Saturday, March 24, 2012

Countering Transnational Organized Crime and Improving Citizen Security in Central America: The View from U.S. Southern Command

I attended this event and got to ask a question about the future of the U.S. bases in the region, namely in Palmerola, Honduras, and the air force base in El Salvador.

General Douglas M. Fraser, USAF Commander
United States Southern Command
Podcast available:

With Introductory Remarks by
The Hon. Jane Harman,
Director, President & CEO of the
Woodrow Wilson Center

Friday, March 23, 2012
9:00 to 10:30 a.m.
Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

COHA: The Cartagena Summit of the Americas: An Enigmatic Conundrum for Colombian President Santos

The Cartagena Summit of the Americas: An Enigmatic Conundrum for Colombian President Santos
This analysis was prepared by COHA staff
March 23, 2012
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Originally published in:

From April 9 to 15, 2012, the Organization of American States (OAS) and other multilateral bodies will host the Sixth Summit of the Americas, which will take place in Cartagena, Colombia. Bogota is absorbed by this major meeting of hemispheric heads of state; according to the Spanish website, Colombia will deploy up to five thousand police officers, six planes and helicopters and three unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), to ensure the event goes on without a hitch.[1]

Unfortunately, the Juan Manuel Santos administration has been deeply concerned that the event’s occurrence would be flawlessly staged, while at the same time it has had to face a diplomatic incident leading up to what Latin America correctly has conceptualized as an extremely important summit. Cuba, which is the only state in the Western Hemisphere that is not a defacto member of the OAS, declared its interest in attending what is certain to be a very substantive meeting of the heads of state.

This possibility became a concern for Washington, which has been at diplomatic odds with the Castro government (first Fidel and then Raul) for decades. Tensions regarding the OAS-led summit further flared up even more when Ecuador, a member of the ALBA bloc (Alianza Bolivariana para las Americas – Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas), let it be known that the ALBA bloc could possibly boycott the meeting if Havana was not allowed to participate. This situation led to President Santos being placed in an untenable position (he would have to invite Castro to avoid an ALBA boycott but, in turn, this would have angered Washington, who would undoubtedly decide to boycott the meeting), so the Colombian head of state decided to travel to Havana to meet with the Cuban leadership. He met with Raul Castro closed doors and had the onerous chore of having to ask Castro to reconsider his intention to go to Cartagena, in order to avoid an incident with the U.S. delegation. This incident, if it had progressed, would have presented Santos with a guaranteed diplomatic conundrum, but thankfully, this situation did not escalate. The ALBA bloc, including Venezuela, will attend the meeting in lieu of a boycott, and Castro won’t attend.[2]

Cuba, the OAS and the Santos Trip

Cuba and the OAS historically have had a troubled relationship. The island state, with its pre-revolution regime, was one of the original OAS members. The OAS was founded in 1948 as successor to the Pan American Union. After the Cuban 1959 revolution was staged, the John F. Kennedy administration pushed for the continent to politically and economically isolate Cuba after its military relationship with Soviet Moscow was acknowledged by Fidel. The OAS suspended the Caribbean island from January 1962 until June 2009. It would take nearly five decades for there to be sufficient momentum on the continent for a major policy shift to be made regarding Cuba. In the end, even though Cuba’s membership was validated, Havana decided to dismiss its prospects for full participation and chose not to return to the OAS at this time. This historical development occurred due to the rise of regimes in the region which have been vociferous in their criticism of U.S. foreign policy (as can be found in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador), along with the rise of powerhouses like Brazil.

In 2002, Mexico held a major international conference on financing for development, called by then-United Nations (UN) Secretary General Kofi Annan.[3] Then-US President George W. Bush was scheduled to attend, but a diplomatic impasse developed when Fidel Castro, the historical Cuban head of state, decided to attend as well. In order to avoid the embarrassment that was sure to follow, then-Mexican President Vicente Fox privately called Castro and asked him not to come, and the Cuban leader appeared to agree to this. However, even though the conversation between the two leaders was supposed to have been private, Castro actually taped their phone conversation and then made it public. In a famous line, Fox tells Castro that “puedes venir pero comes y te vas” ( “you can come, but you eat and then you’ll leave”).[4]

