013.
NEWS AMERICAS, PORT-OF-SPAIN, TRINIDAD, MON. MON. MAY 27, 2013: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden today insisted the United States’ remains committed to deepening economic collaboration and expanding prosperity and social inclusion in the Caribbean region.
In his meeting today with 15 Presidents, Prime Ministers and other senior ministry officials from the Caribbean region, Biden signed the United States – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) on behalf of the United States.
President Martelly of Haiti, serving in his capacity as Chair of CARICOM, signed on behalf of the 15 member states. The Agreement provides a strategic framework and principles for dialogue on trade and investment issues of mutual interest. The TIFA establishes the United States – CARICOM Trade and Investment Council that will guide implementation of the Agreement.
Biden said the United States supports the region’s economic growth and social inclusion efforts through multiple, complementary programs that contribute to: building strong, capable and transparent institutions; facilitating trade and creating favorable business and investment climates; expanding access to reliable, clean, and affordable energy; and investing in human capital so that citizens are prepared to contribute to the development of their communities.
Caribbean leaders for their part also discussed citizen security cooperation and the importance of building safe communities that contribute to a favorable business and investment climate.
During bilateral meetings between Vice President Biden and Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar of Trinidad and Tobago, the two leaders discussed a recently signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to advance cooperation on the scientific, technical, and policy aspects of energy efficiency and clean energy technologies. The MOU establishes a Renewable Energy Research Centre to promote the rapid deployment of critical technologies for renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment in the Caribbean.
In 2012, U.S. imports from Caribbean countries under the Caribbean Basin Initiative totaled more than $11 billion, representing a 178 percent increase over the past decade. U.S. exports equaled nearly $12 billion, representing a 133 percent increase over the past decade.
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Investment Veteran Insists Caribbean Is Ripe With Promise At Avalon Invest Caribbean Now 2013

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Mr. Alan Loewenstein, managing partner of Wedgewood Investment Group delivered the keynote address at the 2013 Avalon Invest Caribbean Now forum in New York city on June 5, 2013. (Hayden Roger Celestin image)
Mr. Alan Loewenstein, managing partner of Wedgewood Investment Group delivered the keynote address at the 2013 Avalon Invest Caribbean Now forum in New York city on June 5, 2013. (Hayden Roger Celestin image)
CaribPR Wire, NEW YORK, NY, Fri. June 7, 2013: “The ‘Caribbean is ripe for significant investments to spur the region in sustained economic and human growth.”
That’s the consensus of 30-year investment veteran, Alan Loewenstein, managing partner of Wedgewood Investment Group. In delivering the keynote speech at the 2013 Avalon Invest Caribbean Now forum in New York City on Wednesday, June 5th, Loewenstein said “the government that can lure the most investment will be the long term winner because these investments will spur the local economy.”
He said the Caribbean is a safer bet for investors compared to Africa and Latin America since growth in the LATAM has much more political risk than the Caribbean while investments in Africa is “still too early stage with unstable governments that cause the potential for tremendous risk.”
“Investments now will be on the ground level of a growth and a building boom that will spur more growth in the future,” predicted Lowenstein, adding that the time to buy is when valuations are cheap.
But he said governments must do their part to attract the baby boomers and new millionaires and billionaires who are growing globally including in China and Russia.
“These people are accustomed to the modern conveniences of society,” said Loewenstein, so to entice them to come, all the technology needs to be in place, the marina has to be built, the service industry has to be trained and all the comforts of home need to be transported and this requires significant investment.”
For the full speech from Mr. Loewenstein log on here or to
Other speakers and presenters at the Avalon ICN 2013 included Anthony Eterno of the Caribbean Affairs Office of the Western Hemisphere Division of the U.S. State Department; Dr. Rufus Ewing, Premier of the Turks & Caicos Islands; C. Washington Misick, finance minister of the Turks & Caicos Islands; Felicia Persaud, founder of Invest Caribbean Now and CMO at Hard Beat Communications; Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization and Commissioner of tourism of the USVI, Beverly Nicholson Doty; Miguel Reyna, director, Port Business Development and Asset Management, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd.; Heather Flossiac of Belle Vue Properties of St. Lucia; E. Jay Saunders, CEO of Digicel TCI; Brian Lilly, founder of One Caribbean Television and Ganesh Ramanathan, creative director at Hard Beat Communications; Dr. Grace Lappin of Avalon Partners, Inc. and Arthur Piccolo of the Bowling Green Association.
Private sector attendees included representatives from JP Morgan Chase, Nomura, Aegis Capital, Merrill Lynch, Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd, Frontier Markets Capital, Ltd.; Waterloo Investments Holdings Ltd.; RBC Merchant Bank Caribbbean; efm Hospitality; CIBC World Markets; RBC Royal Bank and Ibis Investments among others. 
Over twelve dozen delegates attended the Avalon Invest Caribbean Now Forum at the Radisson Martinique Hotel in mid-town, Manhattan, including Premier of the Turks & Caicos Islands, Dr. Rufus Ewing and his Minister of Finance C. Washington Misick; Minister of Tourism & International Transport, International Trade, Industry, Commerce & Consumer Affairs St. Kitts, Ricky Skerritt; Minister for Tourism, Heritage and Creative Industries, St. Lucia, Lorne Theophilus; Minister of Tourism Nevis, Mark Brantley; Minister of Tourism of Antigua & Barbuda, John Maginley; Minister of Tourism, Sports & Culture, St. Vincent & The Grenadines, Cecil McKie; Assemblyman Tracy Davidson-Celestine, Deputy Chief Secretary and Secretary, Division of Tourism and Transportation, Tobago; Nicolaas Sneek, Commissioner, St. Eustacius; Minister of Tourism of The Bahamas, Obie Wilchcombe and Chairman of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, and Commissioner of the United States Virgin Islands, Beverly Nicholson Doty.; Parliamentary Secretary of Tourism of Anguilla, Haydn Hughes; Juliana Johan-Boodram, Permanent Secretary of Trinidad & Tobago’s Ministry of Tourism; and Russell Harrigan, chairman of the Board of Directors of the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board.
Meanwhile, Royal Caribbean International copped the prestigious “ICN Corporate Leadership Award” for 2013 for it’s over $200,000,000 investments in the Caribbean region in the past 10 years.
Invest Caribbean Now is the brain child of Felicia Persaud and is now in its third year.
Kara Coleman, news anchor of One Caribbean Television emceed the forum which was sponsored byAvalon PartnersThe Turks & Caicos Islands Investment Agency; Royal Caribbean Cruise, Ltd; One Caribbean Television, the American Chinese Commerce Development Association  and The Chinese American Business Development Center.
For 2013 presentations log on here or
For more including additional photos and videos of the speeches and presentations stay logged on
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Puerto Rico NewsLinks: China ramps up presence in Caribbean By : The Associated Press | Over A Dozen Caribbean Governments For Invest Caribbean Now Forum Today... | President Xi Jinping's state visits to Trinidad and Tobago, Costa Rica and Mexico...

