Caribbean News Round-up


Cuba to release 3,500 prisoners ahead of visit by Pope

Pope Francis at St Peter's[BBC] – Cuba has said it will release more than 3,500 prisoners in a goodwill gesture ahead of a visit by Pope Francis.

The government in Havana says those to be freed include inmates due for conditional release next year, as well as a number of foreign prisoners.

Those found guilty of crimes against state security will not be eligible, seemingly ruling out several high-profile political prisoners. The Pope will make a three-day visit to the island next week.

According to Cuba’s state-run newspaper Granma, prisoners were chosen for early release depending on the severity of their crimes, amount of time served, and good behaviour.

Among those to be freed are a number of inmates over 60, prisoners under 20 years old with no prior criminal records and inmates with chronic health conditions. No prisoners with sentences for murder, other violent crimes or drug trafficking will be released, the paper said.

Pope Francis is expected to meet with Fidel Castro if the former Cuban leader’s health allows. The 78-year-old Argentine pontiff is credited with helping bring about last December’s diplomatic thaw after the decades-old enmity between communist Cuba and the US.

He was directly involved in organising a series of secret diplomatic meetings between the two sides.

Caribbean declared rubella free

5CA3E475-68F3-41BD-A0BA-4AF496B77F81[CMC] – The Americas region, which includes the Caribbean has been declared free of rubella.

The declaration of the elimination of rubella and congenital rubella syndrome was made by the international expert committee for Measles and Rubella Elimination in the Americas during the recent meeting of the Pan American Health Organisation and World Health Organsation (PAHO/WHO) in Washington DC.

This brings to four the number of vaccine–preventable diseases to be eliminated from the Americas, the other two being smallpox in 1971 and polio in 1994.

“The elimination of rubella from the Americas is an historic achievement that reflects the collective will of our region’s countries to work together to achieve ambitious public health milestones…All four achievements prove the value of immunisation and how important it is to make vaccines available even to the remotest corners of our hemisphere,” said PAHO/WHO Director, Carissa F Etienne .

There were widespread outbreaks of rubella, also known as German measles, throughout the Americas before the introduction of the Measles-Mumps-Rubella) (MMR) vaccine.

Although the virus is usually mild or asymptomatic, when contracted by pregnant women, it can cause miscarriage, or CRS, which is a constellation of birth defects including blindness, deafness and congenital heart defects.

Before the mass-scale MMR vaccination campaign, between 16,000 and 20,000 children were born with CRS every year in Latin America and the Caribbean and there were more than 158,000 rubella cases reported in 1997 alone.

According to Etienne, with the realisation of this goal, the region’s efforts will now be concentrated on eliminating measles as well.

Latin America countries to accept Syrian refugees

Syrian-refugee-JPEG2[Associated Press] – Brazil will welcome Syrian refugees with “open arms,” President Dilma Rousseff said, as various Latin American nations sought to help with the human tidal wave fleeing the war-torn country.

In a video message marking Brazil’s Independence Day, Rousseff said she wanted to “reiterate the government’s willingness to welcome those who, driven from their homeland, want to come live, work and contribute to the prosperity and peace of Brazil.”

“Especially in these difficult times, these times of crisis, we have to welcome refugees with open arms,” she added.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered his foreign ministry to take steps to receive 20,000 Syrians in the country.

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet, meanwhile, said her country also would be willing to accept refugees, without specifying a number or nationality.

“Throughout our history, we have always had our doors open to those, sometimes coming from far away places, bringing their history and cultural to the construction of our nation,” Bachelet said.

Leaders of Chile’s Arab community, which numbers around 300,000 people, approached the government recently with a plan to offer shelter and support to about 100 refugee families from Syria.

Brazil has taken in more than 2,000 Syrian refugees since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011, more than any other country in Latin America.

Currently, Syrians are the largest refugee group in Brazil. In 2014 alone, 1,405 were given refuge.

Dominica gets maximum payout from CCRIF for flood damage

Dominica 3[CMC] – The CCRIF SPC, formerly the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility, has made a payment of EC$6.5 million (US$2.4 million), the maximum payable under the policy, to the government of Dominica under the Facility’s Excess Rainfall Programme, as a result of rains that occurred during Tropical Storm Erika on August 27, 2015.

CCRIF will also, following consultation with the government, provide additional financial assistance under its Technical Assistance Programme, for specific rebuilding projects.

“The CCRIF board and team wish to express our condolences to the people of Dominica for the loss of life and disruption of livelihoods and we offer our support as you implement your recovery and rehabilitation activities. We are hopeful that the funds received from CCRIF will provide immediate liquidity to address your most urgent needs,” CEO Isaac Anthony said.

This is the second payout that the government of Dominica will receive from CCRIF. In 2007, a payout was made under Dominica’s earthquake policy for a magnitude 7.4 earthquake that occurred in November of that year.

Collectively, these policies for hurricanes, excess rainfall and earthquakes are part of the country’s comprehensive disaster management programme.

Guyanese woman commits suicide in Nevis

antidepressants_suicide[SKNVibes] – Police in Nevis are investigating the death of a Guyanese national, who is said to have committed suicide by ingesting a poisonous substance.

SKNVibes was told that the suicide victim is a Guyanese national of East Indian ancestry known as Oma Devi Balgobin and was residing in Low Street, Charlestown.

Information reaching this publication indicated that sometime on Sunday (Sept. 6) Balgobin had ingested a herbicide known as Gramoxone and was found dead in her home on the following afternoon.

She was an employee of the Agriculture Department in Nevis and had been working at the Abattoir for a number of years.

Speaking with an individual who is acquainted with the Balgobin family, this media house was told that “it is not known what had led Devi to do that”.

The individual however reminded of a similar situation that occurred some five years ago when Balgobin’s son had lost his life.

On the morning of March 17, 2010, Balgobin’s 15-year-old son Yudesh Persaud was found hanging from a tree close to their home in Cane Garden.

It was learnt that he had committed suicide and, according to a family friend, the mother had since removed to Low Street “because living in Cane Garden was giving her too many bad memories”.

The Balgobins have not been the only Guyanese nationals to have committed suicide on Nevis.

On Wednesday, March 11, 2009, Shawn Chatram, a gardener at Government House, had found his wife Shakiela hanging from the rafter of the patio of their Stoney Grove home.

Chatram, who disclosed that his wife had clinical depression tendencies, told SKNVibes that he believed she had taken her life between 2:30 and 3:00 p.m. after he returned to work at 2:00 p.m.

And on the morning of May 4, 2010, 31-year-old Shivpaul Balgobin of Bath Village died at the Alexandra Hospital after reportedly ingesting a poisonous substance two days earlier.

A family member had told this media house that Balgobin and his girlfriend had a dispute and that may have led to him committing suicide.

“He and his girlfriend had a quarrel on Saturday shortly before he left to go and work at his father-in-law’s farm. I understand that while at the farm, which is situated in Bath Village, he drank some Gramoxone around mid-day and left for his home.

“When he got home, he went and lay down in a hammock and his girlfriend saw that he was frothing from the mouth. She immediately called the police and they took him to Alexandra Hospital. He was admitted and they tried to save his life, but I got a message that he died at approximately 5:00 this morning,” the relative said.

Efforts to contact senior officers on Nevis for a comment were futile. This media house however learnt that they were all engaged in a very important meeting with the High Command in St. Kitts.



  1. The population of Cuba is 11.30 million. There are 57.000 people in Cuban prisons. Cuba will soon release 3,500 prisoners in a goodwill gesture ahead of the up-coming visit by Pope Francis. Recently, Guyana released 600 petty prisoners in a good-will gesture by President David Granger.


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