Another causative Cuba-related diplomatic incident occurred in 2009, when Trinidad and Tobago hosted the Fifth Summit of the Americas, and there was a clash between Washington and Caracas over Havana. Even before the summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez declared that it would be clear that “we’re going to Trinidad and Tobago to put that issue on the table […] from the moment the curtain goes up, Cuba will appear on the stage.”[5] Throughout the Summit, there also was concern that Chavez and his allies would follow the final declaration at the end of the meeting with one of their own as a way to protest the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Ironically, in spite of the tension surrounding the meeting, Obama met with Chavez, which was immortalized in an iconic photograph.[6] The U.S. leader also stated that “the US seeks a new beginning with Cuba […] I know there is a longer journey that must be traveled to overcome decades of mistrust, but there are critical steps we can take toward a new day.”[7]

As preparations for the Cartagena summit began to take shape, rumors began to circulate that Cuba would insist in attending the summit. At first, Bogota remained neutral on this development. For example, in early February, Colombian Foreign Minister Maria Angela Holguin stated to the press that “it is not up to Colombia to invite Cuba to the Summit of the Americas.”[8] Bogota’s position was in response to declarations made by Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa, who said that “from now on I propose that if Cuba is not invited to the Summit of Americas, no member of ALBA is to attend the summit.”[9] Correa’s statements gained some momentum as fellow ALBA members like Venezuela and Bolivia also seemed to be considering a boycott of the summit if Castro was not invited. ALBA has 11 members, all of which are OAS members (which has 34), hence a boycott would have a significant impact on the summit as it would cut the number of attending heads of state by a third. Washington has made it clear that it will not attend the meeting if Castro is present. William Ostick, a spokesman for the State Department, said that “today’s Cuba has in no way reached the threshold of participation […] there must be significant improvements in political liberties and democracy in Cuba before it can join the summit.”[10] If Washington carries out this threat, this will continue to diminish the multilateral and institutional ties it has with the rest of the continent, at a time when we are witnessing the creation of regional bodies to which U.S. does not belong, like UNASUR (Union de Naciones Suramericanas – Union of South American Nations) and CELAC (Comunidad de Estados Latinoamericanos y Caribeños -Community of Latin American and Caribbean States).

OAS Cartagena Summit

To prevent the hemispheric rift from growing, in early March, President Santos traveled to Cuba to ask point blank Raul Castro not to travel to the Cartagena Summit. Given the 2002 precedent, it is understandable that Santos decided to travel to Havana instead of calling Raul Castro. As part of the aftermath, President Chavez stated that there seems to be a consensus among the ALBA bloc to attend the meeting. Nevertheless, he warned that, from the bloc’s point of view, this should be the last summit in which Cuba does not participate.[11]

Cuba and the U.S.: No Breakthroughs On the Horizon?

In recent years there has been a rising momentum to improve relations between Washington and Havana. When President Obama was campaigning, he pledged that he would close down the detention center in the naval base in Guantanamo Bay, located in Cuba. Unfortunately he has yet to do so. Other more ambitious initiatives included lifting the decades-old embargo on the island. Obama managed to gain enough support to lift some travel restrictions so Cuban Americans can more easily travel to the island or send money to their relatives there,[12] but the trade embargo relentlessly remains, and will continue to do so as long as the political weight in Miami continues.

Regarding the continued tensions between the two countries, in February of this year, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont traveled to the island and privately met with Raul Castro to pledge for the release of U.S. contractor Alan Gross, who is serving a 15 year sentence for espionage and “smuggling illegal communications equipment and attempting to set up an Internet network that could escape government detection.”[13] On the other hand, the U.S. has controversially imprisoned five Cuban citizens (known as the Cuban Five), for allegedly being spies for Havana. One of the Cubans, Rene Gonzalez, was released this past October 2011 after serving 13 years in prison.[14] The global negative reaction to this political trial further undermined U.S. stature in the region.

