Monday, March 4, 2024

Cruise Ship Line Sued Over Passenger Death Onshore.

The wife of a father-of-four who died after diving headfirst off a structure at Roatan island, Honduras during an onshore break from a cruise last year is suing the Royal Caribbean cruise line, according to a report in Newsweek.

Edmund Rucker, 52, died on March 15, 2023, when the Allure of the Seas was docked at Roatan, an island off the coast of Honduras, during a week-long cruise. A fellow cruise passenger who was among three people who pulled Rucker ashore after he jumped off the pier told Newsweek last year that it had taken almost an hour for medical personnel to arrive on the scene.

The 52-year old man had jumped into the water from a high dock and struck his head, leaving him unconscious ultimately leading to his death on a spring break trip with his family.

Photo: https://www.cruiselawnews.com/. It is not known what is the precise purpose of this structure, but evidently it is not safe to dive from.

The accident occurred on March 15th when Mr. Rucker dove from an elevated structure into the water below.

The purpose of the platform is less than clear. The structure may have been previously used to support a zip line which was abandoned years ago. It is currently unknown why the dangerous structure was still available for use by tourists. Many other cruise passengers discussed on message boards that there were no warning signs in place.

Several people indicated that other accidents, including “multiple deaths in the same area,” had happened and that there should be warnings to prevent similar accidents in the future.

Rucker’s wife, Laura Rucker, is now suing Royal Caribbean, alleging the cruise line acted recklessly by encouraging passengers to take part in excursions in Roatan at a time when there were work stoppages and strikes in the health and public safety sectors in Honduras.

Details of the lawsuit filed in Miami, Florida may be seen here.

“What happened to Eddie Rucker and his family is unconscionable,” Mitch Chusid, the family’s lawyer, told Newsweek.

“Passengers on cruise ships need to be made aware that cruise lines often worry about their bottom line at the risk of jeopardizing the health and well-being of the people that choose to travel with them.”

Royal Caribbean “knew that there were strikes in Honduras in the healthcare sector and chose to dock at Roatan anyway because of the revenue generated at this port of call,” Chusid said.

“This resulted in inexcusable delay in emergency medical care available to Mr. Rucker, his tragic death and forever changed the lives of Laura Rucker and her four children.”

Newsweek reached out to Royal Caribbean for comment via email.

Sources: Newsweek, cruiselawnews.com

Doctors Think I Look “Too Young”: Biden Jokes About Age After Medical Exam

President Joe Biden said his annual medical examination had gone well Wednesday, joking that his doctors thought he looked too young to run even as general concern increases over the 81-year-old’s age and mental capacity ahead of November’s US general election.

To be too young to run for the office of President, the candidate would have to be less than 35 years old.

The White House said a summary of the test results from the Walter Reed military medical facility outside Washington would be released later in the day, with the outcome closely followed for details about America’s oldest ever leader.

“They think I look too young,” Biden told reporters when asked if the medical exam had raised any concerns ahead of a likely rematch with 77-year-old Donald Trump in November.

 

“No, there is nothing different from last year,” when his exam said he was fit for duty, Biden added after an event at the White House.

Biden took a short helicopter ride to the medical center that is often used by US presidents and left after just over two and a half hours, saluting naval staff and donning sunglasses before leaving in his motorcade.

The White House said Biden’s longtime doctor Kevin O’Connor was “happy with how everything went”, adding that the assessment had involved a team of 20 physicians.

Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended Biden not taking a cognitive test, saying it was the assessment of his doctors that the president did not need one.

“The president passes again a cognitive test every day,” Jean-Pierre told reporters, citing the domestic and international political issues he dealt with. “This is a very rigorous job.”

Biden’s routine medical exam comes as voter concerns mount over the age of a leader who would be 86 at the end of a second term in office.

The issue was thrust further into the spotlight this month when a brutal special counsel report portrayed Biden as elderly and forgetful, giving ammunition to his Republican rivals.

The investigation cleared him of illegally retaining classified documents in his home and garage — but said he would come across to a jury as a “well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.”

Biden launched a fiery counterattack in a press conference at the White House, saying his memory was “fine” and slamming the special counsel for claiming he could not remember when his son Beau died of cancer.

But this week Biden took a more lighthearted tone while trying to deflect the issue back onto his septuagenarian nemesis Trump.

In an interview with late-night TV comic Seth Meyers on Monday, Biden said he was a better bet than “the other guy,” who is only four years younger. It is not clear whether Biden had forgotten Trump’s name.

In last year’s medical exam, Biden got a clean bill of health, although he did have a cancerous skin lesion removed from his chest.

“President Biden remains a healthy, vigorous, 80-year-old male, who is fit to successfully execute the duties of the Presidency,” O’Connor said following Biden’s medical examination in 2023.

Trump routinely depicts Biden as pathetically old, decrepit and unfit for office — despite being nearly the same age and raising eyebrows with a series of verbal gaffes and memory issues of his own.

The real estate tycoon recently confused his rival Republican Nikki Haley with Democratic former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, and said Viktor Orban was president of Turkey, rather than Hungary.

Late last year, Trump released a note from his doctor declaring him to be in “excellent” health, but it was short on details and did not say what tests Trump had undergone when he had a physical in September 2023.

The letter said the results of his cognitive exams were “exceptional” but did not disclose basic information such as Trump’s height and weight, cholesterol level or blood pressure.

Source: NDTV, Agence France Presse, slightly edited for content and language.

 

Islands Must Generate Less Trash Or Die, Says UN.

With municipal waste set to rise by two thirds and the cost of getting rid of it almost doubling within a generation, only a drastic reduction in the amount of waste produced will secure a liveable and affordable future. That’s what a new UN Environment Programme (UNEP) report says.

Titled ‘Beyond an age of waste: Turning rubbish into a resource’, UNEP’s Global Waste Management Outlook 2024 (GWMO 2024) provides the most substantial update on global waste generation and the cost of waste and its management since 2018.

The analysis uses life cycle assessments to explore what the world could gain or lose through continuing business-as-usual, adopting halfway measures, or committing fully to zero waste and circular economy societies.

According to the report, municipal solid waste generation is predicted to grow from 2.3 billion tonnes in 2023 to 3.8 billion tonnes by 2050. In 2020, the global direct cost of waste management was an estimated USD 252 billion.

However, when factoring in the hidden costs of pollution, poor health and climate change from poor waste disposal practices, the cost rises to USD 361 billion. Without urgent action on waste management, by 2050 this global annual cost could almost double to a staggering USD 640.3 billion.

“Waste generation is intrinsically tied to GDP, and many fast-growing economies are struggling under the burden of rapid waste growth.

By identifying practical steps to a more resourceful future and emphasising the pivotal role of decision-makers in the public and private sectors to move towards zero waste, this Global Waste Management Outlook can support governments seeking to prevent missed opportunities to create more sustainable societies and to secure a liveable planet for future generations,” said Inger Andersen, UNEP’s Executive Director.

“The GWMO 2024 is a guide and call for action to improve collective efforts to support bold and transformative solutions, roll back  the adverse impacts of current waste management practices, and benefit every individual living on this planet.

These actions are instrumental to accelerating the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. As a partner and supporter of the GWMO since its inception, ISWA will ensure it is now disseminated and implemented on the ground by providing the support needed to address the challenges currently observed,” said Carlos Silva Filho, ISWA’s President.

The report’s modelling shows that getting waste under control by taking waste prevention and management measures could limit net annual costs by 2050 to USD 270.2 billion.

However, projections show that a circular economy model, where waste generation and economic growth are decoupled by adopting waste avoidance, sustainable business practices, and full waste management, could in fact lead to a full net gain of USD 108.5 billion per year.

“The findings of this report demonstrate that the world urgently needs to shift to a zero waste approach, while improving waste management to prevent significant pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and negative impacts to human health.

Pollution from waste knows no borders, so it is in everyone’s interests to commit to waste prevention and invest in waste management where it is lacking. The solutions are available and ready to be scaled up. What is needed now is strong leadership to set the direction and pace required, and to ensure no one is left behind,” said Zoë Lenkiewicz, lead author of the report.

The full recording of the online event is available HERE

Eight ways to reduce waste generation that everyone can do.

Source: United Nations, Organization of Eastern Caribbean States.

Apple Will Appeal As European Union Says It Must Pay $2 Billion To Community Chest Over Unfair Music Streaming On Phones.

The European Union announced a massive fine levied on Apple Corporation on Monday, charging the American i-Phone maker nearly $2 billion for breaking Europe’s fair competition laws by directing phone users to its own (rather expensive) music service and not informing users about other services.

In March 2020 French regulatorys fine Apple over $1 million dollars for unfair trade practices and price fixing in the sale of devices.

Apple banned app developers from “fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services outside of the app,” said the European Commission, the 27-nation bloc’s executive arm and top antitrust enforcer.

The three main streaming music services are Amazon music, Spotify, and Apple. Each charges between US$5.99 and US$16.99 for various levels of service. Consumers may prefer one over the other depending on various factors, for example whether they want to listen to entire albums or single songs.

“This is illegal, and it has impacted millions of European consumers,” Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner, said at a news conference.

Apple behaved this way for almost a decade, which meant many users paid “significantly higher prices for music streaming subscriptions,” the commission said.

The 1.8 billion-euro fine follows a long-running investigation triggered by a complaint from Swedish streaming service Spotify five years ago.

