It Matters: Weakness and cowardice mouthing off in the Caribbean

By Dr. George C. Brathwaite –

The Caribbean people should be clearly conscious of leaders and potential leaders that portray no essence of backbone, but are more inclined to be squeamishly weak and demonstrate cowardice when strength and unity are the requirements for the advancement of our peoples and region. It matters to me that in the face of bullish and arguably, unprovoked behaviour from the United States of America (USA) regarding both Venezuela and Argentina, but particularly the first mentioned, there are oppositional leaders in the region suggesting a silencing of the lambs for fear of reprisal from Washington DC. How timid can one be in the face of aggressive posturing by an entity already known to create and perpetuate mischief in this hemisphere?

As a reminder, it was this week that there were two events of major significance, but which for reasons of other agendas, the crux of their importance may have bypassed some leaders in our Caribbean region. There was the anniversary of the Grenada Revolution wherein the Prime Minister of Dominica, the Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit gave a sterling speech which took us down memory lane so as to gauge the type of futures that we ought to realistically carve out for ourselves knowing that we rest in the constant scope of a sometimes intrusive USA. The second major event was the extraordinary summit for the Presidents and Foreign Ministers of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of our America (ALBA), wherein, this was a peaceful rendezvous of stakeholder leaders and a place to frame a response to the USA’s ‘unilateral’ decision that “there are human rights violations in Venezuela that merit the application of sanctions;” and in which Washington further stated that the oil-rich country poses an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy” of the USA. As put by the Cuban President, this extraordinary summit held in Venezuela was sufficiently needed in order “to reaffirm our [region’s] firmest support for the Bolivarian people and Government in the face of the latest interventionist measures and threats from the U.S. Gvernment against Venezuela.

It is ludicrous that in the 21st century as sovereign states operating in the international system, some Caribbean leaders and dubious commentators would seek to exploit political mileage that runs counter to the entire notion of independence of our people and self-determination in our often subdued states. The colonial shackles are still there – not fastened necessarily by the colonisers and the brutish USA – but by the willingness of some to keep their people subjected to oppression and adversity when principled stand ought to dictate our Latin America and Caribbean posture.

For instance, and coming out of the Commonwealth of Dominica is Opposition Leader Lennox Linton suggesting that Prime Minister Skerrit, in showing solidarity with Venezuela against the provocative stance of the USA, is “unreasonably challenging America’s right to determine if, when and by whom its national security is being threatened.” No wonder that the United Workers Party (UWP) has been rejected yet again. Pray tell, if Linton is so concerned about the safety, security, and well-being of the peoples of Dominica living both at home and abroad, and those in the Caribbean Community together with Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela, and others, how can he assert the backward nonsense that somehow a meeting of ALBA in which, a declaration of solidarity has been made with the people and Government of Venezuela, can be “threatening the security” of those “who are dependent on the US Government for their protection and the enhancement of their quality of life?”

Indeed, at item 3 of the consensual Declaration made at the end of the ALBA Summit, it stated emphatically that: “Our sovereign and sincere request that the government of the United States accept and engage in dialogue with the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela as an alternative to conflict and confrontation, based on ongoing respect for the sovereignty and self-determination of the peoples of independent nation-states.” There can be nothing sinister in that statement, or as a matter of fact the declaration, that should engender the negative and backward thinking of Lennox Linton. Preference here would be to assume that Linton’s eagerness to find a space in the emotiveness of the Dominican people, he erred in creating the delusion that PM Skerrit was saying or doing something unwholesome for the nation. The fault-lines that he is busy attempting to erect, they do not exist if Linton is really for the people, respects sovereignty and democracy, and he himself is not a gatekeeper for the neo-colonial brigade.

Perhaps, Linton and other leaders in the Caribbean with such paltry visions of themselves and the region’s peoples, need to stop peeping under themselves; they need to walk with confidence but always stand on principle. Against this, there is a strong principled stance taken by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, the Honourable Gaston Browne that epitomises what real leadership in these neck of the woods ought to pursue. PM Browne, also in attendance at the ALBA Summit, practically and yet diplomatically stated that this country, and by extension the region would: Welcome a swift improvement in the relations between the United States and Venezuela and the development of a cooperative affiliation between them that would redound to the benefit of our hemisphere as a whole. Our hemisphere has the potential for being the strongest economic area of the world, generating increased investment, production, employment and enhanced quality of life for our people.”

Is not Prime Minister Browne, therefore, offering a valid solution to a problem which can escalate if the mighty USA uses its military and other clandestine recourses – for example the CIA which is known to stir destabilisation and coups d’état – especially, when he advocates agreement that “a small group of governments be appointed to act as honest brokers in establishing a framework for dialogue between representatives of the Governments of Venezuela and the United States with a view to improving relations between them” for the good of people living in all the named countries?”

Citing the former but now venerated leader Maurice Bishop, PM Skerrit used Bishop’s words to remind us that: “revolutionaries do not have the right to be cowards. We have to stand up to fight for our country because, the country is ours. It does not belong to anybody else.” Dominica, Venezuela, members of ALBA, Antigua and Barbuda, nor the Caribbean Community states belong to the United States of America. Our revolution is not of war but wanting peace; working towards prosperity and the eradication of poverty rather than military conflict and economic sanctions. President Obama, though greatly respected in our hemispheric countries, must in these his last days of his tenure do more to shape that peace process without the aggressiveness recently communicated.

It matters that in politics the political rhetoric can sound very loud while it is nothing more than shallowness. Whose moral obligation is it to stand up for right and social justice wherever it is imperilled in the Latin America and Caribbean region? Whose “greed driven, personal agenda” are being construed for menace instead of uplifting a people? Who are the leaders in the Caribbean that would like the benefits of PetroCaribe or the healthcare benefits of Cuba but fail to bemoan their antagonists? Who wants to point at Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, but look away from things that happen in the USA? Who will remain so weak and cower for their personal fear, when brothers, sisters, family just need an ounce of solidarity and support to turn back the hegemonic forces?

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