Summits of the Americas, a Historical Source of Criticism

If anything, the tensions over whether Cuba should or will attend the Summit of the Americas adds some flavor to a hemispheric gathering that is usually critiqued for its irrelevancy. The first Summit was carried out in Miami in 1994; at the time, the OAS had former Colombian President Cesar Gaviria as Secretary General. While the 1994 summit was an important milestone regarding the initiatives for hemispheric integration, it was critiqued by Latin American specialists as a simple gathering of heads of state without much substance. Criticism of such high-level meetings and whether anything productive ever comes out of them has continued over the past two decades. In a recent interview between journalist Andres Oppenheimer and former Peruvian President Alan Garcia, the two-time head of state downplayed the importance of these Summits. The Peruvian politician stated that such high-level encounters “[are] a dialogue for the deaf,” and that each leader “goes with a prepared speech, to read it, and to blame someone else of [his country’s] problems, usually Uncle Sam or the ‘horrendous’ international financial system.”[15]

To be fair, it is noteworthy to state that such meetings have brought about important initiatives. For example, in April 2001, during the Third Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, the heads of state decided to push for a new pro-democracy treaty, which would become known as the Inter-American Democratic Charter. As the Charter states, the hemispheric leaders decided to create:

“A democracy clause which establishes that any unconstitutional alteration or interruption of the democratic order in a state of the Hemisphere constitutes an insurmountable obstacle to the participation of that state’s government in the Summits of the Americas process.”[16]

Washington has never been slow to point to this clause when it comes to promoting and protecting its interests in the Western Hemisphere.

The Agencies of the OAS: Working in Obscurity

At a time when the OAS continues to be critiqued regarding how it serves Washington’s interests, it is noteworthy to highlight how the OAS has fielded a number of autonomous agencies that carry out important and relevant work for hemispheric issues. When the OAS is criticized, this is usually targeted at the Secretariat and the General Assembly, but there are various agencies that operate under the OAS umbrella, like the Pan American Health Organization, Inter-American Commission of women,[17] Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Inter-American Committee against Terrorism[18] and the Inter-American Defense Board[19] ( IADB; and its military educational wing, the Inter-American Defense College –IADC).

The IAD Board (created in 1942, which makes it older than the OAS), and the IAD College (created in 1962), throughout their existence, have been accused of being at best, irrelevant, and at worst, a “mooseclub.” In a Strategic Forum report entitled “Reforming the Inter-American Defense Board,”[20] John A. Cope, Senior Research Fellow in the Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) at the National Defense University (NDU), perfectly conceptualizes the issues with the IADB, explaining that:

“The reluctance of diplomats to tap the Board’s expertise, even when considering regional defense and security issues, and the IADB’s unwillingness to subordinate itself in practice to the Committee on Hemispheric Security of the OAS Permanent Council or the Secretariat for Multidimensional Security, present a serious impasse.” (P.2)

Cope also adds that, beyond senior officials, most OAS staff members have little awareness of IADB activities (P.2) and that “the IADB structure evokes an earlier period in Latin American and Caribbean history when military institutions were largely autonomous and regularly played a significant role in politics. The legacy of civil-military tension still influences thinking and actions at both the OAS and IADB.” (P. 3)


It appears that Cuba will not attend the summit in Cartagena after all, and the Cuban government is blaming Washington for its likely absence. Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez has stated that the U.S. government has acted with “disdain and arrogance” over Havana’s intentions to participate in Cartagena.[21]The Cuban official also stated that:

“The exclusion of Cuba is probably the most notorious, most evident symbol that (these summits) are made in the image of the owner, which is the government of the United States, and they are instruments to exercise domination in a manner not at all democratic”

Indeed, the upcoming Cartagena summit has proved to be a big headache for President Santos. The Colombian leader successfully achieved a diplomatic solution for the Cuba question. At the end of the day, Santos did manage to avoid a humiliating personal defeat as he was put between a rock and a hard place by Hillary Clinton’s completely obdurate and senseless actions on Cartagena, all aimed at improving Obama’s political prospects in November. But its outcome hardly represented a brilliant victory for Santos’ image as a brave and principled new voice for Colombia and his own amazing hegira from being a defense ministry goon to earning the right to a completely renovated reputation. After all, while Bogota no longer can be found on the wrong end of the leash regarding its diplomatic relationship with the U.S, the events leading up to the Cartagena summit so far are hardly a victory for him. By carrying out Washington’s wishes regarding Castro’s presence at this major gathering, the Santos presidency appears to continue being under Washington’s sphere of influence as it was during the Cold War. It seems that, when it comes to hemispheric gatherings, the U.S. continues to reserve the right of determining who makes up the guest list. In 2012, it is correct for Latin American and Caribbean governments to advocate that they should no longer feel destined to be eternally under Washington’s narcotic policy spell.




