The EU has led global efforts to crack down on Big Tech companies, including a series of multbillion-dollar fines for Google and charging Meta with distorting the online classified ad market. The commission also has opened a separate antitrust investigation into Apple’s mobile payments service.

Apple hit back at both the commission and Spotify, saying it would appeal the penalty.

“The decision was reached despite the Commission’s failure to uncover any credible evidence of consumer harm, and ignores the realities of a market that is thriving, competitive, and growing fast,” the company said in a statement.

It said Spotify stood to benefit from the decision, asserting that the Swedish streaming service that holds a 56% share of Europe’s music streaming market and doesn’t pay Apple for using its App Store met 65 times with the commission over eight years.

“Ironically, in the name of competition, today’s decision just cements the dominant position of a successful European company that is the digital music market’s runaway leader,” Apple said.

The commission’s investigation initially centered on two concerns. One was the iPhone maker’s practice of forcing app developers that are selling digital content to use its in-house payment system, which charges a 30% commission on all subscriptions.

But the EU later dropped that to focus on how Apple prevents app makers from telling their users about cheaper ways to pay for subscriptions that don’t involve going through an app.

The investigation found that Apple banned streaming services from telling users about how much subscription offers cost outside of their apps, including links in their apps to pay for alternative subscriptions or even emailing users to tell them about different pricing options.

The fine comes the same week that new EU rules are set to kick in that are aimed at preventing tech companies from dominating digital markets.

The Digital Markets Act, due to take effect Thursday, imposes a set of do’s and don’ts on “gatekeeper” companies including Apple, Meta, Google parent Alphabet, and TikTok parent ByteDance — under threat of hefty fines.

The DMA’s provisions are designed to prevent tech giants from the sort of behavior that’s at the heart of the Apple investigation. Apple has already revealed how it will comply, including allowing iPhone users in Europe to use app stores other than its own and enabling developers to offer alternative payment systems.

The commission also has opened a separate antitrust investigation into Apple’s mobile payments service, and the company has promised to open up its tap-and-go mobile payment system to rivals in order to resolve it.

Sources: VOA, AP, BBC.

Haiti In State Of Emergency As 2 Prisons Busted Open And 3700 Inmates On The Run.

The government of Haiti declared a 72-hour state of emergency on Sunday after armed gangs stormed a major Port-au-Prince prison and another prison in Croix des Bouquets. During the attack 12 people were killed and about 3,700 inmates escaped in the jailbreak, including some of the alleged assassins of former President Jovenel Moise.

Gang leaders say they want to force the resignation of Prime Minister Ariel Henry, who had travelled abroad.

The groups aiming to oust him control around 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Gang violence has plagued Haiti for years.

A government statement said two prisons – one in the capital and the other in nearby Croix des Bouquets – were stormed over the weekend.

It said the acts of “disobedience” were a threat to national security and said it was instituting an immediate night-time curfew in response, which started at 20:00 local time (01:00 GMT on Monday).

Haitian media reported that other police stations were attacked, distracting authorities before the coordinated assault on the jails.

Among those detained in Port-au-Prince were gang members charged in connection with the 2021 killing of President Jovenel Moïse.

The latest upsurge in violence began on Thursday, when the prime minister travelled to Nairobi to discuss sending a Kenya-led multinational security force to Haiti.

Gang leader Jimmy Chérizier (nicknamed “Barbecue”) declared a co-ordinated attack to remove him.

“All of us, the armed groups in the provincial towns and the armed groups in the capital, are united,” said the former police officer, who is thought to be behind several massacres in Port-au-Prince.

Haiti’s police union had asked the military to help reinforce the capital’s main prison, but the compound was stormed late on Saturday.

On Sunday the doors of the prison were still open and there were no signs of officers, Reuters news agency reported. Three inmates who tried to flee lay dead in the courtyard, the report said.

A journalist for the AFP news agency who visited the prison saw around 10 bodies, some with signs of injuries caused by bullets.

One volunteer prison worker told the Reuters news agency that 99 prisoners – including former Colombian soldiers jailed over President Moïse’s murder – had chosen to remain in their cells for fear of being killed in crossfire.

The US embassy in Port-au-Prince on Sunday urged its citizens to leave Haiti “as soon as possible”. The French embassy said it was closing visa services as a “precaution”.

While Haiti has been plagued by gangs for years, the violence has further escalated since President Moïse’s assassination at his home in 2021. He has not been replaced and elections have not been held since 2016.

Under a political deal, Mr Henry was due to stand down by 7 February. But planned elections were not held and he remains in post.

On Monday, Kenyan authorities said the prime minister had returned to Haiti.

Speaking to the BBC’s Newsday, Claude Joseph – who was serving as acting prime minister when President Moïse was assassinated and who is now head of the opposition party called Those Committed to Development – said Haiti was living through a “nightmare”.

Mr Joseph said Prime Minister Henry wanted “to stay as long as possible in charge”.

“He agreed to step down on 7 February. Now he decides to stay, despite the fact that there are huge protests throughout the country asking him to step down – but it’s unfortunate that now those criminals are using violent means to force him to step down.”

In January, the UN said more than 8,400 people were victims of Haiti’s gang violence last year, including killings, injuries and kidnappings – more than double the numbers seen in 2022.

Many health facilities have stopped operating because of the bloodshed.

Anger at the shocking levels of violence, on top of the political vacuum, have led to several demonstrations against the government, with protesters demanding the resignation of the prime minister.

Source: BBC.

Cop Sues New York Police Department Over Out Of Uniform Pictures.

A New York police officer is suing the NYPD claiming that  her nude pictures, which she gave to her former Lieutenant boyfriend while they were dating 12 years ago, were repeatedly shared among fellow cops.

As per a New York Post report, Alisa Bajraktarevic has claimed that her career has derailed. In her Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit, the 34-year-old NYPD Officer, who joined the force in 2012, informed that she sent her pictures to Lt Mark Rivera.

The lawsuit added that Ms Alisa and Lt Rivera dated for a few months in the same year when she joined the department.

However, Lt Rivera allegedly shared her topless pictures in a group text with other cops. In no time, the photos began circulating, she alleged. Ms Bajraktarevic also claimed that union delegates urged her not to file a complaint over the incident.

The report quoted one of the union delegates allegedly telling Alisa, “You are not the first or last woman this has happened to or would happen to.”

The report added that for the first time, the pictures resurfaced in April when  Alisa was accused of interfering with the officers who showed up while she was hanging out with her then-boyfriend, Kelvin Hernandez.

At that time officers surrounded her car in the Bronx, prompting both Alisa and the 33-year-old to ask what was wrong.

Alisa denied that her boyfriend was selling drugs.

Mr Hernandez, who was recording the officers, was charged with resisting arrest, according to his ongoing lawsuit against the department. It may be noted that Mr Alisa was suspended for interfering in the traffic stop of her alleged drug dealer boyfriend.

Continuing further, Ms Alisa added in the lawsuit that once the word about the aforementioned investigation was out, so were her topless pictures.

She said that her pictures were shared in NYPD group chats and text message chains, along with personal information such as her parent’s address.

She was alerted to the resurfaced pic by a union delegate who told her a retired officer sent it to a group chat — and she then received nearly daily messages from colleagues who saw or heard about it, Bajraktarevic said.

In a conversation with the New York Post, Ms Alisa said, “You do things in confidence. It doesn’t warrant you being treated like a piece of s**t.”

“It’s pretty repulsive. For 12 years they decided to keep this on their phone? It spread like wildfire. It’s bullying. I’m not the first and I’m definitely not the last but, when is it going to be enough? Because someone is definitely going to harm themselves over it. It feels like everything was swept under the rug,” she was quoted as saying.

She also shared that NYPD had failed to investigate those who circulated her private images without her consent, “an act which is now against the law”.

While declining to comment, NYPD said that it “does not tolerate discrimination or sexual harassment in any form and is committed to respectful work environments for our diverse workforce.”

Source: NDTV, New York Post.

US Is Parachuting Meals Onto Gaza Beaches, But They’re Not Loving It.

The U.S. air force on Saturday said its C-130 military cargo planes began dropping food parcels over the Gaza Strip, the war-torn enclave sandwiched between Israel and Egypt desperate for humanitarian aid, where overland deliveries of food from Egypt are having difficulty getting through to starving residents.

A “a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza” of over 38,000 meals along the coastline using C-130 aircraft was conducted by U.S. and Jordanian air forces, U.S. Central Command said in a statement.

“We are conducting planning for potential follow-on airborne aid delivery missions,” CENTCOM said.

President Biden on Friday said the U.S. would carry out airdrops in coming days, “redouble our efforts to open a maritime corridor, and expand deliveries by land.”

The Biden administration is also considering shipping aid by sea from Cyprus, according to a US official.

The collapse in the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza has produced gut-wrenching outcomes: Children dying of malnourishment, desperately hungry Palestinians rushing aid trucks to feed their families, and on Thursday morning, scores killed trying to access aid from a convoy going into Gaza City.

The routes to take aid in by land rely on a number of factors, such as border crossings, availability of drivers in Gaza to receive the trucks and drive the supplies where they need to go as well as having clearance from the Israeli military for safe passage.