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PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Chinese President Xi Jinping met for the first time with officials in Trinidad and Tobago Saturday on the first stop of a four-country regional tour.
In a news conference, Xi announced that China was awarding Trinidad a $250 million loan to build a children’s hospital. He also said he and Trinidadian Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar had signed a memorandum of understanding to cooperate on a range of issues.
“We both agree to actively advance cooperation in key areas of energy, minerals and infrastructure development and also to advance our cooperation in new energy, telecommunications and agriculture,” Xi told reporters after he and Persad-Bissessar met in her office.
Persad-Bissessar said Trinidad views China “as a very key business partner and a potential new market for our energy products and for alternative energy research.” She added that Xi agreed to send the Caribbean 100 volunteer medical professionals over the next three years.
Officials also announced Trinidad plans to open an embassy in Beijing later this year, and Persad-Bissessar will make an official visit to China in November. A Chinese waterproofing firm named Beijing Oriental Yuhong also signed an agreement with the Lake Asphalt company of Trinidad to build a plant to produce roofing and other waterproofing products.
Xi arrived in Port-of-Spain late Friday for his first state visit to the twin-island nation, a leading supplier of natural gas. It was also the first ever visit for a Chinese president.
During his stay, he’s also expected to meet with leaders from other Caribbean countries, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Bahamas, Suriname and Jamaica.
China and Trinidad have had diplomatic ties for almost 40 years, and Trinidad is a major trading partner in the Caribbean for China.
That trade has grown significantly, from $174 million in exports and imports in 2006 to $450 million last year, according to an International Monetary Fund database.
Xi is also traveling to Mexico, Costa Rica and the U.S. on this trip.
China has been ramping up investment and aid in the English-speaking Caribbean in recent years from hotels and container ports in the Bahamas to bauxite mines in Guyana. China has pledged $400 million in aid to Jamaica and companies from the Asian country are helping to lay fiber-optic cables linking Cuba, Jamaica and Venezuela, as well as Guyana and Brazil.
The investments are mostly business ventures, but some see the increased activity as an effort by China to establish a Caribbean beachhead at the doorstep of the U.S.
The Chinese president’s trip comes just days after U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and political leaders from across the Caribbean met in the capital of resource-rich Trinidad & Tobago to sign a trade agreement and discuss a range of security, investment and energy issues.
After a more than three-hour session, Biden signed an agreement providing a framework for trade and investment between the U.S. and the Caribbean Community, a group of 15 nations and territories that include Trinidad, Jamaica and the Bahamas.
Biden also disclosed that Washington and Trinidad recently signed a memorandum on launching a renewable energy research center in the country for the whole Caribbean region.
“There’s probably no group of nations better situated to take advantage of renewable energy possibilities than here in the Caribbean,” he said.
Officials also spoke to Biden about their concerns regarding generous U.S. subsidies to the rum industry in its Caribbean territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that regional distillers worry will drive some island labels out of business or force them to sell out to global beverage corporations.
CARIBBEAN BUSINESS online staff contributed to this report.
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Puerto Rico NewsLinks: China commits US$3B to Caribbean

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Close down Cayman Islands access to British parliament, says peer

LONDON, England -- An all-party group of British members of parliament, established to further the interests of the Cayman Islands, should be closed down, a senior member of the House of Lords, Lord Oakeshott, said on Monday. The House of Commons standards committee is looking into...

Major tourism projects to be announced in Jamaica

KINGSTON, Jamaica -- Jamaica’s tourism and entertainment minister, Dr Wykeham McNeill, is slated to announce details of several major projects being earmarked for implementation within the industry, when he makes his contribution to the 2013/14 Sectoral Debate.

Cocaine intercepted by federal, local authorities in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Caribbean Border Interagency Group (CBIG) law enforcement authorities, working in support of the Caribbean Corridor Strike Force (CCSF), seized approximately 3.2 kilograms (7 pounds) of cocaine during a joint law enforcement operation in Puerto Rico this weekend.

Montserrat to benefit from 11th EDF programme

BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) – Montserrat is poised to receive funding for more development programmes from the 11th European Development Fund 2014-2020. It was announced on Monday that the European Union Foreign Affairs Council approved the level of funding for the 11th EDF.

Montserrat port design 90 percent complete

BRADES, Montserrat (GIU) – Government officials and stakeholders in Montserrat will receive an update this week on the new port development plans. According to director of public works Ron Beardsley, design consultants Halcrow have reached the 90% completion phase of the design.

Mexican trade mission to visit Belize

BELMOPAN, Belize -- The Trade and Investment Mexican Agency (ProMéxico) in collaboration with the embassy of Mexico is organizing a trade mission to Belize on June 5 and 6. A delegation of Mexican business persons will visit Belize in order to promote trade and to identify potential...

New seaweed farming venture welcomed in Belize

SAN IGNACIO, Belize -- The recent replacement of an environmentally damaging fishing operation with a green, environmentally friendly enterprise is one more sign that Belize is becoming a model for sustainable development and responsible tourism, according to The Lodge at Chaa Creek.

Navigating 'Island' Parenting 6

 Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. This week’s issue features an excerpt from 21 Questions that Successful Parents Ask Themselves.

Commentary: Law and Politics: The first promise cools the heat

 The start-up of the roads and bridges maintenance contract in the Eastern parish seems to have cooled down the political rhetoric island-wide, so that nothing is being said by the opposition elements on the happenings nowadays. As some chaps liming by the bar last week put it to me, it looks as though...

Commentary: The unrepresented!

 I found myself reading the press statement issued by the Member of Parliament (MP) for Soufriere/Fond St Jacques Harold Dalson; making the case for the Saint Lucia Labour Party (SLP) on the review of the financial operations of town, village and rural councils. I will refrain from commenting on the contents of...

We Too Sing Jamaica

The souls that thrummed the grounding drums in dungles, foraging for rice and rhythm, are raring to resurrect the riot against the ironies you reviled: hunting season in Coral Gardens - the national reburying of Garvey’s bones. Pass laws, sus laws, the jailing of books, blacks - the prodigious banning...

All time great athlete for Saint Lucia sports conference

CASTRIES, St Lucia -- Former triple Olympic gold medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee will be a feature presenter at the new Sport in Black and White Conference and Youth Forum to be held between June 10 to June 14 in Saint Lucia. Joyner-Kersee will top an impressive list of sports and...
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China & The Caribbean: Multi-Billion Dollar Talks

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 (AP) — The body of Nobel laureate 
Pablo Neruda
 is being exhumed this weekend in an effort to clear up four decades of suspicion about how he died in the days after Chile's military coup.
A team of investigators is to begin digging on Sunday at Isla Negra, a rocky outcropping on the Pacific Coast where 

But forensic experts say there's little hope that the exhumation will answer the question of whether one of the greatest poets of the 20th century died of natural causes as was recorded, or if he was poisoned by the military dictatorship as his driver and some others believe. Judge Mario Carroza approved a request by Chile's 
Communist Party
 for the disinterment, but did not permit the use of independent experts.