[20] Cope, John. “Reforming the Inter-AmericanDefense Board.” Strategic Forum. Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University. No. 258. August 2010. P. 1-6. Also see Hamilton, Mark D. “Haciendo malabares con la Defensa y Seguridad regionales en el siglo XXI: El Caso del Colegio Interamericano de Defensa.” International Studies Association. 51st Convention. New Orleans. February 2010.


Entrevista: Batalla de Ideas: Voto electoral vs. voto popular

Voto electoral vs. voto popular
Telemundo - Washington DC

Marzo 20, 2012
Video disponible:

¿Cuál es mejor para decidir el ganador de unas elecciones presidenciales?
En Estados Unidos, cuando se elige a un presidente no hay una elección sino 50 elecciones, una por cada estado. Cada estado, a su vez, tiene un número de votos en el Colegio Electoral dependiendo de cuán grande es su población.
El candidato ganador en cada estado se lleva todos los votos que le corresponden a ese estado en el Colegio Electoral, no importa si ganó por mucho o por poco en el voto popular.

Al final del día, el que más votos del Colegio Electoral obtuvo gana la Presidencia pero alguna vez, el candidato elegido no ha sido el que obtuvo más votos de la gente.
¿Es bueno este sistema? Alex Sánchez, del Consejo de Asuntos Hemisféricos, e Israel Ortega, de Heritage Libertad, lo analizan durante la "Batalla de Ideas" de Telenoticias Washington (Telemundo Washington).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

China vs. Taiwan: Battle for Influence in the Caribbean

China vs. Taiwan: Battle for Influence in the Caribbean
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Fellow W. Alex Sanchez & COHA Research Associate Lynn Tu
March 13, 2012
Council on Hemispheric Affairs
Originally published in:

China’s projection of influence in some previously unfamiliar regions of the world continues to grow, that much is clear. When it comes to Latin America and the Caribbean, Beijing has strengthened its ties, particularly by means of comprehensive trade relations, with countries like Argentina, Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. This has been done not only to secure non-traditional trading partners and commodity sources like oil and soybeans, but also to corner established markets for its many traditional exports. China’s relationship with the Caribbean is complex, as this region is particularly important to Beijing’s foreign policy goals regarding Taiwan, which has some of its greatest supporters there. Several Caribbean states currently recognize Taiwan as an independent republic, instead of maintaining the “one-China” position that has been endorsed by the mainland government.

