Trump-Pompeo Parting Shots Hurt the Caribbean
As they are preparing to exit the
White House and the State Department on January 20, the outgoing Donald
Trump administration has planted some explosives for the foreign policy
of the government of Joseph Biden Jr.
A grenade has
already been thrown into policies that Antony Blinken, Biden's
nominated Secretary of State, might pursue in relation to Cuba and,
consequently, the Caribbean region.
In the dying
days of his tenure as Secretary of State and only nine days before
Blinken takes over the reins of U.S. foreign policy, Mike Pompeo placed
Cuba on a list of State Sponsors of Terrorism that the U.S. draws up
As the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM)
stated on January 13, the listing of Cuba as a sponsor of state
terrorism is "baseless." Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of
government on the same day were unequivocal in their view that "Cuba's
international conduct does not in any way warrant that designation."
In pursuing this pugnacious policy against Cuba, including
unravelling the painstakingly weaved policy of the previous Obama
administration to try to normalize relations between Cuba and the U.S.,
Trump's government is seeking to maintain the support of
Cuban-Americans in Florida both for raising money for his political
activity in the coming years and to be able to deliver the state for a
presidential candidate he favours -- maybe even for himself in 2024. As
Juan Gonzalez, the incoming senior director for Western Hemisphere in
the Biden National Security Council, has pointed out, securing Florida
for the 2020 presidential election was the principal motivation of
Trump's Cuba policy throughout his term in office.
publicized is a corollary of the Trump-Pompeo Cuba policy for the
countries of CARICOM. Less than a month ago, the U.S. government sent a
questionnaire to Caribbean countries. The answers will be used to
compile its annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report that is
submitted to the U.S. Congress. The December questionnaire included a
new and sinister section related specifically to workers from China and
In relation to Cuba -- from which every
Caribbean country has sought and received -- vital help through the
provision of medical personnel, the U.S. asks questions which are
entirely the business of a sovereign State, or the business of
sovereign States which have entered contracts. The questions intrude
glaringly on State rights. Were the same questions put to the
government of the U.S., it would quite rightly firmly reject the very
audacity of asking them.
Trafficking in persons is
a very troubling activity. It is one that every country should combat
vigorously. In this regard, it is true to say that Caribbean countries
have worked diligently with the U.S. to try to stamp out the activity,
related to what amounts to modern-day slavery in its worse form, and at
its best to the criminal exploitation of vulnerable persons,
particularly women and girls.
However, this attempt
by the outgoing Trump administration to include Cuban medical workers
and professionals, serving Caribbean governments, is an attempt to
politicize an otherwise noble cause. The objective appears to be the
classification of Cuban medical personnel as "trafficked persons,"
thereby implicating both Cuba and Caribbean governments in criminal
activity. The latter would be the weaponizing of a policy against
countries that discards cooperation against crime and replaces it with
The implications of this are quite
serious and will be a priority of the work of Caribbean countries with
the Biden administration and the U.S. Congress because of the dangers
posed to them.
Under the U.S. TIP Act,
the non-trade related, and non-humanitarian assistance can be withdrawn
from any country considered not to be in compliance "with minimum
standards for the elimination of trafficking" and "is not making
significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with such
standards." Of course, the determination of what is "minimum standards"
and "significant efforts" is made entirely by officials of the U.S.
Every year, the TIP report classifies
countries from Tier 1 (the most acceptable) to Tier 3 (the least
acceptable). Of the 14 independent CARICOM countries, two of them --
the Bahamas and Guyana -- were listed in 2020 at Tier 1. Seven
countries were in Tier 2. These were: Antigua and Barbuda, Haiti,
Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and
Trinidad and Tobago. On the Tier 2 Watch List were Barbados and Belize.
For unclear reasons, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis appear
in none of the Tiers. In the event, no Caribbean country is at the
worst level -- Tier 3.
However, if the presence of
Cuban personnel in CARICOM countries becomes a criterion for the U.S.
to unilaterally declare a human trafficking offence, this will injure
U.S. relations with CARICOM countries for no good reason, since U.S.
security and U.S. values are not threatened in any way.
addition to the U.S. TIP questionnaire of a section on Cuban and
Chinese workers fitted well with the anti-China, anti-Cuba stance of
the Trump administration to serve its domestic political agenda.
How much of this booby trap left for the Biden administration
is known to its incoming State Department and National Security teams
is not clear, but the Caribbean must regard advising them as a
priority. The next U.S. TIP report will be published and sent to the
U.S. Congress in June.
The U.S. publication Foreign
Policy recently quoted a U.S. official as saying that
Pompeo's team is engaged in "parting shots deliberately aimed at
hampering the incoming administration's foreign policy." Where the
Caribbean's interests are affected by those "parting shots," the region
must act in unity to safeguard them.
Ronald Sanders is Ambassador of Antigua and Barbuda to the United
States and the Organization of American States. He is also a Senior
Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of
London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto.
This article was published in
Volume 51 Number 1 - January
Trump-Pompeo Parting Shots Hurt the Caribbean - Sir