WASHINGTON, CMC – The United States says it is pursuing efforts aimed at advancing its interests in areas of security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education, and health with the Caribbean.
In its “Report to Congress on Progress of Public Law (P.L.) 114-291: Efforts to Implement the Strategy for U.S. Engagement with the Caribbean Region,” the State Department said along with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) they are “at the forefront of efforts” across the government to advance US interests by engaging with the Caribbean.
It said that the Report, which was presented to the US Congress earlier this month, describes these successes and reflects “the United States government’s deepening engagement with the region over the last two years”.
The State Department said activities occurred under the US-Caribbean 2020 Engagement Strategy and the US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act.
“The Overseas Private Investment Corporation’s work to identify private sector investment opportunities, the State Department’s increase in Fulbright scholarships and educational exchanges, USAID’s prevention of youth crime and violence, and PEPFAR’s technical assistance to improve access to HIV therapies represent the breadth of U.S. government engagement.”
Additionally, the State Department said it launched the US-Caribbean Resilience Partnership in April 2019 “to work with our neighbours in the region to build regional capacity to confront natural disasters through risk reduction, building resilient communities and improving disaster response.”
In the midst of the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis, the State Department said the hospital ship USNS Comfort is “currently en route to several islands to supply medical services.”
The report includes a list of US government activities and programmes that highlights engagement in the region, the State Department said.
In the “Caribbean 2020: A Multi-Year Strategy To Increase the Security, Prosperity, and Well-Being of the People of the United States and the Caribbean,” the State Department noted that the Caribbean region is the United States’ “third border,” characterized by “common interests and societal ties that yield daily, tangible benefits for U.S. citizens.”
The report notes that the United States is the primary trading partner for the Caribbean, representing a “vibrant economic partnership that in 2016 saw a US$4.6 billion trade surplus for the United States, 14 million US tourist visits, and 11,042 Caribbean students studying in the United States.
“We also face many common threats across the region,” it adds, stating that “small but significant, numbers of violent extremists from the region have joined ISIS,” the terrorist group seeking to establish a foothold in Syria and the Middle East.
The report says that Caribbean countries have “some of the highest murder rates in the world,” pointing out that “rising crime and endemic corruption threaten governments’ ability to provide security and good governance.”
“They also drive irregular migration to the United States. As the United States works to secure its southern border, we should prepare for transnational criminal organizations to shift more of their operations to the Caribbean as a transit point for drugs, migrants, weapons, and other illicit activity.”
The report states that this strategy, coordinated with the interagency, identifies the Department of State and USAID’s priorities for United States’ engagement with the Caribbean region in the areas of security, diplomacy, prosperity, energy, education and health.
On security, the report notes “we will work with our Caribbean partners to ensure ISIS is denied a foothold in the region, dismantle illicit trafficking networks, enhance maritime security, confront violent and organized crime, and increase the sharing of threat information among countries.”
It said the US diplomacy will “both raise the political level of our dialogue with the Caribbean and focus it more tightly on this strategy’s six priorities.
“We will increase our own and our neighbours’ prosperity by promoting sustainable growth, open markets for US exports, and private sector-led investment and development.”
On energy, Washington noted that exports of US natural gas and the use of US renewable energy technologies “will provide cleaner, cheaper alternatives to heavy fuel oil and lessen reliance on Venezuela.”
Regarding education, the report notes “we will focus our resources on exchanges and programs for students, scholars, teachers, and other professionals that provide mutual benefits to US and Caribbean communities and promote economic development and entrepreneurship”.
In the area of health, it says the US will continue to partner with countries in the region in the fight against infectious diseases, like HIV/AIDS and Zika, “recognizing deadly pathogens are threats that know no borders.”
In partnership with Caribbean governments, the report says the US will strengthen “our mutual national security and advance the safety of our citizens by pursuing programs to dismantle transnational criminal and terrorist organizations, curb the trafficking and smuggling of illicit goods and people, strengthen the rule of law, improve citizen security, and counter vulnerability to terrorist threats.”