Investment and Development
Unsurprisingly, China has been able to establish strong economic ties abroad, particularly in the developing world, by means of a series of investment deals. These include some major initiatives in the Caribbean in recent years.
In September 2011, Chinese Vice Premier Hui Liangyu visited Jamaica to meet with Governor-General Patrick Allen and Prime Minister Bruce Golding. While there, Hui put forward a five-point proposal for intensifying bilateral relations. The goals outlined by both sides included: promoting high-level exchanges to deepen mutual political trust, strengthening economic and trade cooperation, improving agricultural cooperation, expanding people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and promoting coordination in international affairs.[1] Also during the visit, Hui signed two separate agreements for grants valued jointly at RMB 21 million (USD 3.2 million), as well as a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on agricultural cooperation.[2] In November 2011, the Jamaican government approved a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA) with the Chinese island of Macao. According to a high-ranking Jamaican official, Arthur Williams, the agreement will facilitate the effective exchange of tax information between Jamaican tax authorities and their counterparts in Macao.[3]
Regarding ALBA member Dominica, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, publicly praised his country’s relationship with Beijing in October 2011. Skerrit commented that “China has demonstrated to all of us its sincerity and willingness to assist us in time of need [sic] and we will thank them profusely for that kind of assistance.”[4] This statement was in reference to Chinese investments in resettlement projects to aid the citizens of Dominica that were affected by floods on its west coast that year. Other Chinese projects on the island include the construction of the Dominica State College, the State House, and a housing program, under a USD 14 million loan agreement.
In Guyana, President Bharrat Jagdeo told the Caribbean Community back in September 2011 that the entire bloc should make efforts to deepen their relations with China. The head of state declared during the two-day China-Caribbean Economic and Trade Cooperation Forum that “in the last 10 years, China’s exports have consistently accounted for more than 70 per cent of Dominica’s total trade. In 2008, 93 per cent of Caribbean-China trade consisted of Beijing’s exports to the region. The region itself exported significantly (over US$60 million in goods) to China in that year.”[5] China has exhibited a growing demand for the region’s raw materials, including gas and asphalt from Trinidad and Tobago, and timber, bauxite, and other minerals from Guyana. In December 2011, Florida International University’s Applied Research Center published a Findings Report entitled “Guyanese Strategic Culture: Leaders Leveraging Landscapes” by renowned Caribbean expert Ivelaw Lloyd Griffith, which highlighted how Beijing has a great interest in Guyana’s uranium reserves (p. 9). In 2011, Georgetown and Beijing signed a framework agreement for the Amaila Falls Hydropower project.[6]
Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press/AP
Colin Perkel/The Canadian Press/AP
During the aforementioned China-Caribbean forum last September, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Qishan reportedly pledged up to USD 1 billion in preferential loans to support the local economic development of Caribbean countries.[7] In addition, Vice Premier Wang also met with Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and stated that “China encourages its businesses to invest in Trinidad and Tobago with the win-win objectives of mutual benefit,” and an inter-governmental agreement between the two governments that was signed at the end of their meeting.[8]
Another country that has benefited from Chinese investment is Antigua and Barbuda. In January 2011, the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) reported that Beijing will provide USD 45 million to build a new terminal at the C.V. Bird International Airport, which will take three years to complete. A delegation of the Chinese government was sent to the Caribbean state to sign an agreement that finalized this investment deal. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer used the visit “to re-state his country’s ‘determination to remain a true friend of the People’s Republic of China.’”[9] One member of the Chinese delegation that visited Antigua was State Councilor Liu Yandong, who remarked that “since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Antigua and Barbuda on Jan. 1, 1983, the two countries’ cooperation [has] developed in a sustainable and stable way.”[10] In November 2011, a 20-member delegation from China’s National People’s Congress visited the island, which again included “officials from the country’s Standing Committee and a member of the NPC’s Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee.”[11] The delegation met with Prime Minister Spencer and visited local sites like Nelson’s Dockyard, and signed cooperation agreements.
  • Source: Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
  • Source: Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
Finally, in a January finding by the Associated Press’ Jeff Todd, he explains how China’s state-owned Export-Import Bank has agreed to finance a new port and bridge in the Bahamas’ northern island of Abaco.[12] Chinese financial aid for both projects will consist of a USD 41 million loan, of which USD 33 million will be used for a thirty-five acre port, while the rest will be used to build the Little Abaco Bridge, which “will allow the government to remove the causeway connecting Great and Little Abaco as well as restore natural flow to the mangrove forest and other natural habitat in the area,” according to Environment Minister Earl Deveaux.
Diplomatic Support and Cooperation
Aside from developing an economic presence, China also has shown its diplomatic support, as well as sympathy, for Latin American and Caribbean initiatives, particularly those that are trying to detach regional nations from Washington’s diplomatic sphere of influence. For example, in December 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao congratulated Presidents Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and Sebastián Piñera of Chile on the formation of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). The Chinese state news agency, Xinhua, reported that “Hu said that the establishment of CELAC represents a major milestone in regional integration and that China appreciates the positive role of Latin American and Caribbean countries in international and regional affairs.”[13] As He Li explains in a 2005 article entitled “Rivalry between Taiwan and the PRC in Latin America” [14] Beijing also “wants to use the Third World to construct a multi-polar world based on China’s terms. Since the end of the cold war, Beijing wishes to see changes in the global balance of power, and to do so requires a network of allies from the Third World, including those from Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Beijing has also improved relations with a number of Caribbean nations outside the realm of trade and investment. In October 2011, China pledged military assistance worth USD 1.1 million to the Jamaican Defence Force (JDF). JDF Chief of Defence Staff, Major General Antony Anderson stated that the “allotment that has been apportioned, and discussions over the next few months with members of the Chinese government, and the People’s Liberation Army, will determine how best it will be spent.”[15]
