Neo-Colonialism and Disaster Relief: an Unholy Duo
The Caribbean colonies of four neo-colonialist powers, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and the United States, have discovered the hard way where they stand with their colonial masters when faced with an extreme natural disaster. In the wake of hurricane Irma, a Category 5 mega-storm, the populations of the island territories of the four colonial powers, as well as Barbuda, a dominion of Queen Elizabeth’s “Commonwealth,” were relegated to second- and third-class status when it came to the receipt of urgent assistance in the wake of Irma.
Long a domain of rich and famous part-time residents and offshore shell corporations, the permanent residents of the islands of the northeast Leeward Islands are merely looked upon as tourism employees and clerical staff for offshore banks and law offices catering to money launderers and tax evaders. When these victims of Irma cried out for basics – water, food, and medicines, they were initially ignored by neo-colonial offices in Paris, London, Amsterdam, and Washington, DC.
What is being practiced by the neo-colonialist governments of France, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States is a form of disaster politics. The governing authorities appeared to largely ignore the initial recovery needs of Irma-affected islands as a way of punishing them for earlier calls for increased autonomy and, in a few cases, independence.
Residents of Barbuda, part of the nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where a Governor-General representing Queen Elizabeth is head of state; the French-ruled St. Martin and the island’s Dutch half of St. Maarten; British Virgin Islands (BVI); French-ruled St. Barts; the British colony of Anguilla, the British territory of Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI); and the US-ruled St. Thomas, St. Croix, and St. John ran low on food, water, fuel, and medicines after Irma struck the island with intense fury. The colonial powers overseeing these island territories are all governed by pro-corporate conservative governments that were initially sanguine about rushing in disaster relief assistance and supplies. Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, French President Emmanuel Macron, British Prime Minister Theresa May, and US President Donald Trump waited for days after Irma struck before sending military planes and ships to the islands. Many island leaders feel the assistance was too little and too late. They are correct.
The colonialist powers were anxious to rush in public security forces to affected islands but the food, water, and other supplies came later. The security forces rushed in to protect the part-time homes of billionaires was a hat-tip by the governments in London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Washington to the billionaires who support them politically. The welfare of the full-time and poor residents, who were among the most adversely affected by Irma, was assigned a much-lower priority by the corporate vipers, vampires, and vultures controlling the French, British, Dutch, and American governments.
Residents of St. Martin/St. Maarten were forced to scavenge partially-destroyed food ships for anything in the way of sustenance and nutrition, including bottled water, crackers, candy, and rotting fruit. The corporate media called the scavengers “looters.” In situations where white tourists collected water and food under similar circumstances, they were called “scavengers.”
The Cuban government, which has prioritized disaster relief as a matter of national policy and is an international model for disaster recovery, quickly rushed in food, water, and other supplies to its hurricane-ravaged northern coast, including the city of Matanzas and isles such as Cayo Romano and Cayo Coco in the Camaguey archipelago.
Over 1000 residents of 62-square mile Barbuda, most of whom were evacuated to Antigua, are worried about unscrupulous billionaire developers moving on to their island to lay claim to their properties for tourist complexes. Land ownership has been prohibited on the island, a law that has led to some calls for Barbuda to break away from its larger neighbor, Antigua, and opt for independence.
Antigua Prime Minister Gaston Browne announced that to prevent attempts by foreign interests to seize properties on Barbuda, the government will provide a crown grant of one dollar for Barbudians to obtain legal ownership over their current land parcels. The resale of the properties can only occur with the agreement of the Barbuda Council, the local governing authority on the island. However, Browne has also negotiated a deal with the Wahhabist-dominated United Arab Emirates for it to install an 800-megawatt solar power facility and a modern medical clinic on Barbuda. Such deals with either Emiratis or Saudis usually come with significant strings attached, including opening non-Muslim countries like Barbuda to Wahhabist religious infiltration of education systems and religious institutions.
St. Martin — both the French and Dutch parts — the Dutch-ruled islands of Saba and St. Eustatius, Anguilla, TCI, BVI, the US Virgin Islands, and the Turks and Caicos have all demanded, to varying degrees, more autonomy from their colonial masters. Saba and St. Eustatius, without the consent of their residents, were turned into “public entities” of the Netherlands after the dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles in 2011. Rather than receiving more autonomy, these colonial territories were relegated to the status of municipalities of the Netherlands. The same situation exists in French St. Martin. Dutch St. Maarten is an “autonomous country” governed by the Dutch King, another neo-colonialist contrivance. On September 5, 2017, just before Irma struck the Dutch Caribbean islands, leaders of St. Eustatius and Bonaire, the latter unaffected by the hurricane, complained to the Dutch parliament that attempts by the Dutch to totally annex their islands “violated their self-determination and human rights.”
While British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a Trump-like dolt of a political leader, was slow in responding to assistance requests from BVI, TCI, and Anguilla, most local leaders stood fast. BVI Premier Orlando Smith said, “We are a proud nation” and would bounce back from massive devastation of its islands and capital of Road Town on Tortola. London neo-colonialists do not see territories like BVI as “nations,” but merely extra-territorial conveniences for offshore shell corporations and tax evaders.
TCI’s Grand Turk, Salt Cay, South and Middle Caicos were also devastated by Irma. TCI Premier Sharlene Cartwright-Robinson, who, unlike some of her predecessors who demanded independence for TCI, is a compliant puppet of the British government and its appointed governor, was criticized for being too lackadaisical in the wake of Irma. In fact, she was forced to visit Grand Turk and the TCI capital of Cockburn Town on a Cayman Islands police helicopter. A local TCI pastor on Providenciales, clearly annoyed at the slow response of the British governor and TCI premier, told Caribbean News Now, “A British warship that will only come here for a photo shoot? We have lost a day already. Let us not waste any more time.”
Officials of Anguilla, which has a rich history of unsuccessfully declaring independence from Britain, called the response of May and Johnson to the plight of Anguilla “disgraceful.” Josephine Connor, a former government adviser to the Chief Minister of Anguilla, told SkyNews, “We in the territories feel like third-class citizens because I’d rather wager that if there were something coming like that, of the same magnitude, to the mainland U.K., I suspect that there would be far more attention being paid.” It was estimated the HMS Ocean, on deployment in the Mediterranean, would take up to 14 days to reach Anguilla. Anguilla Chief Minister Victor Banks expressed concern over the lack of financial aid from Britain for the island to rebuild from its massive devastation.
Similarly, officials in virtually bankrupted Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands lashed out at initial inattention to Irma’s destruction on their islands from the Trump administration. Residents of St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix, Culebra, and Vieques, stunned by the ferocity of Irma, were then faced with rampant thirst and hunger due to the lack of fresh water and food. Many islanders felt abandoned by the United States. The Marriott Corporation, which chartered a ship to evacuate its hotel guests from St. Thomas after the hurricane, refused to evacuate to Puerto Rico non-guest children and elderly residents even though plenty of empty space was available on the vessel.
The neo-colonial powers will be sure to exact a terrible price from their Caribbean colonies for the meager amount of assistance they are receiving. The first victim will be any notion of autonomy or self-determination previously enjoyed by the islanders. The first rebuilding will of be the luxurious hotel and yacht club compounds of the filthy rich. The native islanders will be lucky to catch a few crumbs of assistance.