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Just Caribbean Updates (Jan. 7, 2022)

Cuba’s vaccination success


Cuba has inoculated the majority of its population against Covid-19, using nationally developed vaccines. The country has vaccinated 91 percent of people with at least one dose, and fully vaccinated 83 percent of the population — of countries with populations of over a million, only the United Arab Emirates has a stronger vaccination record, reports the Guardian. Nearly all of Cuba’s children aged 2 to 18 have now been vaccinated, reports Reuters.
 
After registering less than 100 cases a day for weeks, infection rates are now rising due to the highly contagious Omicron variant. The Cuban ministry of public health has fast-tracked its booster campaign, and aims to give almost the entire population an extra shot of vaccine this month.
 
Cuba has begun commercial exports of the three-dose Abdala vaccine to Vietnam and Venezuela. This week, Mexico’s health safety council has approved the use of Cuba’s three-dose Abdala coronavirus vaccine. (Associated Press)
 
The vaccines, which can be produced affordably and do not require deep-freezing, are seen by international health officials as a potential source for much needed doses in low-income countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia — but Cuba has not yet published results of its large-scale clinical trials in peer-reviewed journals, nor has it submitted the documents required by the World Health Organization for approval of its vaccines.
 

Covid-19 Vaccinations in the Caribbean
 
Guadeloupe anti-vaccine protests continue
 
The French government declared a “state of health emergency” for Guadeloupe and several other overseas territories this week, citing a “considerable rise” in coronavirus cases due to omicron’s fast spread.” The measure allows the government to issue decrees that temporarily curtail freedoms, including restrictions on movements, trade, entrepreneurship and gatherings. (AFP)
 
The declaration followed an attack against a hospital director and other medical staff by dozens of anti-vaccination protesters in Guadeloupe, following recent violent demonstrations against vaccines and COVID-19 restrictions, reports the Associated Press. A health workers’ union that organized Tuesday’s demonstration and previous ones that turned violent to protest vaccine requirements and other measures told local media that members are seeking to recover lost wages after being suspended for refusing to become vaccinated as required by law.
 
The current social unrest in Guadeloupe and Martinique has brought international attention back to the critical issue of chlordecone pollution in these Caribbean islands. This highly toxic insecticide, banned since 1993 throughout France, has been named as one of the key factors behind the social unrest provoked by the Covid-19 situation. Chlordecone has poisoned, to varying degrees, more than 90% of the population of the two islands, according to Santé publique France and Inserm, and has left many residents mistrustful of French authorities’ health policies. (AFP)
 
Democratic Governance and Corruption

Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called a snap general election for January 19, this week. The move came just weeks after the country removed Queen Elizabeth II as its head of state and became the world’s youngest republic, reports Deutsche Welle.  There are 108 persons vying for seats across the 30 constituencies of Barbados, reports Loop News.

Audits of Guyana’s government expenditure in 2020 were hampered by the absence of pertinent records. According to an official report presented by officials to the National Assembly, 1328 payment vouchers totaling $2.806 billion were not presented for the 2020 audit. (Kaieteur News)

Migration

Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne said the government is considering granting an amnesty to undocumented migrants as he urged all people on the islands to work together to rebound economically and socially from the pandemic. (The Caribbean Alert)

Climate Justice and Energy

Developing countries fought hard for a dedicated loss and damage funding facility, a formal body set up under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to provide new financial support to affected nations. But the final Glasgow climate pact last year made no reference to climate finance to address the rising costs of losses and damages in developing countries. Campaigners say vulnerable nations need at least $300 billion a year to respond to loss and damage in 2030. Developing countries say this recovery finance should be in addition to money set aside for climate mitigation and adaptation, which falls under a global climate finance pledge. (BBC)

Guyanese experts say anger over the terms of Exxon’s oil contract and questions over the awarding of the Canje field speak to broader problems with how the sector is being managed, reports CBC News.

An alliance of Caribbean organizations have objected to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for the Exxon-led Yellowtail project in the Stabroek Block offshore Guyana, saying that regional states that could potentially be affected were excluded from the process, reports Stabroek News.
Jamaica’s government reduced the area that will be offered to the Noranda Jamaica Bauxite Partners II for mining close to the Cockpit Country, but critics say significant concerns remain, reports Petchary’s Blog.

Colombia’s judiciary suspended a coast guard base construction in Providencia based on potential environmental impact, reports El Espectador.

Economics, Debt and Finance

CARICOM countries have been arguing that GDP should not be the only determinant of development status and eligibility for concessionary financing. The size and vulnerability of countries to economic shocks and natural disasters must be considered. (Jamaica Gleaner)

Food Security

Puerto Rico was once a thriving agricultural hub thanks to its tropical climate, rich biodiversity, and sustainable farming traditions. But now the island imports 85 percent of its food, grocery prices are among the highest in the US and last year two in five people experienced food insecurity, reports the Guardian, which profiles three farms that are part of the agroecology movement that seeks food sovereignty and climate solutions.

Public Security

The United States charged Mario Antonio Palacios, a retired Colombian commando, with taking part in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse of Haiti. He is the first suspect to face U.S. prosecution in the crime, reports the New York Times. (See yesterday’s briefs.)
A criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Florida in November and unsealed yesterday said that Palacios gave “voluntary statements” to U.S. law enforcement officials during an October interview in Jamaica, where he was detained after fleeing Haiti. The complaint alleges that Palacios was part of a group of some 20 Colombian ex-military personnel, several Haiti-based Haitian Americans and others who participated in the plot to kill Moïse, reports the Washington Post.

Though Palacios is a key suspect in Moïse’s assassination the fact that he has not been formally charged may have played a role in Jamaica’s failure to adhere to a request by Haitian authorities to extradite him to Port-au-Prince, reports the Miami Herald.

The other 19 Colombian mercenaries detained in Haiti in relation to the assassination remain in a legal limbo, in jail without access to lawyers, reports El País. Their families say the mercenaries have been tortured and coerced into confessing.

Development

Latin American and Caribbean governments face a conundrum: “Their aspirations of leveraging Chinese resources to finance national development and other objectives versus the very real risks that engaging with Chinese entities can bring,” argue Leland Lazarus and Evan Ellis in the Diplomat. “A lack of due diligence, corruption, and a disregard for indigenous rights and the environment have characterized many Chinese infrastructure projects in the region.”
Gender

Affordable and accessible childcare services are a pathway out of poverty for some single mothers in the Caribbean. Addressing the Commonwealth Women Parliamentarians Regional Conference, UN Women MCO Caribbean Programme Specialist Isiuwa Iyahen said a mixed intervention approach may be needed. (UN Women)

Opportunities

Jamaicans For Justice (JF) is inviting human rights activists and critical thinkers to lend their voice to its upcoming Justice Report.
CATAPULT, a COVID-19 relief grant, aims to aid 300 creatives in the Caribbean with grants worth $500 USD. Apply

We welcome comments and critiques on the Just Caribbean Updates. You can see the Updates on our website, as well as receive it directly through the mailing list. Thank you for reading.
 


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