Neruda, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 1971, was best known for his verses of romantic eroticism, especially the collection "
Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair
." He was also a leftist politician and diplomat and close friend of socialist President 
Santiago Allende
, who committed suicide rather than surrender to troops during the Sept. 11, 1973, coup led by 
Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
In the days after the coup, Neruda's home in Isla Negra was raided by authorities and a Chilean warship was stationed off the coast, its cannons pointed directly at the house, Araya said. "They're going to blow us up," the poet told his driver, then 26 years old.

Neruda, 69 and suffering from prostate cancer, was said to be traumatized by the coup and the persecution and killing of his friends. "I write these quick lines for my memories just three days after the indescribable acts that led to the death of my great friend 
President Allende
," Neruda wrote in the last page of his autobiography: "I Confess I Have Lived." Neruda planned to go into exile, where he would have been an influential voice against the dictatorship. A day before he planned to leave, he was taken by ambulance to the Santa Maria clinic, where he was being treated for cancer and other ailments.

Officially, Neruda died there on Sept. 23 from natural causes related to the emotional trauma of the coup. But suspicions that the dictatorship had a hand in the death have lingered long after Chile returned to a democracy in 1990. Former President Eduardo Frei Montalva died at the same clinic nine years later. Although doctors listed the cause of his 1982 death as septic shock from stomach hernia surgery, an investigation almost three decades later showed that the vocal opponent of the Pinochet regime had been slowly poisoned to death.

Araya said he believes that agents of the dictatorship injected poison into Neruda's stomach at the clinic. "Our mistake was leaving Neruda by himself on Sept. 23. If he hadn't been left alone, they wouldn't have killed him," Araya told The Associated Press.
But the Pablo Neruda Foundation that manages the poet's estate rejected Araya's allegation and the Communist Party to which he belonged long declined to make an issue of it.
 Araya said party officials finally paid attention when he gave an interview to a Mexican magazine in May 2011 that created an international uproar.

Proving Araya's theory will be daunting.Neruda's remains have been buried for years in soil that receives intense coastal humidity. Once they are exhumed, investigators will then have to work with what experts say is outdated technology and equipment.  "No big or false hope should be made about the exhumation and the analysis of the remains of Neruda yielding a cause of death" said Dr. Luis Ravanal, a forensic specialist.
 Chile's legal medicine laboratory "lacks basic equipment for the analysis of toxics and drugs that even the most modest labs own," he said. "Technically there's a big limitation; there is no sophisticated equipment to detect other substances, so they'll invariably have to seek other labs."
 Ravanal also said that Chile lacks expertise in analyzing bone remains.
Chilean Communist Party lawyer Eduardo Contreras, who is overseeing the exhumation, said he was disappointed that outside experts were not allowed.
"There's no ill doing or trickery, but I think this not rigorous enough," Contreras said.
 Mexico's ambassador to Chile at the time, Gonzalo Martinez Corbala, had arranged to send the poet into exile after the coup and the poet sent Araya to Isla Negra to collect some clothes, books, cash and the original manuscript for his autobiography before leaving for Mexico.
 Martinez said he saw the poet at the hospital on a day before he died. "He seemed normal to me ... nothing could make you think that he was going to die," he recalled.
 On Sept. 23, Martinez was ready to take Neruda to the airport, where a DC-8 airplane waited with more than 100 exiles aboard. But at the last minute, the poet decided to postpone his departure by 24 hours. Those aboard agreed to wait on the plane, afraid that if they got off they would be arrested by Chilean authorities.
 Araya thinks the delay might have cost Neruda his life.
 "Neruda calls us at 4:00 p.m. on Sunday the 23th ... and says: 'Come quickly because I was sleeping and a doctor gave me a shot in the gut, I'm in a lot of pain and I'm boiling!' Araya said.
 The driver said that when he arrived at the clinic, Neruda had a high fever and a nurse told him that a doctor named Sergio Draper ordered a shot of dipyrone to bring the temperature down.
 But Contreras, the Communist Party lawyer, said that Draper has testified that he left the clinic before that and "Neruda was left in the hands of a doctor with a surname Price, whose existence has not been able to be confirmed by anyone."
 Chile's investigative police, the local equivalent of the FBI, searched through yearbooks of medicine graduates, but never found one named Price.

When Araya left the clinic to buy medicine for 
, he was seized by four men who beat him, shot him in a leg and took him to Chile's national stadium, where many leftists were held, tortured and killed during the dictatorship. The driver was later released with help from Cardinal Raul Silva Henriquez, an outspoken human rights defender, and he fled into exile. Araya gave Neruda's autobiography to Martinez, who kept the manuscript for many years at his home in Mexico. Neruda's widow fled to Mexico with other exiles in the plane that had been readied for the poet.  In the last pages of the autobiography, Neruda characterized Allende's death as a murder. Neruda wrote that Allende "was buried secretly; only his widow was allowed to accompany that immortal cadaver... that glorious figure was shattered by the bullets of 
's soldiers, who once again had betrayed Chile."
 Eva Vergara on Twitter: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>!/pages/Nobel-Prize-in-Literature/116112611734053?rf=107139585989382 - 11/08/2012
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Biden signs trade pact with CARICOM - Business - Jamaica Gleaner - Friday | May 31, 2013

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Published: Friday | May 31, 2013 1 Comment
United States Vice-President Joe Biden. - File
United States Vice-President Joe Biden. - File
United States (US) Vice-President Joe Biden and political leaders from across the Caribbean signed an agreement providing a framework for trade and investment between the US and Caribbean Community (CARICOM), a bloc of 15 nations and territories that include Trinidad, Jamaica and The Bahamas.
The agreement was reached after a more than three-hour session between Biden and Caribbean leaders who met in the capital of resource-rich Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday to sign a trade agreement and discuss a range of security, investment and energy issues.
At a news conference, Biden said he was aware that island nations face unique challenges and added that the US administration's goal is "not simply growth, but it's growth that reaches everybody".
The leaders also discussed efforts to combat drug trafficking and other transnational crimes under a US programme launched in 2009 dubbed the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative. More than US$200 million in funding has been committed to it so far.
Biden said Washington and the Caribbean region should be prepared to counter upticks in drug trafficking if smuggling routes swing back heavily to the islands. The Caribbean in the 1980s was the main smuggling route to the US mainland, but the path shifted west to Mexico and Central America.
"We know that as other nations in the hemisphere make strides against drug trafficking, the threat, as I said, may increasingly shift back toward the Caribbean," he said.
Biden also disclosed that Washington and Trinidad recently signed a memorandum on launching a renewable-energy research centre in the country to serve the entire Caribbean region.
"There's probably no group of nations better situated to take advantage of renewable-energy possibilities than here in the Caribbean," he said.
CARICOM leaders raised the matter of criminals being sent by the US back to their native lands in the region. The matter has been a major issue on the Caribbean's diplomatic agenda for years.
The US has deported thousands of convicted criminals to the Caribbean annually since 1996, when Congress mandated that every non-citizen sentenced to a year or more in prison be kicked out the US upon release.
As it stands now, home countries are told only why an offender is deported due to rules preventing the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from sharing more details without permission first from federal or state entities.
Haitian President Michel Martelly, chairman of CARICOM, said regional leaders "repeated our plea for information sharing with respect to criminal deportees".
Officials also spoke to Biden about their concerns regarding generous US subsidies to the rum industry in its Caribbean territories that regional distillers worry will drive some island labels out of business or force them to sell out to global beverage corporations.
Trinidad Prime Minister Kalmla Persad-Bissessar said regional governments have been invited to view US navy vessels that are being decommissioned to see if the craft can be used to patrol the borders of the Caribbean Sea.
Trinidad's government also disclosed that it has ratified a "status of forces agreement" with Washington spelling out legal protections and obligations of US forces during temporary stays. It says the agreement can't be the basis for any US base in Trinidad and there are no provisions for other facilities used by American troops on the islands.
Trinidad and Tobago, a two-island nation off Venezuela's coast, was the second stop on Biden's three-nation trip in the region. It is the most industrialised country in the Caribbean and one of its most prosperous, thanks to a wealth of natural gas that makes it a major fuel supplier for the US and other nations.
Biden arrived Monday night from Colombia, where he met with President Juan Manuel Santos. His next stop is Brazil, where he will conclude his six-day trip.
- AP
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IPS – U.S., China Woo Caribbean “Friends” Just Days Apart

