Strange Acquaintances

First Published: 2005-07-29

The Bahamas is fast approaching 300 years of Democratic rule, but with the election of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) in 2002, and the appointment of Mr. Fred Mitchell as Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Mr. Leslie Miller as Minister of Trade and Industry, the country has taken a deliberate turn away from its traditional friends.

It is well known that there is a pervasive anti United States sentiment throughout the Caribbean and with the push to join the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), The Bahamas appears to be quietly forging stronger relationships with countries like Cuba, Venezuela and China.

Let's take a brief look at recent developments:

1. The Bahamas accepted a $30,000,000 gift from the Chinese for a National Stadium.

2. The Bahamas is getting set to open Embassies in Cuba and China.

3. The Minister of Trade and Industry has reportedly signed The Bahamas onto an oil deal with Venezuela to get "cheaper oil" on credit.

On the surface these seem like reasonable arrangements, but what's going on behind the scenes?

First, as a result of the "gift" from the Chinese, the country now feels "pressured" over its reported decision to support Japan for a permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council because the Chinese see the Japanese as their adversary.

Second, it is mooted that we need Embassies in Cuba and China because:

a. We may have hundreds of Bahamians in Cuba at any given time,

b. We need to keep a closer eye on Cuba's fast developing tourism market, and

c. The Government is encouraging Bahamian entrepreneurs to do business in China to take advantage of the low cost suppliers there.

However, the high costs to fund and operate these Embassies might be better spent here at home. Maybe The Bahamas Government should consider a less expensive option like a representative office in each country rather than such grandiose plans.

And third, The Bahamas Government has chosen to do business with a Venezuelan leader, who is trying to lead an anti-American coalition, without any public consultation, or the approval of the Cabinet. It would also seem prudent that the Attorney General's Office review the "oil deal" to ensure it does not conflict with The Constitution or other treaties the country might have signed. It is interesting to note that the Energy Cooperation Agreement PetroCaribe does not guarantee a savings on the price of oil below the market value, and the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) seems no less convoluted than the political arrangements of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) or even the Free Trade Area of The Americas (FTAA). This is a major foreign policy decision that requires careful consideration.

While it is desirable to have good relations with all nations, and in true Libertarian spirit, the best defence is to have no enemies, it seems only logical that The Bahamas, a nation with a proud history of democracy, would choose to improve our relations with those nations that have been our traditional base of support and not become entangled with dictators schemes or the Communist doctrine.

For some reason the country now has an inflated ego, with a Foreign Minister and Minister of Trade who appear to believe they are adept enough to play other countries off against the United States.

Why they would choose to do this in the first place is yet unknown, but maybe it will become self evident with the passage of time.

In the meantime, these strange acquaintances may leave The Bahamas swimming in the deep water with the sharks rather than preserving its independence and democracy.

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