But the fact that little — or not nearly enough — aid has actually made it into Gaza has prompted several countries to use airdrops to deliver aid. According to the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), a quarter of Gaza’s roughly 2.2 million people are “one step away from famine.

Access to the Gaza Strip has been severely limited since the start of the war on Oct. 7. That’s when Hamas led an attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and kidnapping 240, according to Israeli officials. The Israeli response has killed at least 30,320 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

But what factors need to be considered in using airdrops to deliver aid?

Following Biden’s announcement, the International Rescue Committee issued a statement saying that “airdrops do not and cannot substitute for humanitarian access.” The group also called for “the safe an unimpeded movement of humanitarian aid” to Gaza.

According to a 2021 report by the World Food Program, airdrops, in addition to costing roughly seven times what ground-delivered aid would cost, can deliver aid in smaller amounts than truck convoys, and require a significant amount of ground coordination in the delivery zone.

For one thing, the drop zones need to be designated and cleared — ideally, they’d be open area, no smaller than a soccer field — at least 210 feet by 330 feet.

This is likely why deliveries have been aimed at beaches, but sometimes, as with the airdrops by Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and France, that results in aid falling into the sea. In the case of another Jordanian effort on Thursday, the wind carried some of the aid over into Israel.

“A team on the ground ensures the drop zone is clear and gives the crew onboard the aircraft the green light to release the cargo. They later coordinate the distribution of the food,” it says. There’s no evidence of anyone being on the ground to help with this process in Gaza.

Another issue: The type of aid being sent. While no one argues that any aid is better than no aid, in a 2016 report written at a time when aid was being airdropped into Syria, the International Committee of the Red Cross points out that control of distribution is needed to ensure that people don’t risk their lives from eating the wrong things.

“Delivering sudden and unsupervised types of food to people who are malnourished or even starving can pose serious risks to life. These risks need to be weighed against delivering nothing by air, or the delay a ground distribution may incur,” it reads.

The U.N. first started using airdrops in 1973, when the WFP delivered humanitarian aid to drought-struck areas of Africa’s Western Sahel region.

Source: NPR.

Haiti Police Send SOS As Gangs Close To Taking Prison Holding High Profile Criminals And Assassins.

Armed gangs were close to taking over Haiti’s largest prison on Saturday night, defying police forces who called for help after days of gunfire in parts of the capital as a major gang leader seeks to oust interim Prime Minister Ariel Henry who is currently believed to be out of the country.

Two of the Caribbean country’s main police unions called for assistance to stop inmates, many considered to be high-profile criminals, from fleeing the National Penitentiary in Port-Au-Prince.

It was unclear how many had fled the prison, a number that newspaper Gazette Haiti said was “significant.” Some detainees were reluctant to leave en masse for fear of being killed in crossfire, sources told Reuters.

The National Penitentiary held more than 11,000 prisoners, including the 18 Colombians accused in the assassination plot against Moïse in July 2021, as well as the head of security of the National Palace, Dimitri Hérard and the security coordinator, Jean Laguel Civilian as well as dangerous gang leaders and criminals awaiting trial.

Among the escapees could be the former gang leader “Djouma”, “Bout Janjan” the former leader of La Saline, “Chinay” a notorious criminal, however, it is impossible at the moment, in the chaos and confusion to know precisely the number and profile of the escapees and confirm this information from official sources.

However, according to several testimonies it could be several hundred escaped criminals…

Police officers assigned to the prison had vacated the premises on Saturday, according to reports by local media AyiboPost.

The government of Haiti, the poorest country in the Americas, did not comment on the situation Saturday.

Heavy gunfire has caused panic in recent days after calls by gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, a former police officer, for criminal groups to unite and overthrow Henry. Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, heads an alliance of gangs and faces sanctions from the U.N. and the U.S.

The penitentiary, built to hold 700 prisoners, held 3,687 as of February last year, according to rights group RNDDH. A 2017 report by the group warned of serious overcrowding at the prison, which is said to suffer from poor police staffing.

The prison attack follows reports on Friday that armed men had attempted to take control of the capital’s main container port, causing traffic disruptions, and gangs threatened to attack more of the city’s police stations.

Cherizier this week warned locals to keep children from going to school to “avoid collateral damages” as violence surged.

Prime Minister Henry, who came to power after the assassination of the country’s last president, Jovenel Moise, in 2021, had previously pledged to step down by early February. He later said security must first be reestablished in order to ensure free and fair elections.

Source: VOA/ Reuters.

Israel Gaza–Many Injured In Aid Convoy Stampede Had Bullet Wounds And Broken Limbs.

Many of the people treated for injuries following a rush on an aid convoy in Gaza on Thursday suffered bullet wounds, the UN has said.

UN observers visited Gaza City’s al-Shifa Hospital and saw some of the roughly 200 people still being treated. Doctors said 142 had bullet wounds.`

Hamas has accused Israel of firing at civilians, but Israel said there was a “stampede” after its troops fired warning shots.

Leaders from around the world have called for a full investigation.

The incident unfolded after hundreds of people descended on an aid convoy as it moved along a coastal road, accompanied by the Israeli military, in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The World Food Programme has warned that a famine is imminent in northern Gaza, which has received very little aid in recent weeks, and where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

In footage from the scene, volleys of gunfire can be heard and people are seen scrambling over lorries and ducking behind the vehicles.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry has said that at least 112 people were killed in the incident and another 760 were injured.

In a statement on social media, Rear Adm Daniel Hagari, spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), said, “Dozens of Gazans were injured as a result of pushing and trampling.”

The IDF’s Lt Col Peter Lerner also told the UK’s Channel 4 News that a “mob stormed the convoy” and that Israeli troops “cautiously [tried] to disperse the mob with a few warning shots”.

Mark Regev, special adviser to the Israeli prime minister, had earlier told CNN that Israel had not been involved directly in any way and that the gunfire had come from “Palestinian armed groups”, though he did not provide evidence.

Giorgios Petropoulos, head of the Gaza sub-office of the UN Co-ordinator for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) told the BBC he and a team sent to al-Shifa hospital found a large number of people with bullet wounds.

He said all but a handful of the 70 to 80 patients in the emergency room he visited had been injured during the convoy incident.

In addition to those with bullet wounds, he said doctors had treated many who had fallen down or been trampled – but he was unable to say with certainty which group was larger.Mr Petropoulos said those with bullet injuries had suffered wounds in the upper and lower body.

One patient told him he had been shot in the chest and who had walked to Shifa to get treatment.”He said they (Israeli troops) usually shoot in the air. This time, they shot into the thickest part of the crowd,” Mr Petropoulos said.

But, Mr Petropoulos emphasised UN personnel had not been present during the incident making it very difficult to know precisely what happened.Dr Mohamed Salha, interim hospital manager at al-Awda hospital, previously told the BBC that they had received 176 of the injured, of whom 142 had bullet wounds.

He added that the others had suffered broken limbs.

Responding to the incident, UK Foreign Secretary Lord Cameron called the deaths “horrific” and said there “must be an urgent investigation and accountability”.

“This must not happen again,” he said.

He added that the incident could not be separated from the “inadequate aid supplies” entering Gaza and called the current levels “simply unacceptable”.

US President Joe Biden announced that the US would begin dropping aid into Gaza by air, saying: “Innocent people got caught in a terrible war, unable to feed their families. We need to do more, and the United States will do more.”

Israel military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK and others – after its gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 30,000 people, including 21,000 children and women, have been killed in Gaza since then with some 7,000 missing and at least 70,450 injured.

Source: BBC.

14 Slave Ship Wrecks May Be Underwater In The Bahamas.

Archaeologists in the Bahamas have identified the underwater wrecks of 14 sailing ships involved in the trans-Atlantic slave trade between Africa and the Americas, a new report finds.

The wrecks include the Peter Mowell, an American schooner that sank off Lynyard Cay near Great Abaco Island in 1860 with about 400 enslaved Africans on board; as well as smaller vessels that carried slaves to plantations for sugar, coffee, cotton and tobacco in North America and around the Caribbean.

 

The team has physically located three of the wrecks, but “for now, they are all under wraps,” Carl Allen, CEO and founder of the underwater archaeological group Allen Exploration, told Live Science in an email.

“These wrecks are not only historically important for investigating what life was like on slaver ships, [which is] poorly understood archaeologically, but they are physical witnesses to the knowledge base behind this horrific trade.”

The slave ships were identified during Allen Exploration’s Bahamas Lost Ships Project, which is compiling an inventory of every shipwreck around the islands.

So far, the team has identified 596 wrecks in the waters around the northern Abaco islands, and the oldest is from 1657.

The group is working on the project with the Bahamas Maritime Museum in Freeport on Grand Bahama, which published the report on the slave ships in its Ocean Dispatches series to coincide with Black History Month.

Michael Pateman, director of the Bahamas Maritime Museum and co-author of the report, told Live Science that the history of the Bahamas was profoundly influenced by several slaving events. They include the arrival of the first slaving vessels from Africa in 1721, which defined the population of the islands; more than 90% of the people who live there today are of African descent.

The Bahamas were also the scene of the 1841 revolt on the slave ship Creole, which was transporting slaves from Norfolk, Virginia, to New Orleans. But some of the 135 enslaved people on board the ship seized it and forced it to sail to the Bahamas instead, where they claimed their freedom — a major milestone in the history of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, Pateman said.