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AidAsia-PacificClimate ChangeDevelopment & AidEconomy & TradeEnergyFeaturedGlobal GeopoliticsHeadlinesLatin America & the CaribbeanMigration & RefugeesNatural Resources,North AmericaRegional AlliancesSouth-SouthSouthern Aid & TradeTerraViva United Nations,Trade & Investment
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Port of Spain, Trinidad on May 28, 2013. Credit: Peter Richards
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Port of Spain, Trinidad on May 28, 2013. Credit: Peter Richards
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, May 30 2013 (IPS) - First it was U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who travelled to Trinidad and Tobago Tuesday to speak with “our friends” in the Caribbean.
And on Friday, China’s newly elected president, Xi Jingping, will arrive in Port of Spain for talks with eight Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders that Beijing says will “further increase political trust and consolidate friendship and cooperation with the entire region”.
Biden left here on Tuesday after a 21-hour visit during which time he held “frank and cordial” discussions with leaders of the 15-member CARICOM grouping, a precursor to a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.
“I am hoping that the meeting with President Obama will take place this year,” St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Denzil Douglas told IPS.
“The Caribbean has never downplayed the importance of the United States to its growth and development and I think direct conversations with President Obama will also signal our importance to our big neighbour up north,” said Douglas.
He will not be among those attending the meeting with the Chinese leader as his twin-island federation, despite China’s insistence on a “One China” policy, maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.
Newly re-elected Grenadian Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell said that in talks with both Biden and Obama, officials will bring up the issue of deporting Caribbean-born criminals back to the region.
“Clearly this is an issue we have to deal with but we have accepted the fact the U.S. government made that decision and we are not going to get that changed,” he told IPS, adding that “Mr Biden wants a serious story to go home with.”
Biden has made it clear that Washington wants to “able to play a part in the overall development of the region” and that the trade investment framework agreement (TIFA) which he signed before his departure should be viewed “as a vehicle that would overcome special specific practical barriers to trade and investment and accommodate those changes as rapidly as possible.
“Our goals are not simply growth but it is growth that reaches everybody, and we spoke today from poverty measures to support for small businesses to greater opportunities for all citizens regardless of their gender and their sexual orientation,” Biden said.
Washington has promised the region assistance in a wide range of areas including security, immigration and renewable energy, as well as dealing with the impacts of climate change.
“There is probably no group of nations better situated to take advantage of renewable energy possibilities than here in the Caribbean,” Biden said.
On the issue of security, Biden said he made it clear to the regional leaders that Washington approaches “this as a shared responsibility” even while acknowledging that the “successful” policies of the past may now be forcing those involved in the illegal drug trade to target the Caribbean.
The United States has spent more than 200 million dollars through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) launched in 2009 and 30 billion dollars on reducing drug demand.
“We were so successful collectively in the decades of the 80’s and 90’s that the preferred route to get to the United States from South America of cocaine, and some heroin and other products was no longer through the Caribbean but through the Isthmus and Central America,” he said.
“Now because of the significant initiatives we have with our Central American friends, the concern legitimately served by many is that it may move back into the Caribbean and on a greater scale than they exist now.”
The Chinese president, who will also travel to Washington for talks with President Obama on Jun. 7, is hoping that his discussions with the Caribbean leaders will further promote cooperation and inject new vitality into their bilateral ties.
“China always holds that all countries, no matter big or small, rich or poor, strong or weak, are equal members of the international community,” the Chinese Embassy said in a statement ahead of the visit, adding that Beijing would “like to expand our exchange and cooperation in politics, economic, culture, etc, so as to advance bilateral relations in a sound and healthy way”.
Beijing said that its “friendly relations with the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region have been growing significantly stronger in the past ten years” and President Xi’s visit comes at “an important time for both China and the LAC region, and even more so for the English-speaking Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region”.
“China-LAC ties are also flourishing multilaterally in the new global dispensation. LAC states can today access new forms of bilateral and multilateral China aid through the recently established Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as well as through wider regional economic and financial entities such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). China is a contributing and non-borrowing member of both institutions.”
Professor Andy Knight, director of the Institute of International Relations at the University of the West Indies (UWI), said that the visits of the two leaders send a strong signal.
“The U.S. better realise that if it ignores the Caribbean and Latin American region, China is prepared to fill the power vacuum right in America’s backyard,” he told a local newspaper.
“What is interesting about these visits is that they are occurring within days of each other. The U.S. can be accused sometimes of neglecting the Caribbean…China, in its quest for energy sources wherever it can find them, is paying attention to Trinidad specifically because of this country’s oil and gas deposits.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine said that while the United States and China are two of the largest consumers of energy in the world, Biden had indicated that the United States had shale gas reserves for 100 years and was on the way to becoming self-sufficient.
Ramnarine said with 63 percent of methanol, 85 percent of ammonia and 39 percent of outputs from the local refinery going to the U.S. last year, Port of Spain will now have to find new markets and that energy issues will feature prominently in the discussions with president Xi.
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Puerto Rico’s Colonial Status and the U.S. Invasion | Geopolitics