As part of a series of regional diplomatic initiatives last November, Prime Minister of Guyana Samuel Hinds received the “Medal of China –Latin America Friendship.” The award was bestowed by a delegation of the Chinese Peoples’ Association for Friendship with Peoples from Foreign Countries (CPAFPFFC) that was visiting the area at the time. Additionally, Premier Wen Jiabao had the patience to describe Barbados as a “good friend” and an “important partner” to China, which is logical since the country supports the “one China” policy. This statement took place during a visit of Barbadian Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, who called Beijing a “reliable partner.”[16] These non-earth-shaking events are understandable when one is aware of the tentacles of Beijing’s “One China” policy and its search for reliable partners throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Lastly, it is important to note that China has sent security personnel to Haiti as part of its participation in the controversial United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). Groups like the Haitian Action website have been critical of the contingent that has been serving in the UN mission since 2004, stating that
“They were accused of involvement along with Brazilian UN forces in a week-long siege of the community of Bel Air in June 2005. After that operation, the Haitian police had burned down more than twelve homes in the area and more than 30 people were reportedly gunned down in the panic that ensued. The Chinese were also accused by members of Aristide’s Lavalas movement of taking video and photographs during peaceful demonstrations that were later used to persecute them for their political stance.”[17]
According to MINUSTAH’s website, four Chinese nationals working for the UN police were tragically killed during the January 12, 2010, earthquake.[18]
Then again, there have been several diplomatic incidents between China and Caribbean states, particularly in Haiti. Writing for the Brown Journal of World Affairs in a 2006 article, University of Miami professor June Dreyer explained that: “in 1996, Beijing, angry because the vice president of Taiwan had been invited to Rene Preval’s presidential inauguration, threatened to use its veto in the United Nations Security Council to end a UN peacekeeping operation in Haiti.”[19]
Beijing vs. Taipei
Certainly a critical aspect regarding the extent of Chinese interests in the Caribbean, as previously has been reflected upon, is Beijing’s interest for Caribbean islands to adopt mainland China’s negative stance on Taiwan. In the past few years, China has taken an aggressive approach in attempting to dissuade Taipei’s ability to invest in this region. Since eleven out of twenty-three of Taiwan’s surviving diplomatic relationships can be found within the Greater Caribbean,[20] it is of distinct importance for China to ensure that it maintains robust ties with Latin American and Caribbean countries for political reasons, while also managing to limit Taipei’s involvement in the region. Without including the Central American states, the Caribbean nations that currently recognize Taiwan are the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, as well as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
Currently, the longstanding diplomatic competition between the two Chinas seems to be cooling down, due to incumbent Taiwanese president Ma Ying-jeou being re-elected.[21] It seems clear that President Ma wants to promote a peaceful path towards cross-strait relations development, and hence the subtle tug-of-war over diplomatic recognition seems, at least for the time being, to be coming to an end.
Taiwan’s Victories and Losses
The diplomatic battle described as “Money Diplomacy” being Beijing and Taipei usually encapsulates investment and lending, development aid, technical assistance, and academic cooperation. Taipei sees such initiatives as paramount and aims to maintain it via investment and economic aid initiatives, though there has been concern in the past that Santo Domingo may terminate its recognition of Taiwan. In October 2010, the Bank of China and China’s Foreign Trade Bank stated they would extend USD 462 million in financing for an exclusive tourism complex in Punta Perla in the eastern part of the Dominican Republic. In response, James Chang, a spokesman for the Taiwanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated that “our embassy will closely monitor the situation. However, the Republic of China does not oppose trade relations between the private sectors of our allies and those in China.”[22] Another recent discussion between Taiwan and one of its Caribbean allies is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In mid-February, Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Permanent Representative to the United Nations, met with Taiwanese officials over the construction of the Caribbean country’s international airport and other issues. The airport is scheduled for completion in 2013 and is largely dependent on foreign investment; Taiwan signed a MoU in 2006 for a $15 million grant and a $10 million soft loan.[23]
Taiwan lost an ally last decade when the Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, decided to sever relations with Taiwan in favor of China last decade. Writing for NACLA’s Report on the Americas, Professor Diana Thorburn, a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, explained that the Taiwan-China issue had become an election issue in 2005. Thorburn explains that the issue “overshadowed” the general elections and that “Taiwanese flags adorned the homes of opposition supporters.”[24] A March 2004 BBC report explained that, at the time, “China had agreed to give Dominica more than $100 million in aid over the next five years. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister, Eugene Chien, condemned what he called China’s dollar diplomacy in so aggressively wooing away Dominica. He said it was a huge sum for a country with just 70,000 people.”[25]
In addition, Taiwan is currently at odds with Grenada as the Caribbean government seems to be currently unable to pay a loan owed by St Georges after the closure of Maurice Bishop International Airport.[26] Grenada recognized Taiwan until 2005, when the Caribbean state had a crippling debt and took Beijing’s financial aid to switch diplomatic recognition. A March 5 report by Ezra Fieser in the Christian Science Monitor explains that “seven years later, playing up to China’s game of dollar diplomacy has come back to haunt Grenada. Taiwan is now calling in loans it made when the countries were diplomatic allies.”[27]