The wrecks’ locations show that the Bahamas served as a major crossroads between Africa, the American Southeast, Cuba and the Gulf of Mexico.

The region is known for its bad weather, but “it was the safest route,” James Jenney, director of research for the Bahamas Lost Ships Project and co-author of the report, told Live Science in an email.

For many of the wrecks in the northern Bahamas, the ships sank when they were heading south from American ports toward the Northeast Providence Channel between Grand Bahama and Andros Island. “If you wanted to get to Havana and Cuba’s sprawling plantations, you had to risk these waters,” Jenney said.

The sugar plantations in Cuba were an especially dire destination for enslaved Africans.

“Conditions varied, but the fact that Havana was known as the ‘banqueting place of death’ says it all,” underwater archaeologist Sean Kingsley, director of Wreckwatch International and co-author of the report, told Live Science.

He noted that enslaved African workers lived in miserable huts said to be “unfit for the habitation of wild beasts”; they wore iron slave collars and worked seven days a week, with just four hours a day of rest in cane-cutting season. About 10% of enslaved Africans died on the plantations in Cuba each year during the slave trade, and some were flogged to death, he said.

The next steps include diving to some of the wrecks to see what’s left, in some cases after more than 200 years since the ships sank.

Report co-author James Sinclair, director of archaeology for Allen Exploration, said many were in shallow, warm waters and “high energy zones” — that is, with a lot of waves and storms — that have negatively impacted the sites.

“Our goal is to record what’s left and figure out how to better preserve rare remains,” he told Live Science.

Source: LiveScience.com

US Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Donald Trump Presidential Immunity Claim

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday has agreed to rule on Donald Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution on charges brought by a special counsel involving his alleged participation of efforts to stage a coup following the 2020 general election. This will cause further delays in bringing  Trump’s criminal case to trial as he seeks to regain the presidency will bring it very close to the November election.

A US Court of Appeals panel has already rejected Mr Trump’s argument.

“We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralise the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and implementation of election results,” it wrote.

 

The justices put on hold the criminal case being pursued by Special Counsel Jack Smith and will review a lower court’s rejection of Trump’s claim of immunity from prosecution because he was president when he took actions aimed at reversing President Joe Biden’s election victory over him.

Trump’s lawyers had requested a stay of that ruling, warning of dire consequences for the presidency absent such immunity.

Trump, the first former president to be criminally prosecuted, is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination to challenge Biden, a Democrat, in the Nov. 5 U.S. election.

The case once again thrusts the nation’s top judicial body into the election fray, as the justices are due to issue a ruling on whether to overturn a decision by Colorado’s top court that barred Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot based a constitutional provision regarding insurrection.

The justices set the case for oral argument during the week of April 22 on a single question: “Whether and if so to what extent does a former president enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on Feb. 6 ruled 3-0 against Trump’s immunity claim, rejecting his bid for “unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralize the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and implementation of election results.”

Smith in August 2023 brought four federal criminal counts against Trump in the election subversion case. A March 4 trial date was postponed as Trump pressed his immunity claim, with no new date yet set. He has trials pending in three other criminal cases. Trump has pleaded not guilty in all of them, seeking to portray them as politically motivated. His lawyers asked the Supreme Court on Feb. 12.

In a filing to the Supreme Court, they said a months-long criminal trial would “radically disrupt” Trump’s ability to campaign against Biden. They also warned of dire consequences for future presidents if Trump’s prosecution is allowed such as partisan prosecutions, extortion, blackmail and more.

Smith’s charges accused Trump of conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing the congressional certification of Biden’s electoral victory and conspiring to do so, and conspiring against right of Americans to vote.

Trump and his allies made false claims that the 2020 election was stolen and devised a plan to use false electors to thwart congressional certification of Biden’s victory. Trump also sought to pressure Vice President Mike Pence not to allow certification to go forward. Trump’s supporters attacked the Capitol in a bid to prevent the certification.

If Trump regains the presidency, he could seek to use his powers to force an end to the prosecution or potentially pardon himself for any federal crimes.

Trump last October sought to have the charges dismissed based on his claim of immunity from criminal prosecution related to actions taken by a president while in office. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan rejected that claim on Dec. 1, prompting Trump’s D.C. Circuit appeal.

During arguments in January, one of Trump’s lawyers told the three D.C. Circuit judges that even if a president sold pardons or military secrets or ordered a Navy commando unit to assassinate a political rival, he could not be criminally charged unless he is first impeached and convicted in Congress.

In its unanimous decision rejecting Trump’s immunity claim, the three-judge panel wrote: “We cannot accept that the office of the presidency places its former occupants above the law for all time thereafter.”

The Supreme Court’s 6-3 conservative majority includes three justices appointed by Trump.

The justices heard arguments on Feb. 8 in another case involving Trump with implications for the November election. The justice signaled skepticism toward a ruling by Colorado’s top court that barred Trump from the state’s Republican primary ballot, based on language in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment, after finding he engaged in an insurrection related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

The Colorado and immunity cases put the Supreme Court in the election spotlight in the most direct way since a 2000 ruling that effectively handed the White House to Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore.

Trump, who served in the White House from 2017 to 2021, has made sweeping claims of immunity both while in office and since leaving the White House.

Smith was appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland in 2022 to investigate Trump’s actions in the aftermath of the 2020 election and his retention of classified documents after leaving the White House in 2021. Smith brought charges against Trump concerning both issues.

The four criminal cases pending against Trump include the two pursued by Smith, one in a Georgia state court also involving his efforts to undo his 2020 loss and one in a New York state court involving hush money paid to a porn star.

The Supreme Court in 2020 spurned Trump’s argument that he was immune from a subpoena issued as part of a state criminal investigation while he was president.

In a separate case, the justices also have agreed to decide whether a man involved in the Capitol attack can be charged with obstructing an official proceeding – the congressional certification of the 2020 election results. That case has potential implications for Trump because Smith brought two obstruction-related charges.

Sources: NDTV, Reuters.

 

National Student Congress Inspires Pledge For Action

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Student leaders from secondary schools and tertiary institutions across St. Kitts and Nevis and Federal government officials walked away from the inaugural National Student Conference with great satisfaction and the will to act after meaningful sessions, on February 29, 2024, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.

Student leaders on Day 2 of the National Student Congress.

Dr. Edwin Powell, Special Advisor in the Ministry of National Security, Attorney General, the Honourable Garth Wilkin, and Minister of State responsible for Youth Empowerment, the Honourable Isalean Phillip, engaged the young people on crime and violence within society and welcomed suggestions on reducing such from their perspective.

Recommendations included implementing harsher penalties for adults who fail to address red flags in children, increased intelligence support from the Regional Security System (RSS), implementing reforms to raise policing standards, expanding mental health support services, and introducing penalties for persons who incite antisocial actions.

Attorney General Wilkin commended the ministry for hosting the inaugural congress and said that some of the suggestions made by the young people related to enhancing safety aspects within schools will be implemented right away, while others may take a bit longer.

I also like the fact that they spoke about anti-bullying,” he said. “One of the things we were considering doing from the AGO (Attorney General’s Office) is to bring a specific anti-bullying legislation, so now that I hear the kids are calling for it, it will give us the impetus to move forward with that type of legislation.”

Minister Phillip said that she was pleased with the two days of interactive and productive engagements at the congress, which began with primary school student leaders on February 28, 2024.

At this congress, I believe these students were a lot more open. They had a bit more comfort level in terms of expressing the things that they see and feel,” Honourable Phillip said. “They really raised issues that are very sensitive that we don’t talk about like sexual harassment, abuse – especially in terms of parent to child type of violence. These are very real things that are happening in our societies, and young people know that it is happening, and they are calling it out.”


She added that the non-judgemental safe space created at the congress is reflective of the type of support that is offered by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment as they seek open and honest engagements.

The National Student Congress forms part of the government’s strategy to address Crime and Violence as a Public Health Matter. Minister of State Phillip said that the broad-based strategy includes preventative initiatives such as the two-day congress.

As we tackle the problem of violence as a public health issue, we want to be able to meet it at its root …,” Honourable Phillip expressed. “This is not just a St. Kitts and Nevis issue, this is a regional issue, this is a regional approach, and so when we get our young people involved from the very youngest in primary school, up to our advanced education institutions, part of it is to be able to instil in us the anti-violence, anti-crime sentiment and not only as a consciousness but also how we can take action against it.”


That consciousness to act was expressed by many of the students who vowed to take the lessons learnt back to their student councils and work with teachers to implement initiatives to promote positivity within their respective schools and reduce antisocial behaviour.

Pitons To Be Classified As Environmental Protection Area

The Ministry of Physical Development is seeking to officially designate the Piton Management Area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, as an Environmental Protection Area.

An Environmental Protection Area is an area consisting of features that require preservation—not only for the present, but for future generations.

To that end, the ministry is working toward implementing legislation that will avert unplanned developments in the area, and will undertake a series of public consultations to sensitize the public and increase awareness of the importance of environmental preservation.

Chief Physical Planning Officer, Miss Karen Augustin, said to ensure conservation and protection of the PMA, legislation is key. New amendments to the legislation will include additional protection for the PMA, in order to avert illegal or unplanned developments and to preserve it in its natural state as much as possible. This will also include the Sulphur Springs.

Currently-designated Environmental Protection Areas in Saint Lucia include Point Sables in Vieux Fort, among others.