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Timothy Alexander Guzman, Silent Crow News – Puerto Rico was a Colony of the Spanish Empire for more than 400 years.  After the Spanish-American War of 1898 instigated by the ‘Remember the Maine’ incident, the United States declared Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam as its territories.  During the Spanish-American War, the invasion of Puerto Rico took place on July 25, 1898 with the United States Navy landing at Guanica led by General Nelson A. Miles. When Spain lost the war it ceded Puerto Rico, the Philippines and Guam to the United States under the Treaty of Paris for $20 million dollars. Spain also relinquished its political power over Cuba.  Cuba eventually gained its independence from the United States on May 20, 1902.  From 1898 to 1900, Puerto Rico was ruled by four consecutive US military dictatorships.  The governors and other officials in the Puerto Rican government were all appointed by the President of the United States. The US government wanted to bring ‘American Style Democracy’ to Puerto Rico with military governors who were involved in massacres during the Indian wars in North America.  The first US installed governor was General Nelson A. Miles who fought in the American Civil War, the American Indian wars and the Spanish-American War.  An interesting note is that General Miles led the war campaign against Geronimo and the Apaches.  Eventually General Miles troops negotiated with Geronimo and the Apaches to go to a Florida reservation with a promise to return to their native lands.  It never happened because the US government planned to keep the Apaches in the reservations.  Then the US government appointed Major General John R. Brooke followed by Major General Guy Vernon Henry, both took part in the Wounded Knee Massacre.  Then Major General George Whitfield Davies, a Civil War veteran was also appointed governor.  All ruled Puerto Rico as a military dictatorship.
The Foraker Act of 1900 allowed Puerto Rico a limited civilian popular government that included US appointed and first civilian governor Charles Herbert Allen, an executive council with more than 11 members, the House of Representatives, a judicial system modeled after the US judicial system, a non-voting resident commissioner in congress and of course a United States District Court in Puerto Rico.  The executive council, the Supreme Court, the Chief of Police were all appointed by the US government.  Voting rights were limited to those who could read and write and paid taxes.  The Foraker Act was a law intended for the US government to control Puerto Rico politically.
By 1917, the Jones-Shafroth Act was passed so that Puerto Ricans would become American citizens which allowed the US government to draft Puerto Ricans for World War I.  The Jones Act of 1917 paved the way for what was to become the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico which was eventually signed into law through a series of amendments and previous laws including Public Law 600 another law that allowed for a democratic referendum that would allow Puerto Ricans to draft their own constitution if they desired with congressional approval.  The law led Puerto Rico into “Commonwealth” status written by then resident commissioner Luis Munoz Marin himself, “The Architect of the Commonwealth.”  In an article titled “Let Puerto Rico Decide How To End Its Colony Status” by Rosalinda Dejesus quoted United States Secretary of the Interior when he said “The bill (to permit Puerto Rico to write its own constitution) merely authorizes the people of Puerto Rico to adopt their own constitution and to organize a local government…The bill under consideration would not change Puerto Rico’s political, social, and economic relationship to the United States.”  A compelling fact by Chapman states the fact that Public Law 600 was seen as a tool to continue Puerto Rico’s colonial status by the Nationalist party.  It was one of the main reasons that resulted in the uprisings throughout Puerto Rico.  Various political parties in Puerto Rico had mixed reactions to Public Law 600.  The Statehood party was divided and the Socialists supported Public Law 600.  Commonwealth status is subject to US Federal Law.  The Commonwealth status became law on the anniversary of the US invasion on July 25th, 1952.  Not only Commonwealth status became law which led Puerto Rico to become more dependent on the US government, it became a permanent colony.
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Caribbean drug trafficking boom predicted as Latin America cracks down

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imageThe Caribbean made up about five percent of the cocaine reaching the US in 2010, with that figure estimated to jump to 10 percent this year.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Friday April 5, 2013 – William Brownfield, a top US State Department official, has predicted that the Caribbean is likely to see a surge in drug-trafficking activity by 2015 as operations out of Central America dwindle due to an international crackdown.
Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, said he believes drug traffickers squeezed out of Mexico, Central America and South America will target the Caribbean because it's spacious and allows them to remain undercover and take advantage of weak law enforcement in certain countries.
"We're dealing with 14 different countries spread across a large area," he said. "Drug traffickers are looking for very vulnerable holes."
The State Department official was speaking on Wednesday during a visit to Puerto Rico, where he met with local and federal authorities to talk in part about the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, which aims to boost regional security with US funding aid.
In the upcoming fiscal year, Congress has allocated US$40 million for the programme. The new funds will be available by August and distributed after the top priorities are identified, according to Brownfield.
While a group of US agencies and Caribbean governments decide how the money will be spent, the State Department official supports using the funds to build regional programmes and centres that would benefit all Caribbean nations.
He would like to see the establishment of a police training centre, a maritime training centre possibly based in Puerto Rico and an aviation centre featuring four to six helicopters that could be stationed across the region, targeting popular drug-trafficking routes.
Brownfield also favours the idea of a Caribbean-based communication interceptions centre aimed at uncovering how illegal money and drugs are being moved. He nevertheless noted that establishing such a centre could prove difficult because its operations might not be legal in certain Caribbean nations.
Funds disbursed in the past have gone toward building a regional centre in Barbados for exchanging ballistics information, and another centre for identifying and processing fingerprints.
The Caribbean made up about five percent of the cocaine reaching the United States in 2010, jumping to eight percent in the past year, and is estimated to escalate to 10 percent this year, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
Officials estimate that six percent alone is shipped through the Dominican Republic.
Cocaine use has dropped in the United States, but has skyrocketed in Brazil, Argentina and Western Europe. The new demand means traffickers are shipping drugs across the Atlantic into West Africa and then north into Europe, Brownfield said. Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)
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More must be done to arrest Caribbean drug trade says US