At least, Taiwan can rest assured that its relations with Saint Lucia remain in good standing. In January of this year, there were rumors that Castries would sever relations with Taipei after a new government came to power last November. A CaribDirect report explains that “Kenny Anthony, the island nation’s new prime minister, had previously accused Taiwan’s Ambassador Tom Chou of influencing St. Lucia’s election by supporting the then-ruling United Workers Party (UWP) and added he would review the diplomatic relations with Taiwan after taking power.”[28] However, the new Prime Minister, member of the Labour Party, reverted the island’s policy after coming to power and has sustained relations with Taipei. Saint Lucia is one of those countries which has switched its recognition back to Taipei from Beijing in the past. It first established relations with Taiwan in 1984, switched to recognizing China in 1997 and then switched back to Taiwan in 2007.
In order to foster more trade, between Taiwan and the Caribbean, the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) sent a trade mission to Saint Lucia and Puerto Rico last October to carry out meetings and exhibitions. In a press release at the time, TAITRA explained that the mission would “[bring] the latest products as well as new opportunities for business and trade. The delegation comprises 6 dynamic enterprises representing various industries, including industrial machinery, electronics, hardware, toys, and foods.”[29]
Finally, Taiwan has been very active in the reconstruction efforts in Haiti after the devastating January 2010 earthquake that struck the Caribbean state. In February 2012, Food for the Poor, the largest charitable organization in the United Sates, publicly praised Taipei’s post-disaster efforts, going as far as inviting Ray Mou, director-general of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Miami, to take part in a charity dinner that would raise funds to build villages in Haiti.[30]
Chinese Migration: A Topic Not Often Discussed
There is an issue regarding Chinese presence in the Caribbean that is relatively under-studied, and that is Chinese migration to these island states. Large segments of the Chinese population have moved, lived, and flourished throughout the world, and the Caribbean is no exception. Unfortunately, not much has been written about Chinese migration to the Caribbean; hence more in-depth field research is needed in order to begin building a much more complete picture of the situation in the region.
In an interview with COHA, a Puerto Rican lawyer who has researched Chinese migration patterns explained that “there was little migration to the island in the 19th century, particularly compared to the migration that occurred in the 1990s and early years of this century.” According to the 2010 U.S, census, there are around 2,000 individuals who regard themselves as Chinese in Puerto Rico, but Bu Dey Chen (who goes as Carlos Chao), a Chinese government official in Puerto Rico, has stated that the number is closer to 6,000.[31] The aforementioned lawyer explained that the Chinese community is a tight nit group so not much is reported about them. In any case, Chinese migrants to the island have, for the most part, managed to flourish, opening their own restaurants and businesses, quickly becoming part of the upper middle class. There are also professors of Chinese descent in institutes of higher learning like the University of Puerto Rico in Mayaguez.
An important academic text that has researched this issue is The Chinese in Latin America and the Caribbean (2009), edited by Walton Lok Lai and Tan Chee-Beng. This important research project includes chapters that touch on Sinophobia in the late 19th century/early 20th century in the Americas and the Chinese in Central America. An interesting chapter of the edited volume was authored by Kathleen Lopez and discussed the Chinese in Cuba; the article starts with explaining how each June 3rd, elderly Cubans and diplomats from the PRC meet in the Regla port to commemorate the arrival of the first shipload of 200 Chinese laborers in 1847 (p.211). The article gives a very complete picture of the migration waves that have settled in Cuba, particularly in Havana.
Another academic text that touches on this issue is a 2008 piece by Shin Yamamoto, a professor of Yoccachi University in Japan. In his analysis, the academic explains that
“the Chinese community is counted as one of the three major races in the Caribbean alongside Africans and East Indians because of their economic power. Many chain restaurants or film developing stores are run or owned by Chinese; the youngsters in Jamaica, respectfully or just from their desire to get money or bottles of Coke, call them ‘Sir Chin’ or ‘Miss Chin.”[32]
Yamamoto highlights the case of Sean Paul, a famous Jamaican reggae artist, who is an example of intercultural relations in the Caribbean. The artist’s mother is Chinese Jamaican and his father is Portuguese Jamaican.
Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, understanding the Chinese diaspora in the Caribbean and how well it has merged with local cultures over the years is a field that has to be researched in greater depth. One academic that has carried out important research on the topic is Lok Siu, an Associate Professor at the University of Austin, that co-edited (with Rachel Parenas) Asian Diasporas: New Formations, New Conceptions.
A September 2011 article in the Jamaican Observer explains, according to an official of the European Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago, that the Caribbean attracts a large number of illegal immigrants from China, among other poor countries.[33] The article quotes the Charge d’Affaires at the European Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago, Stelios Christopoulos, as saying that “very little data is available to establish the in and outflow of people from and to Caribbean countries. From what we do know however, the Caribbean has one of the largest diasporic communities in the world, in proportion to the population.”[34]
The Caribbean states, due to their lack of abundance of supply of natural resources, and its scant potential for economic growth, and the controversial nature of Taiwan’s recognition, means that many regional states can expect to be actively courted by Beijing and Taipei simultaneously . Currently, a number of regional governments recognize Taiwan as an independent state, but this could certainly change in the future, particularly if China threatens to take its business elsewhere unless these nations alter their stance to reflect the one-China policy. The issue of Chinese migration to the Caribbean, both historical and current, is an important topic which is worthy of further research, particularly as Chinese laborers continue to permanently relocate to the Caribbean. In any case, the speed of globalization means that the Caribbean, so geographically distant from Asia, nevertheless is becoming a very important front in the struggle for political influence, financial investments, as well as an important component of the struggle over state recognition dispute between China and Taiwan.