The Department of Physical Planning is currently collaborating with the Ministry of Sustainable Development to identify additional areas that require Environmental Protection status.

Saint Kitts And Nevis Re-appoints Mr. John Allen As Honorary Consul In Toronto

Basseterre – 1st March 2024 -The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is pleased to welcome Mr John
Allen, citizen of Saint Kitts and Nevis residing in Canada as the Federation’s Honorary Consul in Toronto. Global Affairs Canada issued an exequatur to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, approving the reappointment of Mr John Allen in said capacity.

Saint Kitts and Nevis Re-appoints Mr. John Allen as Honorary Consul in Toronto.

As an honorary consul, Mr Allen will be expected to assist citizens of Saint Kitts and Nevis in Toronto with a range of consular matters, as well as further the development of commercial, economic, cultural, and scientific relations between both countries.
According to the 2016 Canadian census, approximately 3,000 individuals identified themselves as being of Saint Kitts and Nevis origin. In actuality, the number may have doubled or tripled since that time. The Government of Saint Kitts and Nevis acknowledges the importance of the diaspora and the critical role it plays in the development of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Mr Allen will also be instrumental in continuing to network with the Saint Kitts and Nevis Diaspora community and collaborate on initiatives of mutual interest.

Mr Allen has a background in business development with skills in leadership and management and is renowned for building relationships across cultures and institutions. As Director of Tourism in Toronto during the 1990’s, he was successful in expanding the scope of operation in Canada from tourism promotion to include trade and investment.

Saint Kitts and Nevis and Canada celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations with Canada in October 1983. The first Consulate of Saint Kitts and Nevis in Toronto was established in 1998 and Mr Allen was installed as honorary consul at that time.

ECSC Initiates Pilot Project In St. Kitts And Nevis With AI Technology To Revolutionise Court Proceedings

Basseterre, St. Kitts – The Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court (ECSC) took a significant step forward in the modernization of legal processes today, March 01, 2024, with the soft launch of a groundbreaking pilot project at the High Court in Fortlands, St. Kitts. This pilot introduces advanced software designed to convert audio recordings of court proceedings into text in real-time, leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

Chief Justice Pereira.

The Honourable Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Dame Janice M. Pereira, presided over the ceremony, marking the beginning of a new era in the judicial system. The AI-driven software, developed by ‘FTR – For the Record,’ aims to efficiently produce official court transcripts, thereby addressing the longstanding issue of transcript backlog which has affected the court’s scheduling of matters and access to justice.

Chief Justice Pereira expressed her enthusiasm for the project.

“This, I think, is really awesome in terms of the way it will revolutionise our court proceedings. I am really very pleased that we have been able to really do this soft launch.”

She further emphasised the benefits of the technology for all court stakeholders.

“I know that the court officers, the judges, that their hands and health, will not suffer as much in terms of all the long-hand writing that they sometimes are requested to do. But, very importantly, [this will prove beneficial to] litigants whose matters are before the court and the need to ensure that we are giving proper access to justice at all levels of the court – that, at the end of the day, is what I think is going to be the lasting impact of incorporating systems like these fully within the court.”

Attorney-General and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Honourable Garth Wilkin said that this initiative represents a monumental shift in the ECSC’s approach to resolving one of the most pressing challenges in the judicial system, promising faster, more accessible justice for all.

Members of the Bar Council and the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association extended their profound thanks to the court for its innovative approach and dedication to improving the efficiency of the legal process.

The ECSC is a regional court serving member states in the Eastern Caribbean, providing judicial support and ensuring access to justice. It has been at the forefront of addressing judicial challenges and improving the efficiency of legal processes in the Caribbean since 1967.

Empowering Farmers For A Sustainable Tomorrow

Basseterre, St. Kitts –The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Marine
Resources proudly highlights the outcomes of its recent annual review and strategic planning session, heralding a new era of agricultural empowerment and sustainability in St. Kitts and Nevis.

L-R : Franklyn Mitcham, Winston Morris, Minister Duggins, Leonard Herbert and Jeanelle Kelly- Director of Agriculture.

This year’s meeting underscored the unwavering commitment and dedication of local farmers, pivotal in propelling us toward the ambitious 2025 sustainability goals and beyond.

In line with our vision for sustainable agriculture, we have taken concrete steps towards supporting our farmers. Recently, we distributed 3000 tomato seedlings to esteemed farmers Winston Morris, Leonard Herbert, and Franklyn Mitcham, bringing us closer to our vision of sustainable agriculture. Each seed planted signifies progress towards a brighter future, demonstrating that our farmers are not just prepared but eager to lead the charge.
At the heart of our agenda lies a detailed work plan encapsulated in our 25 by 25 initiative under the overarching theme ‘Securing our future for sustainable agriculture through partnerships by 2025 and beyond.’ This initiative is a challenge, one that our farmers have wholeheartedly embraced and expressed their gratitude to the ministry for driving progress in the agricultural sector. Mr. Winston Morris, a member of the Consortium, expressed their readiness for the challenge, stating, “We’ve been waiting for challenges from the Ministry of Agriculture, challenge us, throw something on us and see. Test us. Test our mettle and you’ll see that we are not backing down. We are stepping up to the plate. We will do it and we will do the best we can do.”

Equipped with essential resources such as ground cover, drip lines, water tanks, solar energizers,and valuable guidance from the ministry, our farmers stand poised to achieve the 25 by 25 agenda.  Their determination coupled with strategic support sets the stage for a transformative journey towards sustainable agriculture.

As we move forward, let us continue to foster collaboration, innovation, and empowerment within our farming communities. Together, we can cultivate a resilient agricultural sector that not only sustains but thrives for generations to come.

Farewell Reception In St. Kitts And Nevis Honours Retiring Chief Justice Her Ladyship Dame Janice Pereira

Basseterre, St. Kitts – In a farewell ceremony hosted by The High Court within the Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs on February 29, the legal community of St. Kitts and Nevis, along with distinguished guests, gathered to honour the esteemed Honourable Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Dame Janice M. Pereira, as she steps down from active duties.

The Honourable Chief Justice, Her Ladyship, Dame Janice M. Pereira.

The event, marked by heartfelt tributes and commendations, saw the attendance of Governor-General Her Excellency, Dame Marcella Liburd, and prominent figures from the St. Kitts and Nevis Bar Association. Officials from the Court of Appeal and other court officers, currently convening in the Federation, as well as other invited guests, came together to celebrate Chief Justice Pereira’s illustrious 39-year career and her decision to retire in St. Kitts and Nevis.

Attorney-General (AG) and Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, the Honourable Garth Wilkin, delivered a moving farewell address, highlighting the chief justice’s remarkable service and the indelible impact she has made on the legal landscape.

“Chief Justice, we are pleased with your service. You have done exceptionally well. You have left a lasting legacy, and we owe you a lot,” said AG Wilkin. “I don’t think we would have made it through the [COVID-19] Pandemic without the innovations that you brought during your tenure, and we appreciate what you have done. You are truly a legend, and we are happy that you are retiring with us.”

The attorney-general also expressed hopes for Chief Justice Pereira’s continued involvement in regional development during her retirement.

“I am hoping that during your retirement, you would help the region to develop certain programmes and policies that will help the people of our region,” AG Wilkin added, emphasising the ongoing need for her wisdom and leadership.

AG Wilkin said that Chief Justice Pereira’s retirement marks the end of a distinguished chapter in the judiciary of St. Kitts and Nevis and the wider Caribbean region. Her legacy, characterised by innovation, dedication, and a deep commitment to justice, will continue to inspire and guide future generations.

Attorney-General Wilkin and the legal community of St. Kitts and Nevis extended their deepest gratitude to Chief Justice Pereira for her years of service.

Her Ladyship, Chief Justice Janice Pereira, made history on October 24th, 2012, by becoming the first woman to be sworn in as Chief Justice of the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court since its founding in 1967.

St. Kitts And Nevis Hosts Second Annual National Day Of Prayer

Basseterre, St. Kitts – The month of February ended on a high note in St. Kitts and Nevis, with many nationals and residents participating in various activities that marked the 2nd Annual National Day of Prayer.

Governor-General Her Excellency, Dame Marcella Liburd, Deputy PM Hanley, and other Cabinet members participated in the National Day of Prayer.

The Rivers of Living Water Christian Centre was the main hub for church activities in St. Kitts during the day. February 29, 2024, while the New Testament Church of God, Bath Village, Nevis played the same role. Hundreds representing government agencies, private sector entities, educational institutions and others within civil society walked through the doors to give praise to God and acknowledge His sovereignty. The hourly services were complemented by prayer stations set up throughout Basseterre and Charlestown, while mobile prayer stations covered the rural areas.

Karimu Byron-Caines, Director of the National Council on Drug Abuse Prevention, joined staff from various agencies within the national security structure for the 10 a.m. slot at Rivers.

It is always a good idea to bring people together to lift the name of Jesus, to pray, and so I think this is a most welcomed initiative for a National Day of Prayer in St. Kitts and Nevis because we are all aware that without him, personally, and as a nation, we are nothing,” she stated. “This day [is symbolic like any other national day we celebrate [such as] Independence Day…Christmas, Easter, and introducing a National Day of Prayer is only a reminder and an indication that from the government, the head, down, we are coming together to pray.”