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imageThe State Department described Guyana as a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
Nelson A. King 
WASHINGTON D.C., United States, Saturday March 16, 2013 - Though Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have made significant efforts in addressing the burgeoning drug trade, the United States says more still needs to be done.
In its 2013 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, released here this week, the US Department of State lauded general efforts being made, but was very critical of what it regarded as inefficient measures implemented in some countries.
The US said that Jamaica remains the largest Caribbean supplier of marijuana to the United States, adding that while cocaine and synthetic drugs are not produced locally, the country is a transit point for drugs trafficked from South America to North America and other international markets.
It said that, in 2012, drug production and trafficking were both “enabled and accompanied by organized crime, domestic and international gang activity, and police and government corruption,” adding that the gun trade for illicit drugs “exacerbated the problem as handguns moved into the country in exchange for drugs”.
Washington said marijuana from Jamaica is “increasingly being trafficked to Caribbean nations as well” and that “some Central American drug trafficking organizations exchange Jamaican marijuana for cocaine”.
The State Department said while the Jamaica government and law enforcement authorities are committed to combating narcotics and illicit trafficking, their efforts were “only moderately effective in 2012 because of a lack of sufficient resources, corruption, and an inefficient criminal justice system”.
It noted that high-profile organized crime gangs continued to “successfully operate within Jamaica”  with gangs “sometimes afforded community tolerance or protection and, in some cases, support through police corruption”.
The State Department described Guyana as a transit country for cocaine destined for the United States, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, and West Africa.
It said cocaine originating in Colombia is smuggled to Venezuela and onward to Guyana by sea or air and that smugglers also transit land borders with Brazil, Venezuela, and Suriname.
“The influence of narcotics trafficking is evident in the political and criminal justice systems,” it said, stating that the value of cocaine seized by Guyanese authorities in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available, totalled US$42 million.
The report said traffickers are attracted by Guyana’s “poorly monitored ports, remote airstrips, intricate river networks, porous land borders, and weak security sector capacity”.
The report noted that the government has passed legislation to enable a ?more-effective? response to the threat of drug trafficking, pointing out that The Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism Act of 2009, the Interception of Communications Bill, and the Criminal Procedure Bill were designed to enhance the investigative capabilities of law enforcement authorities and prosecutors to convict drug traffickers.
“To date, however, the government has sought no prosecutions under these laws.”
The report said Suriname is a transit zone for South American cocaine en route to Europe, Africa and, to a lesser extent, the United States and that the Dutch-speaking Caribbean country’s sparsely populated coastal region and isolated jungle interior, together with weak border controls and infrastructure, “make narcotics detection and interdiction efforts difficult”.
The State Department said while the Surinamese government is committed to combating illegal narcotics trafficking, as a matter of policy, “Suriname’s practical ability to apprehend and prosecute narcotics traffickers remains inhibited by drug-related corruption, bureaucratic hurdles, and inadequate legislation”.
Washington said Belize is a major trans-shipment country for cocaine and precursor chemicals used in the production of synthetic drugs, adding that, due to its position along the Central American isthmus, the country is “susceptible” to the trans-shipment of cocaine between drug producing countries in South America and the United States, as well as chemicals bound for processing into finished drugs in Mexico.
It estimated that more than 80 per cent of the primary flow of the cocaine trafficked to the United States first transited through the Central American corridor in 2012, with large stretches of remote, unpopulated jungles on Belize’s borders with Guatemala allow smuggling of cannabis and synthetic drugs.
“A relatively unpatrolled coastline, including hundreds of small islands and atolls, make maritime drug interdiction difficult,” said the report, stating that Belize is “bordered by countries where the drug trade is controlled by organized and violent drug cartels.
“Belize’s overall counter-narcotics efforts suffer deficiencies in intelligence gathering, analysis, and capacity of the judicial sector, in addition to corruption and inadequate political will.
“A lack of resources, weak law enforcement institutions, an ineffective judicial system, and inadequate compensation for civil service employees and public safety officials combined to provide a facilitating environment for illegal activities,” the report said, noting that “Belize lacks laws that specifically address narcotics-related corruption”.
The State Department said that Trinidad and Tobago’s location, porous borders, and direct transportation routes to Europe, West Africa, Canada, and the United States make it “an ideal location” for cocaine and marijuana trans-shipment.
It said while drug production and use in the twin-island republic centers on marijuana, other drugs, including cocaine, heroin, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and ecstasy, are also available.
The report noted that government in Port of Spain has “long struggled to effectively coordinate and adequately fund its counter-narcotics efforts” and that interdiction efforts are “robust and continuing”.
It noted however that overall seizures in 2012 were down from 2011.
The report said that Trinidad and Tobago’s drug control institutions continue to be challenged by deficiencies in staffing, organization, funding, and interagency communication.
“The entities and individuals working to combat narcotics in Trinidad and Tobago face considerable challenges and insufficient support from political leadership,. Additional reforms are necessary to expedite case prosecution, revise outdated laws, and establish an evidence-based criminal justice system as fundamental prerequisites for raising conviction rates and deterring traffickers,” the report added.
The State Department said the Bahamas is not a significant drug producing country but remains a transit point for illegal drugs bound for the United States and other international markets.
It said the Bahamas’ close proximity to the coast of Florida, as well as Caribbean drug trans-shipment routes, makes it a “natural conduit” for drug smuggling and that the country’s  700 islands and cays - the vast majority of which are uninhabited - provide “near ideal conditions for illicit smuggling”.
The State Department said smugglers “readily blend in among the armada of pleasure craft traveling throughout the Bahamas archipelago spanning 100,000-square nautical miles”.
Regarding the seven independent Eastern Caribbean countries of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the United States said they host “abundant trans-shipment points for illicit narcotics, primarily from Colombia and Venezuela destined for North American, European and domestic Caribbean markets.
It said traffickers are increasingly using yachts for drug transit, though “go-fast” boats, fishing trawlers, and freighters continue to serve as transit vessels.
The report said drug-related crime rates “remain elevated as more drugs remain in the region for local consumption, and organized gangs have formed to control drug distribution” and that marijuana remains a staple crop, primarily for local use.
The State Department said three years of declining macroeconomic growth has left Eastern Caribbean law enforcement capacity “further under-resourced than during previous reporting periods, a condition exacerbated by antiquated criminal codes and public perception of corruption in the ranks”.
It said the Eastern Caribbean struggles with communication and cooperation between states.
“The lack of regional or national law enforcement strategic plans, including comprehensive vetting programmes, creates a vulnerability to narcotics-related corruption,”  it said, adding that the Eastern Caribbean also continues to struggle with a lack of adequate infrastructure for counter-narcotics maritime patrols.
It said while each Eastern Caribbean police force has a mandate to interdict drugs and share information and intelligence with regional and international counterparts, law enforcement authorities “lack the capacity and resources to undertake systematic counter-narcotics operations”.
The report said that continued declining regional economic growth and increasing unemployment have led to increasing marijuana consumption and cultivation, according to host nation officials.
It said cannabis cultivation “predominates in the mountainous regions of St. Vincent, where production may rival Jamaica, according to unofficial US Drug Enforcement Administration estimates”.
The report said St. Kitts and Nevis officials claim locally-produced cannabis is “gaining a foothold on the market with exports predicted to rise,” and that Grenada also reports “an increase in marijuana and cocaine transiting from St. Vincent and Trinidad, respectively”.
The State Department urged the Eastern Caribbean countries to embrace the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and to fulfil their monetary commitments to sustain the Regional Security System (RSS).
“The United States further encourages the seven nations to pass legislation to modernize their criminal codes, making use of regional best practices in fighting transnational organized crime and lauds Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, and Grenada in their progress in this area,” the report said.
The State Department said Haiti remains a transit point for cocaine from South America and marijuana from Jamaica for transshipment to the United States, Canada, Europe, and elsewhere in the Caribbean.
The report said Haiti is not a significant producer of illicit drugs for export, though cultivation of marijuana for local consumption occurs. (CMC) Click here to receive free news bulletins via email from Caribbean360. (View sample)
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Puerto Rico's Wave of Drugs and Brazen Murders Reverberates to Miami - Page 1 - News - Miami

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Julio Ramos Oliver died over a spilled drink.
Hector Pesquera, former head of the FBI's Miami office, oversees the much-maligned Puerto Rico Police Department.
Michael E. Miller
Hector Pesquera, former head of the FBI's Miami office, oversees the much-maligned Puerto Rico Police Department.
AK-47 bullet casings at a triple murder scene in Canovanas, east of San Juan.
Michael E. Miller
AK-47 bullet casings at a triple murder scene in Canovanas, east of San Juan.


