NOW that the Republicans are back in power they have suddenly awakened to the fact that their sphere of influence is quietly being infiltrated by Beijing and their control of their own Caribbean Basin is slowly slipping away. The US Embassy has been well represented by its Chargé d’Affaires, but the Bahamas has not had a resident US Ambassador since 2011. In June 2014 President Obama appointed Cassandra Butts, 50, to the post, but the short-sighted Republicans held up the appointment. In the meantime Ms Butts died – and that was the end of the matter.
Now suddenly Florida Senator Marco Rubio, chairman of the US Foreign Relations Committee, realises that the Chinese made a $2.1bn proposal for Andros’ fishing waters, and that our then PLP Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries gave our then Bahamas ambassador to China permission to have discussions about the proposal with his Chinese counterpart. On learning of this before any deal could be sealed, Bahamians were so upset and vocal on the matter that the proposal was aborted. This proposal came up again this week at the Foreign Relations committee’s hearing for the appointment at long last of a US Ambassador to The Bahamas.
Now Mr Rubio has suddenly realised that without a doubt that the matter is “concerning” because of Florida’s proximity to The Bahamas. The senator is rather slow in coming to this conclusion. For some time now, this newspaper has been attempting to draw attention to what is happening in our mutual waters — especially in view of the US’s AUTEC base on Andros. We now invite the Senators to spin the globe and find the Panama Canal in the Pacific Ocean leading into the Caribbean Sea. Here the Chinese are well established by the same companies that are in Freeport, and Baha Mar in Nassau. The Andros fishing proposal with the Chinese was only one of many proposals mentioned over the past few years.
But the Republicans had become so inward-looking that they seemed to forget their borders and while they were arguing with their Democratic counterparts, the clever Chinese have been stealthily making inroads. Now Mr Rubio has pointed out that if the Bahamas ever leased its waters to the Chinese it would negatively impact US-Bahamas relations. He wanted to know how the proposed ambassador to The Bahamas would approach this matter should it arise under his watch.
We do not think that he would even have to consider it. Bahamians have already settled the matter and we are satisfied that the present government is sufficiently concerned that it would not even entertain the thought.
We wonder it the US realises that in 2015 former prime minister Perry Christie announced that he had plans to request funding from China to support the national budget, and refinance and restructure the country’s debt. His proposal was to acquire funds from a US$3bn dollar investment fund, which had been newly established by China to finance cash-strapped Central and Eastern European countries.
Mr Christie made his announcement at the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States forum meeting in Beijing about two years ago. At that meeting apparently, he gave assurances that The Bahamas government would promote opportunities for investment in the energy sector, gas exploration, mining, forestry, tourism, airline services, financial services, agriculture and fisheries. However, after the experience with Baha Mar and the confusion created by the Export-Import Bank of China and its partner, the Chinese Construction Company, we hope this romance is now over. Certainly it is over now that the PLP government has been removed from office.
Mr Doug Manchester, who has been proposed as the new ambassador, is the former publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune. He has been described as a “leading industrialist with accomplishments on a national and international scale— in several industries.” An article announcing his appointment describes the diplomatic relationship between the Bahamas as “warm but not well watched.” It is understood that Mr Manchester has a home in the Lyford Cay area and will be in a position to do the watching.
“I really do believe that the presence of Homeland Security and our Coast Guard off the shore and all of what we’re doing to protect the Bahamas really needs to be continually emphasised to the Bahamian government, even though China has in fact made a significant economic contribution to the Commonwealth of The Bahamas in the form of hotels (and) resorts,” Mr Manchester told the Foreign Relations Committee.
We do not think that Bahamians need this reminder. However, Americans should be reminded that we are friends off their shores and our interests should also be protected.