Rommel Williams, Acting Fire Chief of the St. Kitts and Nevis Fire and Rescue Services (SKNFRS) reflected on the importance of prayer for the men and women of the SKNFRS, who put their lives at risk frequently to save others.

It is crucially important that the officers at the fire department understand that whenever we go out on calls, there is no guarantee that we will return from that call … or see our families again. And the reality of the situation is that all of us, we need God’s covering to protect us, keep us safe, even to give us wisdom so that we make the best decisions when we go out on these dangerous calls,” Mr. Williams indicated.

Such decisions, he indicated, may be the difference between life or death for the officers themselves, their fellow officers or members of the public.

Principal of the Saddlers Secondary School, Julia Byron Isaac, led a contingent of students to participate in the day-long worship at the Rivers of Living Water Christian Centre. She indicated that the school holds daily morning assemblies, and being a part of this Federal initiative offers a different perspective to the students. Principal Byron Isaac encouraged parents and guardians to incorporate religious instruction at home.

Take your children to church. Don’t send them, go with them. You as the parent [should] lead the children and you show them the examples, so you go to church, bring your family members, pray for them, pray over your household because it is important that we cover ourselves and our children in a time such as this,” she expressed.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Ecclesiastical and Faith-based Affairs, the Honourable Dr. Geoffrey Hanley, thanked all stakeholders and individuals who came together to ensure the success of the 2nd Annual National Day of Prayer.

Attemped Haiti Coup By Gangsters In Progress–Four Police Dead In Heavy Gunfire.

Heavy gunfire paralyzed Haiti’s capital of Port au PrinceThursday and at least four police officers were killed as a gang leader said that he was trying to capture the country’s police chief and government ministers. It is not clear whether he intends to set up some kind of central government.

American Airlines said Thursday it had suspended its daily service between Miami and Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince.

The move came during the absence of Prime Minister  who is in Kenya trying to finalize details for the deployment of a foreign armed force to help Haiti combat gangs.

Gunmen shot at Haiti’s main international airport and other targets, including police stations, in a wave of violence that caught many people by surprise. At least four police officers, including two women, were killed in an attack on a station near the community of Canaan, according to a police union.

The violence forced the airport, businesses, government agencies and schools to close as parents and young children fled through the streets in panic. At least one airline, Sunrise Airways, suspended all flights.

Jimmy Cherizier, known as “Barbecue” and leader of the gang federation G9 Family and Allies, was seen in a recorded video announcing that the aim was to tie up the police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry from returning to Haiti.

“With our guns and with the Haitian people, we will free the country,” he said.

CNN reported that Cherizier said in a video shared on social media that the battle will “not only topple the Ariel [Henry] government,” but “change the whole system,” according to international news agencies and Haitian media. CNN said it cannot independently verify the video’s authenticity.

A spokesman for the prime minister’s office could not be immediately reached for comment. The head of Haiti’s National Police, Frantz Elbe, and police spokesman Garry Desrosiers did not return messages for comment.

Gunfire still rang out Thursday evening and dozens of Haitians were seen carrying children and heavy bags stuffed with belongings as they fled from their neighborhoods. They raised their hands as a peace offering to potential gangs while rushing through intersections.

Armored vehicles patrolled empty streets in downtown Port-au-Prince while others remained stationed near gang-controlled slums.

Residents in some neighborhoods, including Canape Vert and Turgeau, set up roadblocks to prevent gangs from entering as men who were not wearing uniforms stood by with machine guns.

Pierre Alex Boucher, a math teacher who lives in downtown Port-au-Prince, said he heard heavy gunfire before dawn. Several hours later, as the gunfire continued, he said he stood on his roof and saw police in an armored car trying to fight gang members and then abruptly leave.

The shooting then worsened, and when he saw what he said he thought were teenagers with machine guns, he fled from his home, feeling that his life was in danger.

“The area is completely invaded by gangs,” Boucher said of his neighborhood. “A lot of people couldn’t make it out, and some locked themselves inside their homes.”

He said he spoke with friends who saw people who had been shot to death.

“The country has to revolt against the gangs,” he said. “No one is safe.”

It was not clear if Barbecue, the gang leader, had the backing of other major gangs that are estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince.

Diego Da Rin, with the International Crisis Group, noted that Barbecue in his speech referred to a coalition called Viv Ansanm, which means “living together” in Haitian Creole. The coalition was created last year as part of a peace pact between Barbecue’s federation and another powerful gang called G-Pep and had as a main goal to bring down Henry’s administration.

However, the coalition crumbled just days after it was announced, and Da Rin said it remains to be seen whether Barbecue truly has the support of other gang leaders.

“I don’t know how much credibility to give Barbecue right now,” Da Rin said. “Rivalries between gangs are so strong and alliances ever shifting that it’s complicated; they could act in a concerted manner for a long time without much trouble.”

However, he noted that gunmen launched coordinated attacks in Port-au-Prince on Thursday. In addition to the attack on the main international airport, gunmen also set fire to a police station in downtown Port-au-Prince.

The attacks came a day after Henry met in Guyana with Caribbean leaders, who said he pledged to hold long-awaited general elections by mid-2025. It is the third time he has announced such a deadline, with previous promises made in 2022 and 2023. There are currently no elected officials in Haiti, with Henry sworn in as prime minister with the backing of the international community shortly after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse.

Henry traveled from Guyana to Kenya in hopes of moving forward on the deployment of Kenyan police officers to Haiti. A court in the East African nation ruled last month that the proposed deployment was unconstitutional, but Henry and Kenyan officials have been working on a deal that would allow forces to arrive in Haiti soon.

“There has always been the danger that as discussions progress and the goal of the mission gets closer that the gangs will try to flex their muscles and discourage the troops,” Da Rin said.

The government of Haiti said in a statement that Henry arrived in Kenya on Thursday. They did not say when he will return to Haiti.

Sources: VOA, AP, CNN.

More Than 100 Dead At Gaza Aid Distribution Point—Alleged Israeli Troops Fired On Unarmed Crowds.

Thousands of Palestinians flocked to an aid distribution point to meet arriving trucks at around 4 am this morning, desperate for food amid Gaza’s looming famine, only to be met with bloody chaos including live fire by Israeli troops, being run down by trucks, or crushed to death by crowd pressures.

By mid-afternoon the Hamas-run health ministry said more than 100 people were reported dead in the grisly incident which underscored worsening shortages in the war-ravaged Palestinian territory.

“There were crowds of people, but the occupation (forces) kept firing towards us,” one young man told AFP while lying on the dirty, crowded floor at Kamal Adwan Hospital waiting for treatment.

He was among those wounded in the chaos. But there were conflicting reports on what exactly unfolded in the hours before dawn.

Ali Awad Ashqir, who had gone to get some flour for his starving family, had been waiting for two hours when violence erupted.

“At approximately 4:00 am the trucks began to arrive. The moment they arrived, the occupation army fired artillery shells and guns,” he told AFP.

“I was hit by a bullet in the left foot and taken to Al-Shifa Hospital. I was later discharged because my injuries were moderate.”

Hossam Abu Safiya, director at Kamal Adwan Hospital, said all the casualties were hit by “bullets and shrapnel from occupation forces”.

Ashraf al-Qudra, spokesman for Gaza’s health ministry, denounced what he called a “massacre” at Gaza City’s Nabulsi roundabout, saying 112 people were killed and 760 wounded.

He blamed Israeli troops, and Israeli sources confirmed to AFP that the Israeli forces at the scene did open fire, having perceived the crowds near the trucks as a “threat”.

But a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said many of the dead were crushed by the trucks themselves.

“Aid trucks were overwhelmed by people trying to loot and drivers ploughed into the crowd of people, ultimately killing tens of people,” said the spokesman, Avi Hyman.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, an Israeli army spokesman, said on Thursday night that “thousands of Gazans” swarmed the trucks bearing aid from Egypt, “violently pushing and even trampling other Gazans to death”.

Israeli tanks escorting fired warning shots and tried to retreat, Hagari said, denying the army had turned its tanks on civilians.

“We did not fire at the humanitarian convoy — neither from the air nor from the ground,” he said.

Outside Kamal Adwan Hospital, four women in headscarves wailed while clutching at the lifeless body of a bearded man wrapped in white cloth.

At Al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, doctors were “unable to deal” with the flood of casualties “as a result of weak medical and human capacities”, Qudra said.

Israel has vowed to eliminate Hamas after it carried out an unprecedented attack on October 7 on southern Israel.

The Hamas attack resulted in the deaths of around 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.

Umm Hamdan Abu Sultan, a displaced woman waiting for aid near the scene, said: “They are the terrorists, not us.”

“Our children are dying of hunger, we go to get a bag of flour to feed our children and they fire at them.”

Israel’s withering military response to the October 7 attack has now killed at least 30,035 people, mostly women and children, according to the health ministry, which does not specify how many fighters are included in the toll.

The offensive has caused widespread devastation in Gaza and severe shortages of food, water and medicine.

For months, aid workers have warned of an increasingly desperate situation for Gazan civilians, and on Monday an official from the UN humanitarian office OCHA said widespread starvation was “almost inevitable”.

UN estimates show that 2.2 million people — the vast majority of Gaza’s population — are threatened with famine, particularly in the north where destruction, fighting and looting make the delivery of food almost impossible.