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It was just after midnight January 20, and Old San Juan shook with the fiesta de San Sebastián. Under the golden glow of street lamps, more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans packed onto the narrow cobblestone calles for the year's biggest party.
Dressed in a baggy yellow shirt and black hat, Ramos had met family members and friends hours earlier underneath a 40-foot totem pole overlooking the churning Caribbean Sea. Reggaeton refracted off the colonial architecture, and drunken revelers and empty beer cans littered the plaza.
At 12:52 a.m., Ramos headed down a packed side street. As he raised a beer can to his lips, the 32-year-old fisherman clattered into the back of the man in front of him. The man spun around, his white jersey dripping with beer. Ramos apologized, but it was too late. The man raised his shirt to reveal a pistol. "We're prepared," he said. Ramos reportedly removed a knife from his pocket and answered, "So am I."
As the two men stared each other down, a third figure emerged from the crowd behind Ramos. A gun muzzle flashed. The fisherman fell to the ground, blood spurting from his throat onto the cobblestones. The gunmen fled, but not before blasting two more rounds into the dying man.
Ramos's killing was just one in a relentless wave of murders in Puerto Rico over the past three years. In 2011, the tiny island's record 1,136 killings put it on par with civil war zones such as the Congo andSudan in terms of murders per capita. Last year was little better. And in the past four months, a series of particularly horrific slayings has terrorized the tropical paradise. First, boricua boxer Hector "Macho" Camacho was mysteriously gunned down in November. Two weeks later, a well-known publicist was kidnapped, set on fire, and beaten to death. And just last month, a gangster ran his car over an entire family, killing six.
Ramos's death in the heart of the city during the crowded SanSe fiesta was the most brazen and symbolic slaying yet. It signaled to the world what Puerto Ricans have known for several years: The "Isle of Enchantment" has become bewitched by violence. A crackdown on drugs coming across the Mexican border has only pushed contraband through the Caribbean, transforming the American commonwealth into the newest nexus for narcotraffickers.
"If this were anywhere else in the States, it would have created a national security crisis by now," Puerto Rico's police chief, Hector Pesquera, says of the sky-high murder rate, roughly seven times the national average. "But we are out of sight and out of mind."
Yet Americans who ignore the island do so at their own peril. As Puerto Rican politicians make an unprecedented push to become the 51st state, the commonwealth has become more central than ever to the United States' drug and crime problems. Pesquera estimates that 80 percent of the narcotics entering Puerto Rico end up in East Coast cities, particularly Miami and New York. Guns and money move in the opposite direction, and fugitives freely flow back and forth, frustrating officials. Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are pouring into Florida, New York, and Texas to escape the gunfire gripping their homeland.
Pesquera's police force is outgunned and overmatched. To make matters worse, rampant corruption and civil rights violations dog the department, which, at 17,000 employees, is the second largest in the nation. Whether because of these doubts or the spiraling national debt, the feds have been reluctant to help. Something has to give.
"This is the United States of America, whether people like it or not," Pesquera says. "We are the country's third border. If we don't protect it, you guys are fucked."

By 10 a.m., the blood had already disappeared from Calle Saint Just. It wasn't cleaned up, like the scores of AK-47 cartridges that were scattered across the intersection like rice after a wedding. Instead, the blood was simply gone — returned to the Puerto Rican earth.
"The trucks roll by and spread it all over the place," says Officer Angel Martinez, a gruff, blue-eyed homicide detective.
Like most murders here, the blood belongs to gangsters who have gunned each other down, Martinez says. Around 9 p.m., a black SUV full of drug dealers ambushed their rivals on this industrial stretch of east San Juan. Three men fled into a funeral home parking lot — a fitting place to die. The ambushers cornered them and mowed them down with assault rifles. One man survived; the others bled out on the dirty pavement. In the hours after those deaths, five other people were killed around San Juan.
Martinez has no choice but to shrug off such horrors. Grisly scenes are as regular as morningcafecito for Puerto Rican cops, who have the unenviable task of bringing order to San Juan's increasingly blood-soaked streets. As murders have doubled since the late '90s, the cops have found themselves overwhelmed by drug traffickers, marooned by an indifferent federal government, and undercut by corruption.
At the head of that effort is Pesquera, a 66-year-old with a white beard, glasses, and a sailor's mouth. "Every morning, I look at the stats and ask myself: 'What could we have done to prevent this?'" he says during an interview in his corner office. In these particular cases, not much, he concludes. "But guess who is blamed?"
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Analysis: Puerto Rico bets on American tourists to repay debt

