WASHINGTON, USA (CMC) — Two high-ranking United States officials have introduced legislation that they say would prioritise US-Caribbean relations.
New York Democratic Congressman Eliot L Engel, member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a former chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced the bill that would require the US Secretary of State and the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to the US Congress a multi-year strategy focused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and Diaspora communities in the US.
The two legislators said the measure would also improve energy security, counter violence, and ramp up diplomacy, among other priority areas.
“While they are sometimes overlooked, the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States,” Engel said.
“With so many crises around the globe that demand US attention, we can’t lose sight of our long-term interests closer to home but should instead strengthen and expand ties with our Caribbean neighbour. This legislation makes it clear that Congress will prioritise US-Caribbean relations for many years to come.”
Ros-Lehtinen said she was “pleased” to join with Engel in introducing this “important bill”.
“As someone who represents South Florida and a large number of individuals from the Caribbean diaspora community, I’m well aware of the unique importance of the Caribbean and a strong US-Caribbean relationship,” she said.
“Now that the Caribbean should be less dependent on a deteriorating Venezuelan economy, this bill will go a long way in improving those strategic relationships and show the region that the US is redoubling its efforts to remain engaged in the Caribbean to enhance our diplomatic and economic ties.
“It’s also more important now than ever that we increase coordination and co-operation on security-related issues, especially in conjunction with our leaders at SOUTHCOM (Miami-based US Military Command).”
According to Engel and Ros-Lehtinen, the legislation would require the US State Department and USAID to identify agency efforts to prioritise US policy towards the Caribbean, outline an approach to broaden outreach to the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States, and outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking.
The bill would also establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power; and outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region.
In addition, the congressional representatives said the legislation would also develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.
The bill would require the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports, namely an evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country, and an evaluation of US diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.