Published On: Mon, Jan 15th, 2018

CARICOM responds to Trumps “shithole” comments

caricom-740GEORGETOWN - The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said it is deeply disturbed by reports about the use of derogatory and repulsive language by the president of the United States in relation to CARICOM member state, Haiti, and other developing countries.

Last week, US President Donald Trump called Haiti and Africa “shitholes” during an immigration meeting with members of Congress, asking, “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” He added that America should be bringing in more people from countries like Norway.

“CARICOM condemns in the strongest terms, the unenlightened views reportedly expressed,” the regional bloc said in a statement.

Of additional concern to CARICOM is this pattern of denigrating Haiti and its citizens in what seems to be a concerted attempt to perpetuate a negative narrative of the country.

“We are especially saddened that such narrative emerged around the time of the anniversary of the devastating 2010 earthquake, which took so many lives of citizens in that country,” the statement said.

CARICOM expressed its full support for the dignified statement of the government of Haiti in reaction to this highly offensive reference, recalling that Haiti is the second democracy in the Western Hemisphere after the United States and that Haitians continue to contribute significantly in many spheres to the global community and particularly to the United States of America.

“CARICOM therefore views this insult to the character of the countries named and their citizens as totally unacceptable,” the statement concluded.

A statement was also issued by the vice-chancellor of The University of the West Indies (UWI), Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, at its regional headquarters in Kingston, Jamaica.

“Haiti’s Caribbean vision illuminated America’s way out of its colonial darkness. This is the debt President Trump’s America owes Toussaint L’Ouverture’s Haiti. It’s a debt of philosophical clarity and political maturity. It’s a debt of how to rise to its best human potential. It’s a debt of exposure to higher standards. Haiti is really America’s Statue of Liberty.

“The president’s truth making troops might not know, and probably care little for the fact that Haitian people were first in this modern world to build a nation completely free of the human scourge of slavery and native genocide. It might be worthless in their world view that Haiti’s leadership made the Caribbean the first civilization in modernity to criminalize and constitutionally uproot such crimes against humanity and to proceed with sustainability to build a nation upon the basis of universal freedom,” Beckles said.

“Haiti was and will remain this hemisphere’s mother of modern democracy; and the Caribbean, the cradle of the first ethical civilization. For President Trump, therefore, to define the Caribbean’s noble heroes of human freedom, whose sacrifice empowered and enlightened his nation in its darkest days, as a site of human degradation is beyond comprehension. It is a brutal bashing of basic truths that are in need, not of violation, but celebration,” he continued.

The Haitian government had earlier condemned in the strongest terms Trump’s hateful and abject remarks.

“It should be remembered that the destinies of Haiti and the United States of America have crossed since 1779 when 500 Haitian soldiers led by General Lafayette fought alongside American troops in the war of independence. Similarly in 1814 several hundred Haitians took part in the battle of New Orleans to protect the independence of the United States of America when the British wanted to regain their former colony,” the Haitian government pointed out.

Following the insulting remarks by Trump, Antonio Rodrigue, the minister of foreign affairs, on Friday summoned Robin Diallo, the chargé d’affaires at the US embassy in Haiti, to discuss the issue.

Coincidentally, in an extensive expose by Buzzfeed News of secretive, all-cash transactions that enable buyers of Trump’s US condominiums to avoid legal scrutiny by shielding their finances and identities, the article noted that the Haitian government claimed that ousted dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier laundered stolen treasury funds when he bought Trump Tower apartment 54-K for $446,875 in August 1983. Duvalier used a Panama shell company called Lasa Trade and Finance to buy the apartment in cash. Trump signed the deed of sale.

Meanwhile, the African Union’s mission to the United Nations met in emergency session and released a statement saying it is “extremely appalled at, and strongly condemns the outrageous, racist and xenophobic remarks attributed to the president of the United States of America as widely reported by the media.”

The group demanded an apology and said it is “concerned at the continuing and growing trend from the US administration towards Africa and people of African descent to denigrate the continent and people of colour.”

Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo tweeted that “The language of [DonaldTrump] that the African continent, Haiti and El Salvador are ‘shithole countries’ is extremely unfortunate. We are certainly not a ‘shithole country’. We will not accept such insults, even from a leader of a friendly country, no matter how powerful.”

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham noted that “America is an idea, not a race.” Diversity was a strength, he said, not a weakness, adding that he himself was a descendant of immigrants who came to the United States from “shithole countries with no skills”.

Juergen Steinmetz, the chairman of the International Coalition of Tourism Partners (ICTP), a leading global travel and tourism organization, also weighed in on Trump’s “shithole countries” remark, noting that, whether travelers are visiting the United States from a “shithole country” or from Norway, the US welcomes tourists and immigrants with open arms.

“As a proud American who came here from Germany, as someone who has been dedicated to our wonderful global community of travel and tourism professionals, as the chairman of ICTP with destination members from around the globe, and as the publisher of eTN (eTurboNews), a leading global travel industry publication, I’m embarrassed, and I’m sure the majority of our great American people are simply speechless, hearing our nation’s president referring to some immigrants in the US as coming from a shithole country,” Steinmetz said.

“Make no mistake. It’s not him who makes America great – it’s every single one of us, no matter where you came from, what your religious beliefs are, and no matter who you love and what the colour of your skin is. I do mean ALL of us.

“Many of these great Americans that came here from these “shithole countries” contribute to our society, some in a very big way, some in a smaller way, some serve our armed forces – the same as those that were born here or came from non-shithole countries like Norway,” he said.

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