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Caribbean updates: Landmark suit against Guyana’s oil extraction ( January 18, 2023)

Caribbean updates

A landmark lawsuit in Guyana seeks to overturn the country’s agreement with ExxonMobil to extract Guyana’s vast stores of petroleum. Lawyer Melinda Janki argues the government’s approval of Exxon’s operations violates constitution’s guarantee of a healthy environment to both current and future citizens, reports Wired Magazine. It is the first case in which this provision has been litigated. (See also Janki’s interview with Democracy Now)

“Climate lawsuits against fossil fuel companies have typically attempted to hold those corporations accountable for the harms of past operations, this one in Guyana seeks to force the company and the government to accept responsibility for the damage they will cause in the future. The case argues that oil development is fundamentally incompatible with human health and a sustainable environment. If successful, it could set an example for climate activists in other countries,” according to Wired.

This suit, and others Janki has brought against Guyana’s oil deal with Exxon “are creating innovative precedents for challenging the major contributors to climate change,” according to some legal scholars.

Last year the United Nations General Assembly recognized the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment as a fundamental human right guaranteed to all. “That has expanded the opportunity for people in any UN member nation to follow Janki’s lead and challenge fossil fuel operations in court by making the case that they are incompatible with these newly enshrined rights.”

That the lawsuit against Exxon is coming from the Global South is particularly meaningful, Antonia Juhasz, the author of the Wired article told Democracy Now. “To have a country that’s experiencing some of the worst impacts of climate change, about to become one of the largest energy producers, also launch this historic lawsuit that could become a precedent to try and stop those operations is just so important.”

“Win or lose, Janki’s efforts and the case are already having an impact,” writes Juhasz in her article, pointing to increasing (though still rare) protests in Guyana against Exxon.

Climate Justice and Energy

  • Guyana’s upcoming bidding round for offshore areas has caught the interest of top energy companies from Asia to Europe, even as the government continues to work out terms for the auction, reports Reuters.
  • Belizean environmental activist Jon Ramnarace, who worked on protected area patrol and marine conservation technology, was shot and killed alongside his brother David in Belmopan on Dec. 31. The main suspect, police corporal Elmer Nah, was taken into custody and charged with two counts of murder and attempted murder, deadly means of harm and dangerous harm. (Mongabay)
  • The adverse effects of climate change have been recorded as having a range of negative human rights impacts on those who are already in vulnerable situations. Climate Tracker looks at how climate change is impacting Dominica’s elderly population.
  • In the face of energy insecurity, the climate crisis is deepening Jamaica’s dependence on fossil fuels, reports Climate Tracker.
  • Breadfruit in the Caribbean has colonial origins, the starchy fruit could become a staple crop in the a warming world, reports Yes Magazine.


  • Migrants from Haiti and Cuba are crossing the Florida Straights in homemade “freedom boats” whose ingenuous construction speaks to the desperation pushing people to make the dangerous journey, writes Jacqueline Charles in the Miami Herald.

Debt, Finance and Economics

  • “The cryptocurrency exchange FTX was supposed to be the crown jewel of the Bahamian government’s push to be the global destination for all things crypto, after years of having an economy overly reliant on tourism and banking,” reports Loop News. “Instead, FTX is bankrupt and Bahamians are trying to figure out what’s next for their country and whether their national crypto experiment has failed. Regulators are trying to locate FTX’s customers’ missing money.”
  • India agreed to Suriname’s request to restructure its debt of $38 million. It is Suriame’s third consecutive debt restructuring program following similar agreements with the Netherlands and France. (CMCWIONews)
  • “The perception of the ‘clean’ onshore jurisdiction versus the ‘dirty’ offshore jurisdiction is one that cannot stand the smell test” and has significant development consequences for the unfairly smeared developing countries, argues Alicia Nicholls, Barbadian international trade specialist, in the IFC Review.

Decolonization, Racial Justice and Reparations

  • The Dutch government’s unilateral decision to apologize to former colonies in the Caribbean for the atrocities of slavery in the region — taken without consultation with affected communities and without any plan for reparations — “leaves a bitter taste in my mouth,” writes Jermain Ostiana in the Guardian. (See Dec. 19’s Just Caribbean Updates.)

Human Rights

  • Stand Up for Jamaica called for Jamaica’s Child Protection and Family Services Agency chief Rosalee Gage-Grey to step down, following reports that the head of a U.S.-based charity organization is accused of making sexually suggestive comments to wards of the state and sending them images and offers which made them uncomfortable. (Jamaica Observer)
  • The senior pastor of one of Bahamas’ largest Baptist churches supported proposted changes to the Sexual Offences Act Amendment that would criminalize marital rape and pushed back against generalizations that all churches were against the move. (Eyewitness News)
  • Haiti’s community is becoming more tolerant towards LGBTQ people, but homophobic violence continues — including two unpunished homophobic beatings last year in the southern Haitian community of Les Cayes — activists told Alturi.

Public Security

  • St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves called on the United States to do more to curb the easy access of illegal weapons and their easy exportation to Latin America and the Caribbean. He decried the proliferation of guns manufactured in the United States and violence associated with the illegal drugs trade as the main cause for the high rate of murders in some Latin American and Caribbean countries. (Nation News)


  • Colombian Raizal Cuisine, written with the aim of highlighting the gastronomic culture of the Caribbean island territory, was awarded at the ‘Gourmand Awards’ in Europe, as the best cookbook in Latin America. (El Isleño)


  • Sint Maarten’s government has approved a controversial plan to cull its entire population of vervet monkeys, an invasive species that is an increasing nuisance on the Dutch island territory. But critics of the plan, which involves trapping and euthanizing the monkeys, say that sterilization and environment management are better alternatives, reports the Guardian.



  • Oak Human Rights Fellowship with the broad theme of health and human rights. — Apply
  • United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund on Contemporary Forms of Slavery — Apply
  • United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture — Apply

Just Caribbean Updates

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