On 9 August 2007 the 12th CARICOM-Japan consultation was held. Judging from the speeches the co-operation between the two sides for now is not much more that that: speeches. Of course, the attempt is commendable. The Caribbean must try and unify internally and start seeking recognition as such externally. But what we fail to see up to now is an understanding of the international geo-political context and a viable economic and development vision.
Without a clear geopolitical and economic direction ‘have-not nations’ will not get very far. International co-operation does not have to be based on independence. The concept of the nation-state is obsolete anyway, as Europe is proving convincingly. The Caribbean needs massive investments which will more easily come from Europe or the US (or Japan for that matter) than from within. So the logical move forward must be on the one hand internal unification (as in CARICOM) and at the same time the establishment of totally new close ties with Europe and the US, in which the Caribbean can maintain its own regional autonomy but will be flooded with US and EU capital, know-how and overall (global) direction.
The Caribbean, an autonomous region in the New Democratic World Balance
We choose the word ‘autonomy’ with care here. It is not the same as ‘independence’. A unified Caribbean could have been a viable independent nation. This proved elusive and CARICOM keeps on struggling. The arc of small separately independent island-states has not produced what the people expected and will not do so, unless their development is kick-started by a massive economic impulse coupled to credible new political and legal structures.
The Caribbean island-states’ independence is very relative anyway. First of all, outside economic and political forces determine to a large extent what small island-states should and should not do. They usually comply, or are forced to comply. Secondly, internally the Caribbean island-states have not liberated their own people. This appeared to be so at the beginning of independence. But the new political rulers, consciously or unconsciously, copied and perpetuated the mentality that had developed during colonial days. There are new masters, but there is no new free rule. Haiti is the saddest example of this.
New role for the EU and US
We envisage the Caribbean in the emerging New Democratic World Balance as an autonomous region, co-operating closely among themselves and having close new ties with Europe and the US, in which sovereignty is redefined to ensure development. This means, among other things, autonomy instead of independence. Shortly this concept can be described as: ‘Federalism as a development strategy’.
This will probably not be a viable model for Latin America, but for the string of smaller and larger Caribbean island-states we see it as the only viable way out of poverty and deprivation, not to mention patronage, corruption and civil unrest. We believe this model would also include the Guyanas, seeing that French Guyana is already organized in this way and has proved to be quite successful (as compared to ‘independent’ Surinam and Guyana).
Apart from this, the Caribbean region also needs a new economic model. We will return to this aspect separately. Suffice it to say here that such a new model cannot be the ‘neo-liberal model’ as was tried out with disastrous results in Argentina and other Latin American countries. Any new economic strategy or model must empower the masses, but we cannot return to systems that have proved not to work. Therefore, both socialism and ‘neo-liberalism’ are out. Socialism is out for the added reason that it is totalitarian. What the Caribbean needs is freedom. Real freedom and democracy.