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By Michael Connor
Mon May 28, 2012 7:17pm EDT
(Reuters) - Americans have long been in love with Puerto Rico's high-yielding municipal bonds. Now the Caribbean island hopes they will flock to its sand, surf and spanking new resorts to help pay off massive debts.
Without a fix, Puerto Rico's $65.3 billion in outstanding bonds may become difficult to sustain in the long run.
Puerto Rico is a prominent, popular seller of muni bonds. U.S. investors like the debt's fat yields, which come with unusual full exemption from federal, state and local income taxes. The island sold $4.82 billion of bonds in 2012's first four months, or 40 percent more than California.
But with debt equivalent to 103 percent of its annual gross product, the U.S. territory carries a burden that would make troubled states like California and Illinois blanch. The two states' debt levels are just under 5 percent of economic output.
To raise funds, Puerto Rico's government hopes to make tourism as important to the island as in Florida, where about 10 percent of the economy comes from vacationers. Tourism currently accounts for just 6 percent of Puerto Rico's economy, with 3.7 million tourists a year, below nearby Dominican Republic's 4.12 million.
Puerto Rico worries some institutional investors, who are concerned by government budget deficits, an economy struggling to exit a six-year recession and under-funded public pensions.
"They have not done enough to go after their structural imbalances," said portfolio manager Robert DiMella, who co-manages $5 billion in high-yield and other muni debt for the MainStay funds run by the MacKay Shields unit of New York Life. "We are extremely low, close to zero, on Puerto Rico."
Yields on the island's BBB-rated debt, even with 10-year maturities paying on average 2.2 percentage points more than the safest bonds, are not enough to compensate for possible defaults and downgrades, according to DiMella.
Among other big U.S. muni bond issuers, only California, with an economy 30 times the size of Puerto Rico's, and Illinois pay interest-rate spreads close to as wide as to the island's.
Puerto Rico has so far had a rough 21st Century. The island's jobless rate is at 15 percent rate, nearly double the U.S. unemployment rate.
Chronic revenue shortages and budget deficits, sometimes filled with the sort of one-time windfalls and loans that trouble bond analysts, grew to a peak of $3.3 billion in 2008, a year before Luis Fortuno became governor and championed spending cuts, tax reform and privatization deals.
Fortuno, who is seeking a second term in November, has eliminated some 20,000 government jobs and reduced Puerto Rico's yearly deficit by 90 percent to a projected $333 million in the next fiscal year.
"Their financial management is much better than they have seen in the past," said portfolio manager Chris Ihlefeld of Thornburg Investment Management in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "The question is, 'Is it too little, too late?'"
But some professionals, including specialists in riskier, high-yield municipals, won't go near Puerto Rico debt. Some seem to be betting against the island, judging by trading in Puerto Rico municipal credit-default swap contracts.
Since early January, the cost for one-year CDS on 10-year Puerto Rico debt has shot up to 482 basis points from 391, according to data-services group Markit. That adds $91,000 to fees now close to half a million dollars to secure shelter against a possible default on $10 million of Puerto Rico debt.
Costs on comparable California CDS dropped $48,000 to $229,000 from early 2012 and eased $11,000 for similar Illinois issues, to $279,000, according to Markit.
By many financial measures, Puerto Rico is an outlier. Its net tax-supported debt in 2010 equaled $10,474 per person, compared with a U.S. per capita mean of $1,408, $2,542 in California and $2,383 in Illinois.
Puerto Rico's debt calculated as a percentage of personal income was 71 percent. The comparable U.S. mean was 3.5 percent, California's 6 percent and 5.7 percent for Illinois.
In the new century, Puerto Rico's economy has grown increasingly reliant on federal government payments, such as Social Security benefits, and may be especially vulnerable to cutbacks in U.S. spending.
The island's net payment inflows from Washington in 2010 were $12.2 billion, or equal to nearly a fifth of the island's gross product that year of $63.3 billion, according to U.S. Census data. In 2000, net federal transfer payments were under 13 percent of Puerto Rico's gross product.
"There is a school of thought that the feds would bail out Puerto Rico," DiMella said. "We don't believe that."
Puerto Rico's ailing pension system also worries investors, who want the government to tackle a forecast $24 billion gap between promised payouts and assets. Fortuno pledged to bond investors on May 10 to roll out pension fixes this year.
Fortuno said no options, including the possible issuance of pension-obligation bonds, have been eliminated. Proposals under review include hikes of 0.25 percent in employee-contributions annually over several years, and raising retirement ages.
Ten years ago, the main pension fund had 23 cents for every $1 it needed to pay out, and this year it has just 8.5 cents for every $1. The typical mainland government-workers pension fund has 75 cents for each $1 promised retirees.
DiMella said he sees at best a slow recovery from Puerto Rico's recession, one so hard on job seekers it helped drive a 2.2 percent drop in population, to 3.72 million, in the last decade. Taxes will not be enough to service debt and run the government, even with spending cuts, DiMella said.
He discounts as overblown predictions Puerto Rico's finances will swell into a crisis as severe as Greece's. But he says investors' interest in the island's debt can suddenly dry up.
Puerto Rico is unlikely to default on any bonds but will need to extend maturities or otherwise restructure some of its $3.8 billion of appropriations debt, DiMella said.
"Market access for Puerto Rico is what we worry about," he said. "The door won't close but will get narrower, and there will be pressure on yields to widen."
Fortuno is aiming to raise $4.5 billion for investment in a dozen private-public projects by 2013.
A pending deal to sell an operating lease for San Juan's underused international airport to a private consortium includes not just an upfront cash payment of about $1 billion, but also capital improvements meant to jump-start tourism.
The airport deal is meant to ease the way for the high-end tourists Puerto Rico hopes will fill new luxury hotels being built in San Juan, Dorado and Rio Grande.
Those deals will also help pay down debt. The airport deal will cut transport debt by $900 million, officials have said.
Fortuno's administration is making many of the right moves, according to Ihlefeld, the Thornburg portfolio manager, but Puerto Rico remains a high-profile risk for muni investors.
"I don't know if it's going to be a surprise," he said. "One day it will be in the news and not in a good way."
(Reporting by Michael Connor in Miami; Additional reporting by Reuters in San Juan, Joan Gralla in New York and Karen Pierog in Chicago; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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Page 3

AGP invite public forum to discuss statehood

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UN: PR refuses to "present condition of political subordination"

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UNITED NATIONS - United Nations discussed the political status of Puerto Rico on Monday during a session in which your representative in the U.S. Congress called for the recognition of the island as a state of the Union and Puerto Ricans recalled that in November voted against continuing with the current status of commonwealth.
Pedro Pierluisi, Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, said before the Decolonization Committee of the UN that if Congress "fails to provide the transition from Puerto Rico to a dignified and democratic status" it will push the issue at the United Nations.
"Justice delayed is justice denied and, after 115 years as a territory, Puerto Rico's patience is running out," said Pierluisi, speaking as president of the New Progressive Party.
After hearing from Pierluisi and a score of political and civil organizations who spoke, the Decolonization Committee adopted a resolution that reaffirms the right of the island to self-determination. The document, approved year after year, for the first time said that Puerto Ricans have rejected his "current political subordination condition".
The resolution was sponsored by Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The issue, however, is not progressing at the UN for years because it has come to the General Assembly.
The November 6 Puerto Ricans voted in a referendum in which more than 900,000 voters, or 54%, said not satisfied with current status commonwealth. In a second question about what status preferred, approximately 800,000 of the 1.3 million voters, or 61%, said they supported the "statehood". Some 437,000 said they preferred free association and 72,560 sovereign independence. However, almost 500,000 left that question blank, so many felt that the result was not conclusive.
Pierluisi, who insists that the result statehood winner was presented a bill to Congress last month that promotes Puerto Rican people ask whether you are for or against that Puerto Rico become a U.S. state. Triumph If "yes", the president sent to Congress a bill to admit the island as a state, as proposed by the congressman. Monday was the first time a Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico spoke before the committee.
For its part, the White House recently announced it would seek $ 2.5 million from Congress to fund another vote on the political status of the island.
During the debate in the UN, many voices demanded the release of Oscar López Rivera, who has 32 years in prison, after being charged with sedition if the U.S. government.
Juan Dalmau Ramírez, secretary general of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, sharply criticized the United States.
"Given the massive rejection to colonialism, reaction of the U.S. government has been to entrench themselves in the defense of colonialism majority ignoring the demand," said Dalmau. "The same government which claims to global defender of democracy tries to ignore the mandate of our people to put an end to colonialism."
Osvaldo Toledo Martínez, representing the Committee of Puerto Rico at the UN, spoke in favor of a resolution to defend the right to self-determination of the island.
"The economic control exerted by the United States to Puerto Rico has resulted in the destruction of the local economy agriculture, fisheries, trade and business, rather than promoting self-reliance is what they promote dependence," Martinez said.
Puerto Rico is U.S. territory for 115 years but its citizens can not vote in U.S. presidential elections and have no representation in the Senate.
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Subdirector DEA niega haber sido contactado por Fortaleza – Vocero de Puerto Rico

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