According to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, just over 2,300 aid trucks entered the Gaza Strip in February, a drop of about 50 percent compared with January.

That is an average of well below 100 trucks per day, down from around 500 that were entering daily before the war.

It was precisely that scarcity that drove crowds to rush the trucks at Nabulsi roundabout on Thursday, a witness told AFP.

Aerial footage distributed by the Israeli military showed large groups swarming a line of moving trucks on foot.

“Trucks full of aid came too close to some army tanks that were in the area and the crowd, thousands of people, just stomp the trucks,” the witness said, declining to be named for safety reasons.

“The soldiers fired at the crowd as people came too close to the tanks.”

Thursday’s incident spurred a heated exchange at the Human Rights Council in Geneva, where Palestinian ambassador Ibrahim Mohammad Khraishi confronted his Israeli counterpart about the reported casualties.

“Are these human shields? Are these Hamas combatants?” Khraishi asked.

At Kamal Adwan hospital, a Palestinian woman said: “We are under siege. Take pity on us. Ramadan is coming soon. People should look at us. Pity us.”

Source: NDTV

 

Haiti And Kenya Sign Reciprocal Policing Agreement, But Questions Remain.

Kenya and Haiti signed agreements Friday to try to regularise an agreement for the African country to deploy 1,000 police officers to the Caribbean nation that has been taken over by armed gangs, rendering effective government impossible.
The 1,000 Kenyan troops selected for the mission include teams from the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU), Anti Stock Theft Unit (ASTU), General Service Unit (GSU), and Border Patrol Unit.
Kenya agreed in October to lead a U.N.-authorized and paid for international police force to Haiti, but the Kenyan High Court in January ruled that the plan was unconstitional partly because of a lack of reciprocal policing agreements between the two countries.
Kenya’s President William Ruto said in a statement that he and Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry witnessed the signing of the reciprocal agreements between the two countries on Friday.
It was not immediately clear how, or if, the agreements could circumvent the court’s ruling, which also said that Kenya’s National Police Service cannot be deployed outside the country.
Kenyan opposition politician Ekuru Aukot, who filed the High Court petition against the deployment, said in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that Henry has no constitutional or legal powers to commit Haiti to any agreements with Kenya.
In a public lecture at the United States International University in Kenya on Friday, Henry said elections in his country need to held as soon as possible to bring stability.
“We need elections in order to stabilize the country. We need democratic governance in order to have people to come and invest in Haiti,” he said.
Henry has repeatedly pledged to hold elections since being sworn in as prime minister and interim president after the July 2021 assassination of President Jovenel Moïse. But he and other officials say gang violence has not allowed them to move forward on those promises.
Caribbean leaders said late Wednesday that Henry has agreed to hold general elections by mid-2025.
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Henry shrugged when asked if it was safe for him to return home from Kenya following a surge of gang violence in Haiti’s capital Port au Prince on Thursday.
Gunmen shot at Haiti’s main international airport and other targets, including police stations, in a wave of violence that caught many people by surprise. Separately, at least four police officers, including two women, were killed in an attack on a station near the community of Canaan, according to a police union.
The violence forced the airport, businesses, government agencies and schools to close as parents and young children fled through the streets in panic. At least one airline, Sunrise Airways, suspended all flights.
Jimmy Chérizier, known as “Barbecue,” the leader of the gang federation G9 Family and Allies, announced in a recorded video that his group’s aim was to detain the police chief and government ministers and prevent Henry from returning to Haiti.
“With our guns and with the Haitian people, we will free the country,” he said.
Gangs have grown more powerful and political instability has increased since the assassination of President Moïse, who had faced protests calling for his resignation over corruption charges and claims that his five-year term had expired.
More than 8,400 people were reported killed, injured or kidnapped in Haiti in 2023 — more than double the number reported in 2022. The gangs continue to fight over territory, and are estimated to control up to 80% of Port-au-Prince.
Sources: Washington Post, AP News.

Drug Dogs Sniffed British Man Leaving Dominican Republic With Two Suitcases Full Of Cocaine.

A unnamed British man has been arrested after trying to fly out of the Dominican Republic with two suitcases full of a while powdered substance believed to be cocaine.

The 32-year-old was held as he tried to board a plane to Frankfurt in Germany. Police on the Caribbean island confirmed the arrest and said they were trying to find out if he was part of a larger gang of drug traffickers.

Officers also released video footage showing them counting out the 36 cellophane-wrapped packets containing the suspected cocaine, barely hidden under a thin layer of clothing. The arrest was made at Punta Cana International Airport after specialist sniffer dogs honed in on the two suspicious suitcases.

The British man was taken into custody after spot tests on the suspected drugs. A spokesman for the Dominican Republic’s National Drug Control Directorate said yesterday:

“Officers from the National Drug Control Directorate (DNCD) and members of the Specialized Airport Security Corps, coordinated by the Public Ministry, seized 36 packages believed to be cocaine, in an operation carried out at the Punta Cana International Airport in La Altagracia province.

“DNCD agents and members of other official organizations were carrying out inspection tasks in one of the boarding areas of the terminal, when a canine unit alerted them to suspicious substances in two suitcases. In accordance with the established protocol and in the presence of a deputy prosecutor, they were opened and a total of 36 packages were found distributed in both suitcases.

“A 32-year-old British man was arrested in the case and has been handed over to public prosecutors working in the province of La Altagracia. The Public Ministry and the DNCD have initiated an investigation to establish if other people were involved in the frustrated shipment of the substance to Frankfurt, Germany.”

“The authorities have continued to reinforce their operations against drug trafficking and its related crimes, at airports, ports, borders and throughout the national territory. The 36 packages were sent to the National Institute of Forensic Sciences (INACIF) to determine the type and exact weight of the substance.”

Former US Ambassador Admits He Was Spy For Cuba All Along.

A former career US diplomat who once served as the US ambassador to Bolivia has pleaded guilty to working as an agent of Cuba for more than 40 years.

Victor Manuel Rocha, 73, a United States citizen born in Columbia was charged with secretly passing information to the communist-run Cuban government since 1981 while working for the US state department.

On Thursday, he changed his initial not guilty plea in a court in Miami.

He is due to be sentenced at a hearing on 12 April.

The move brings one of the highest profile espionage cases between Cuba and the US to an unexpectedly rapid conclusion.

Thursday’s court hearing was supposed to be about how to handle classified documents involved in the case, according to the Miami Herald.

But instead, Mr Rocha, his lawyers, and prosecutors acknowledged that a plea deal had been struck.

When Judge Beth Bloom asked him if he wished to change his plea to guilty, he responded: “Your honour, I am in agreement.”

He is charged with violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by acting as a foreign agent, wire fraud and making false statements to obtain a US passport.

The evidence collected by investigators includes covert recordings of Mr Rocha admitting to working for Cuba for decades, praising the late Cuban leader, Fidel Castro as “Commandante”, and calling the United States “the enemy”.

He and his legal team now appear to have reached a similar conclusion, calculating that a guilty plea was his wisest option.

The BBC contacted his lawyer for comment, but obtained no response.

In effect, Mr Rocha must now accept the US government’s accusation that he spent nearly his entire professional career working for the Cuban Revolution in US outposts in Havana and Buenos Aires while simultaneously rising in the US diplomatic service.

 

There’s been no discussion in court as yet of Mr Rocha’s sentence or whether he accepted a plea bargain in exchange for his co-operation.

“This action exposes one of the most far-reaching and longest-running infiltrations of the United States government by a foreign agent,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.

“Betraying that trust by falsely pledging loyalty to the United States while serving a foreign power is a crime that will be punished with the full force of the Department of Justice,” he added.

“They owned us. They beat us. That’s one of the reasons I have this personal grudge against the Cuban intelligence service because they have been so successful in operating against us,” said Mr Olson.

“He’s a traitor. He betrayed our country. I think that’s contemptible, and I don’t think he’s going to see the light of day again,” he added.

When he was ambassador to Bolivia , he caused great controversy by threatening to withdraw financial aid from the United States to the war on drugs if the leftist and former coca grower unionist Evo Morales won the elections.

Morales lost those elections but was elected president for the first time in the 2005 elections.

The US and Cuba have had a fraught relationship since Fidel Castro overthrew a US-backed government over 60 years ago.

The US imposed a trade embargo against Cuba in the 1960s. Former President Barack Obama and former Cuban President Raul Castro took steps to normalise relations in 2015, though former US President Donald Trump later reversed many of these actions.

 

Born in Colombia, Mr Rocha was raised in New York City and obtained degrees from Yale, Harvard and Georgetown.

He worked as US ambassador to Bolivia from 1999 to 2002, according to prosecutors, and served in several government roles – including at the National Security Council – for 25 years. In addition to Bolivia, he has also served in postings in Argentina, Honduras, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

After leaving the diplomatic service, he continued in a lucrative private role consulting job as a special advisor to the US Southern Command, the part of the US military that oversees Cuba.

In November 2022, an undercover FBI agent contacted Mr Rocha via WhatsApp, claiming to be a representative of Cuban Intelligence Services delivering a message from “your friends from Havana”, the charging document stated.

Mr Rocha agreed to meet the agent several times, including once at a food court, because there was “no possibility for anyone to see me” there, he said, according to court documents.

During three meetings with the undercover FBI agent, Rocha began to divulge details about his time working as a secret agent for the Cuban government, the charging document described.