[1] China, Jamaica agree to strengthen ties. Xinhua news agency. Sept 20, 2011. In n BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring September 21. 2011.

[2] Chinese vice premier visits Jamaica. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency. 20 Sep 11 In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring September 21, 2011.

[3] Jamaican cabinet approves tax agreement with China's Macao. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website. Nov 24, 2011. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. November 25, 2011.

[4] Premier of Dominica defends relationship with China. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website 24 Oct 11. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. Oct 25, 2011.

[5] Guyana urges Caribbean countries to forge closer economic ties with China. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website. 13 Sep 11. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

September 14, 2011.

[6] Guyana premier to receive Chinese award. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website. 17 Nov 10. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. November 17, 2010. Also see

[7] China to provide 1bn-dollar loan to Caribbean countries. official Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency). 13 Sep 11. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring

September 13, 2011.

[8] Visiting Chinese vice-premier discuss ties with Trinidadian PM. Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency). 13 Sep 11. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. September 13, 2011 .

[9] China provides 45m dollars for airport and other projects in Antigua. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website. 3 Jan 11. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. January 4 2011.

[10] Antigua and Barbuda governor discusses cooperation with Chinese official. Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency). 1 Jan 11. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. January 1, 2011.



[13] China president congratulates Latin American nations for founding organization. Xinhua news agency. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. December 4, 2011.

[14] He Li. “Rivalry between Taiwan and the PRC in Latin America.” Journal of Chinese Political Science, vol. 10, no. 2, Fall 2005

[15] China to provide military aid to Jamaica. Caribbean Media Corporation news agency website. 23 Aug 11. In BBC Monitoring Latin America – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring. August 23, 2011.

[16] Chinese premier pledges to boost economic ties with Barbados. Chinese news agency Xinhua (New China News Agency). 13 Jun 11. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring.

June 13, 2011.



[19] June Dreyer. “From China With Love: P.R.C. Overtures in Latin America.“ Brown Journal of World Affairs. WINTER/SPRING 2006 • VOLUME XII, ISSUE 2.

[20] Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Taiwan.


[22] Taiwan reaffirms ties with Dominican Republic after Chinese investment reports. Taiwanese Central News Agency website. 18 Oct 10. In BBC Monitoring Asia Pacific – Political Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring.

October 18, 2010.


[24] Diana Thorburn. Remapping Caribbean Geopolitics. Report: Our Caribbean. NACLA Report on the Americas. May-June 2006.








[32] Shin Yamamoto. Swaying in time and space: the Chinese Diaspora in the Caribbean

and its literary perspectives. Asian Ethnicity. Vol. 9, No. 3, October 2008, 171–177.