Members of the US Congress, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congresswoman María Elvira Salazar (FL-27), and Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) are piloting legislation which they hope could modernise U.S. engagement with Caribbean nations.
Called the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2023 they're calling on the U.S. Department of State to develop a multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean.
The proposal comes as U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is set to meet with Caricom leaders in the Bahamas today, in keeping with a promise last year to hold more meetings with leaders of the region. In a release, the team from the U.S Congressed proposed several measuring in the Bill aimed at:
Reducing the flow of illicit United States firearms to the Caribbean region and providing technical support, training, and information-sharing to Caribbean security forces charged with monitoring maritime borders, including formal and informal ports of entry.
Improving energy security, resiliency, and independence by working to finance increased access to diverse, reliable, secure, and affordable renewable power solutions.
Supporting regional adaptation and resilience to the climate-driven effects of severe weather events and natural disasters.
Advancing cooperation on democracy and human rights throughout the region and in multilateral fora.
Improving public health cooperation and infrastructure to mitigate health concerns and threats to the Caribbean region, including through professional exchanges, medical education, and U.S. exports of medical services, technology, and pharmaceuticals to prepare for future pandemics and health emergencies, expanding the accessibility of health services to marginalized populations, and reducing dependence on medical imports from malign actors in the region and elsewhere.
Supporting regional initiatives to advance food security throughout the Caribbean.
Expanding internet access throughout the region, especially for marginalized communities, while working cooperatively to enhance data privacy and security.
Advancing access to education and critical skills for at-risk youth, women, and girls in the Caribbean region.
Below are comments from the Congressmen:
“Over the seven years since Congress last directed the State Department to develop a strategy for engagement with the Caribbean, the challenges and opportunities faced by the United States and our Caribbean partners have changed significantly,” said Congressman Castro. “Today, as we explore new possibilities for regional integration and economic growth and confront new threats – from climate change to democratic backsliding – the time has come for an updated strategy. The U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2023 demonstrates Congress’ bipartisan commitment to deepening our relationship with Caribbean nations and improving the lives of people across the Western Hemisphere. I thank Chairwoman Salazar and Congressman Espaillat for their partnership on this bill and look forward to moving this important legislation forward.”
“It is in the best interest of South Florida and the United States to have a secure, prosperous, and sovereign Caribbean,” said Congresswoman Salazar. “We need to have a productive strategy to make sure it remains one of the world’s top destinations for investment and tourism. A safe Caribbean is good for tourism, national security, and eases the migration crisis.”
“As we continue our coordinated efforts to strengthen U.S. relations throughout the Caribbean, my colleagues and I feel it is important to update the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 to reflect the current challenges the region is facing as of 2023. I am proud to co-lead this new bill, which will update the 2016 law to require our government to create a strategy to address the growing threat of illicit gun trafficking and violence in the Caribbean, while simultaneously improving renewable energy access, climate adaptation efforts, and public health cooperation efforts throughout the region,” said Congressman Espaillat.