Mr Rocha allegedly used the term “we” to describe Cuba and himself, and said he wanted to “protect … what we have done”.

When the agent, posing as a Cuban spy, asked him “are you still with us?” Mr Rocha responded that he was “angry” to have his loyalty questioned.

“It’s like questioning my manhood,” he said.

From 2006 to 2012, Rocha was an advisor to the commander of the US military’s joint command in the region, which included Cuba .

Rocha was arrested on Friday at his home in Miami . According to the AP agency, he sobbed Monday as he sat handcuffed in federal court in that city to have the charges against him read. The former diplomat initially pled not guilty, but in court he changed his plea to guilty.

Sources: BBC, El Comercio (Peru).

The Indispensable Need for Free and Fair Elections

By Sir Ronald Sanders

 

In 2024, a series of general elections in Latin American countries, including the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, and Venezuela, are pivotal events that will shape the internal dynamics of these countries. Because these elections will determine the future stability and prosperity of these influential countries, they  are important to the region as a whole, emphasizing the importance of free and fair electoral processes that will command the endorsement of their citizens and the wider hemispheric community.

In the English-Speaking Caribbean, the principle of free and fair elections has long been a cornerstone of democratic practice. It is a standard that is not only expected but also respected by its citizens, including those with allegiances to competing political parties. There were two exceptions to this general experience: Guyana and Grenada.

Guyana experienced a series of rigged elections between 1968 and 1992, leading to social and political instability, massive migration, decline in investment and the classification of the country as the second poorest country in the Hemisphere after Haiti. Free and fair elections in 1992 created a period of stability and economic recovery up 2020 when attempts were made to rig elections in favour of the ruling APNU party. This situation was rectified  after the votes were recounted under the supervision of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Organization of American States (OAS). Since then, the general acceptance of the validity of the currently elected government, and the foreign investment in exploitation of large reserves of oil and gas, have transformed Guyana into the fastest growing economy in the Western Hemisphere.

In Grenada, in 1979 an unpopular government, known for corrupt election  practices, was overthrown in a coup organized by a combination of the opposition New Jewel Movement and the army which, together, formed the government. A period of internal unease and discomfort by neighbouring states continued until 1983, when the government imploded, and the Prime Minister and members of his Cabinet were assassinated. This led to an invasion of the country by the United States, supported by several Caribbean countries, principally Grenada’s closest neighbours. Since then, elections in Grenada have been judged to be free and fair and the country has progressed steadily.

The peaceful transition of power, a hallmark of stable democracies, is contingent upon the universal acceptance that election processes were free and fair, resulting in the election of a valid government. Acceptance of the validity of the government is crucial for maintaining democratic institutions, ensuring civil and social stability, attracting investment, creating jobs, reducing poverty, and fostering economic growth.

Conversely, in nations where the sanctity of free and fair elections is compromised, the result is instability, characterized by authoritarian control measures that lead to an exodus of citizens, a scarcity of investment, and a rise in unemployment and poverty.

The case of Venezuela currently illustrates a concerning trend where the erosion of electoral integrity threatens not only the domestic fabric of democracy but also poses a challenge to regional stability. The unravelling of an agreement, signed in Barbados in October 2023,  between the government of President Nicolás Maduro, and a group of Opposition parties, called the Unitary Platform, threatens the possibility of free and fair elections sometime this year.

The government has sidelined the opposition from crucial decisions regarding the proposed elections. It has also excluded its most popular and credible rival, Maria Corina Machado, who ​ was elected by a significant margin in Venezuela’s opposition-led presidential primary, receiving approximately 93% of the vote. This decisive victory positioned her as the clear winner, garnering strong support among voters who showed a keen desire for her to run against President Maduro. In  response, she was accused of corruption by the Maduro government, and the government-appointed Supreme Justice Tribunal banned her from participation in the elections. A U.N.-backed panel investigating human rights violations in Venezuela has noted the government’s intensified efforts “to curtail democratic freedoms”.

As the time for Venezuela’s presidential election approaches, it is crucial that efforts to ensure that elections align with international standards of transparency and fairness. The disqualification of opposition candidates, the lack of judicial independence, and the manipulation of electoral conditions by the ruling government underscore the challenges facing not just Venezuela but democracy itself in the region. If the electoral process in Venezuela is not regarded as legitimate, the resultant government will enjoy no validity, worsening the economic and social conditions in Venezuela, including an increase in its people fleeting to already overburdened neighbouring states.

For its part, the Venezuela’s government and its allies have announced a proposal to hold the presidential election on any of 20 potential dates. They have also said that the proposal will be presented to the government controlled, National Electoral Council, whose members will choose the date. The opposition parties have objected to this arbitrary process. All this sets the stage for a controversial election and a contentious result.

Caribbean nations, which themselves undergo democratic elections where debate and dissent is crucial, have a vested interest in the integrity of elections throughout Latin America. The erosion of free and fair elections in any one country is a threat to democratic stability everywhere. Free and fair elections serve as the bedrock of democratic governance, enabling the peaceful transition of power.

Legitimate and democratically elected governments, responsive and accountable to their citizens, are fundamental to successful development efforts. The right to choose leaders, to influence government policy, and to hold those in power accountable is not merely a democratic right, it is a prerequisite for sustainable development and peace.

That is why Caribbean political parties and citizens must champion the cause of electoral integrity, both within their borders and beyond, recognizing that the health of democracy in their neighbourhood is intrinsically linked to their own.

(The writer is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS. The views expressed are entirely his own. For comments and previous commentaries, see: www.sirronaldsanders.com)

“Tourism Is Everybody’s Business”: MOTIA Engages The Domestic Audience

Nassau, The Bahamas – In a move to have Bahamians buy into the importance of tourism to the economy, the Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation (MOTIA) officially launched its “Tourism is Everybody’s Business” domestic campaign.

The Ministry of Tourism, Investments and Aviation officially launched its “Tourism is Everybody’s Business” domestic campaign, during a press conference on Monday, February 26, 2024 at its offices. Pictured are Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper and Director General of Tourism Latia Duncombe, as well as other tourism officials. (BIS Photos/Kemuel Stubbs)

With statistics of historic tourism arrivals, a video of local faces, and beautiful scenery, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Tourism, Investments and Aviation the Hon. Chester Cooper officially launched the campaign during a press conference on Monday, February 26, 2024 at the ministry’s offices.

He noted that on the tourism front, Bahamians have much to be proud of.

Over the last six decades, The Bahamas has developed its tourism reputation as a leading global destination. Moreover, tourism employs 60 percent and accounts for 50 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

“It has significantly contributed to raising the standards of living of generations of Bahamians and continues to provide opportunities for thousands of Bahamians,” DPM Cooper said.

In 2023, the country made history in tourism, closing out the year with a record-breaking 9.65 million visitors.  And, prospects for 2024 indicate that the momentum will continue.

He also revealed that in January, occupancy at the major large hotels in New Providence and Paradise Island showed great performance, with a hotel occupancy rate of 76.8 percent in the first month of 2024, up from January 2023.

For January 2024, the momentum for arrivals has continued with arrivals for the month up by 13.3%, overall. Additionally, air arrivals to Nassau/Paradise Island were up by 8.1 percent in January 2024 with overall Air Arrivals up 6.4% compared to 2023, and overall seat capacity is up with several new additional airlift expansions in the pipeline.

“So, you can see we have much to protect.  Tourism positively impacts every single person in The Bahamas.  And Tourism is indeed Everybody’s Business,” the minister said.

He then added, “And the time has come for a re-awakening of national pride in our number one industry, an enterprise which we as a nation have built with our very own hands.”

Also, involved in this campaign are local media personalities and influencers who will take the message beyond these shores.

The message that will be conveyed to the nation over the next year is straightforward:

•Tourism is of paramount importance to the economy.

• We are the custodians of a beautiful country that is annually sought after by millions, a country that we must grow in appreciation for and be proud of.

• Tourism is Everybody’s Business.

• In alignment with our country’s logo, “It’s Better in The Bahamas”, we must each commit to doing our part to make our country a better place.

Over the next few weeks, the Ministry of Tourism Officials will be featured guests on all the major radio shows and will make special appearances on local television.  There will also be TV and newspaper ads with tourism messages on social media, and additional billboards advertising the campaign.

“We’ll also be having a stakeholders meeting for taxi drivers and vendors on New Providence and then throughout the various islands,” DPM Cooper said.

He noted that one of the strongest selling points of this destination is the multiplicity of islands.

Tourism officials market The Bahamas as a 16-island destination, under the signature brand ‘The Islands of The Bahamas’ through which the distinctiveness of each island, and what it has to offer is promoted.  The campaign will also focus on this.

Influencers will make appearances on radio shows to engage the public to travel to upcoming events on Exuma for the Bahamian Music & Heritage Festival set for 15-16 March, and to Long Island, for the Mutton Festival, 21–24 March.

The ministry will also be taking the tourism message to students as well; the Industry Training Department will be launching a program to re-educate students on the importance of tourism.

“A key priority of this government is to increase Bahamian ownership of the tourism economy.  The Tourism Development Corporation is dedicated to this mandate,” he said.

Tourism will also engage stakeholders from across the industry including Taxi Drivers, Tour Operators, Straw Vendors, Hair Braiders and Retailers to hear their concerns and their suggestions for the way forward.