Published On: Thu, Dec 7th, 2017


Jacob Gelt DekkerThe Caribbean melting pot of the last 500-years, was ineffective as to achieving a common economy and culture, in today’s global economy. The Caribbean is not a player, and its inhabitants have experienced every shrinking economies and wealth.

What was once the richest trading hub in the world is now a backwater.

The Caribbean, for hundreds of years forged out of colonial settlers and traffic and trade, is fragmented into tiny islands, pebbles that strife to be, or become, sovereign and autonomous entities.

The micro and mini-states, with extreme protectionist efforts, do everything in their power to disable inter-island movement of people, goods, and services. Individual identities and trade barrier protectionism, hand in hand with xenophobia, prevail. Populism and racism fight for dominance and power. The melting pot the Spanish empire once commenced is, at best, no more than a mosaic of many tiny pebbles, of which the common pattern is hard to discern.

Consensus is the foundation for any coalition government composed of minorities. It is the basis of a successful democracy. Identity Politics of the Caribbean lacks such ability.  It upsets the already weak efforts of an economic federation; Caricom is a disaster. And on island levels, governments are weak, have little popular support and minimal authority and respect.

Large numbers of the crumble identities adhere to their own rules and laws.  In morality, we see hundreds of religious congregations, each following their own gods, ethics, and values, others write their own ticket entirely, and all are unable to talk to each other, sit around the table and form consensus.

The situation has become more and more radicalized over the last twenty years, fed by the inability of local governments to improve welfare and wellbeing for their people. Many radicalized populists have chosen to join the shadow economy, away from formal legal regulations. They also often picked up the tools of ruthless violence. The narco-industry eagerly provided the needed infrastructure and tools.   With crime rates in the Caribbean at 20- 30 times those in Europe and the USA, their success in recruitment is unquestionable.

As we speak, the fragmentation has not halted but rather increased. Many islands have become nearly, totally ungovernable by legitimate democracies and have become bulwarks of warlords and organized crime. Desperate Ministers have sounded the alarm bell and warned that all their government structures were totally infiltrated by hoodlum proxies.

Unions, eager to superimpose yet another layer of identity over the already fragmented population, dig in their heals with silly, short-term, unrealistic, self-destructive demands. Lust for power seems to trump everything.

Natural disasters, earthquakes, and hurricanes have almost become a godsend. In a few hours or days, entire hardline communities are wiped out. Corrupt civil servants and politicians are instantly stripped of their tools.

If island communities wish to rebuild after disasters, one can only achieve results with massive foreign relief fund, local joint efforts, and consensus. Too often the world witnesses ordinary dogfights over aid and restructure funds that, in the end, disappeared like snow under the sun.

Months after the major havoc by hurricane IRMA still imposed daily suffering of the population, corrupt politicians are haggling over the world’s demand for checks and balances, for supervision and accountability of relief funds.

A journey along the idyllic islands may be appealing to the cruise ship passengers who observe staged romanticism from the protected confines of their luxury boats. But before they can even scratch the surface, their ship is on the move again.

No successful Caribbean melting pot, but extreme fragmentation, with lawlessness spun into radicalization based on urban narco-terrorism, is what remains behind.

By Jacob Gelt Dekker
Columnist for Curaçao Chronicle

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