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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06NASSAU442
2006-03-14 21:10:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Nassau
Cable title:  

SCENESETTER FOR NASSAU CARICOM MINISTERIAL:

Tags:   BF  ECON  ETRD  OTRA  PGOV  PREL  SNAR  XL 
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VZCZCXYZ0001
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBH #0442/01 0732110
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 142110Z MAR 06
FM AMEMBASSY NASSAU
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 2241
INFO RUEHBE/AMEMBASSY BELIZE 1240
RUEHWN/AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN 5370
RUEHGE/AMEMBASSY GEORGETOWN 3506
RUEHKG/AMEMBASSY KINGSTON 8314
RUEHPO/AMEMBASSY PARAMARIBO 0888
RUEHPU/AMEMBASSY PORT AU PRINCE 3347
RUEHSP/AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN 4511
RUEHDG/AMEMBASSY SANTO DOMINGO 2627
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
						C O N F I D E N T I A L NASSAU 000442 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

FROM THE AMBASSADOR FOR SECRETARY RICE, WHA A/S SHANNON,
AND WHA/CAR

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/14/2016
TAGS: BF ECON ETRD OTRA PGOV PREL SNAR XL
SUBJECT: SCENESETTER FOR NASSAU CARICOM MINISTERIAL:
SHAPING A FORWARD-LOOKING AGENDA FOR COOPERATION

REF: 05 NASSAU 2107

Classified By: Ambassador John D. Rood. Reasons: 1.5 (b) and (d)



1. (C) SUMMARY: The Secretary's March 21-22 meeting in
Nassau with CARICOM foreign ministers offers an opportunity
to frame a positive, forward-looking agenda for our relations
with the Caribbean. With the Haitian elections behind us,
the ministerial will allow us to reinvigorate our cooperation
in promoting democracy, enhancing trade and economic
competitiveness, and strengthening security and the rule of
law. Awareness is growing within the region that old ways --
of governance, protecting economies, and insularity -- can no
longer ensure the region's viability, and that a fundamental
transformation away from the legacy of state-centered
economic development toward a private sector driven model is
essential for growth and prosperity. Your meeting should
help stimulate this transformation, which will in turn
support our efforts to strengthen our Third Border and
prevent the flow of drugs, criminals, illegal migrants and
terrorists from reaching our shores. The Secretary's
bilateral meeting with Bahamian Prime Minister Perry
Christie, coming on the heels of the resolution of the Cuban
dentist detainees, will allow us to refocus attention on our
successful cooperative efforts in counter-narcotics and
migrant interdiction, push for progress on the Proliferation
Security Initiative, and encourage the government to provide
concrete support for the new government in Haiti. END
SUMMARY.

Changing the Atmospherics in the Caribbean


--------------------------





2. (C) In the wake of Haiti's successful elections, the time
is ripe to turn the page in our relations with CARICOM, move
beyond past differences over Haiti, deportees, and lost trade
preferences, and develop a positive, forward-looking agenda.
Your meeting in Nassau will allow us to refocus the region on
the issues that will determine its success or failure and its
viability as a real partner for the U.S. in the years ahead:
reinforcing democratic institutions, enhancing economic
competitiveness, and countering law enforcement and security
threats, including natural disasters. Many Caribbean
government and private sector leaders accept the need to
embrace long overdue economic and social changes, but they
face an uphill battle against entrenched and outdated
bureaucracies; inefficient and often inequitable taxation
systems; ineffective educational systems; and a politics that
is instinctively cautious and closed.



3. (C) The forward-looking agenda you will bring to Nassau
will reinforce our broader goals of building democracy and
pursuing transformational diplomacy aimed at making America
safer. CARICOM countries bring to the table strong
democratic track records, but many countries face threats

from criminal elements, loss of traditional economic
mainstays, and sluggish and unresponsive government services
that erode public trust and confidence. You should use your
public events to emphasize the U.S. commitment to work with
the region to meet these challenges. We can achieve our twin
objectives of supporting democracy and promoting
transformation by focusing the region on what is needed to
compete, build prosperity, ensure security, and generate
opportunity for the people in the region.



4. (C) The Nassau Ministerial will mark the third occasion
you have met with CARICOM foreign ministers as a group,
following side meetings at the OAS General Assembly in Ft.
Lauderdale last June and at the UN General Assembly in
September. This sustained attention has helped dispel
complaints that the U.S. was inattentive toward its closest
neighbors. Countries in the region hope that the Ministerial
can serve as spring-board to follow-up actions -- possibly
through issue-focused working groups -- with the ultimate
goal being to produce enough substantive progress to merit
consideration of a heads of state meeting further down the
line. As in past meetings, Haiti will loom large in your
regional discussions, and your meeting will offer an
opportunity to plot a path forward where we can work together
to support the Preval government in developing the democratic

institutions and generating economic growth.

U.S.-Bahamas: Reinforcing Successful Partnerships


--------------------------



--------------------------





5. (C) Your bilateral meeting with Bahamian Prime Minister
Perry Christie comes on the heels of a drawn out battle over
the fate of two Cuban detainees that had provoked
Congressional ire in the U.S. and substantial criticism of
the government's handling of the issue at home and in the
U.S. This issue had diverted attention from the otherwise
wide-ranging partnership we enjoy with The Bahamas. Our law
enforcement cooperation is perhaps the closest in the region,
with U.S. and Bahamian police and military working
side-by-side to combat drug trafficking and migrant
smuggling. Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT), a
multi-agency, multinational counter-drug operation involving
the DEA, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Army, and the Bahamian police
has reduced the share of U.S.-destined cocaine passing
through the Bahamas-Jamaica-Cuba vector from over 70 percent
in the early 1980s to under 10 percent today. On migrants,
the U.S. Coast Guard and the Bahamian Defense Force combined
in 2005 to interdict and repatriate nearly 5000 mainly
Haitian illegal migrants.

New Partnerships: Commercial Shipping Security


--------------------------

-



6. (C) The Bahamas is one of the largest ship-registry
countries not yet participating in the Proliferation Security
Initiative (PSI). After high-level Embassy pressure, they
hosted a first round of talks in November 2005 and tell us
they have set up a working group to study our proposal, but
little concrete has happened. Underscoring the importance of
Bahamian participation in the PSI would help us expedite
conclusion of a PSI shipboarding agreement.



7. (C) Likewise, Prime Minister Christie has publicly
requested that the Freeport port be included in the
Department of Homeland Security's Container Security
Initiative, and the Embassy has been working with CBP to move
this forward. You may wish to affirm to the Prime Minister
our commitment to implementing CSI in Freeport, and inform
him that our CSI team will be visiting The Bahamas March
27-28 to finalize details for the program. Freeport has also
been a focus of The Department of Energy's Megaports Program,
which will allow us to work with The Bahamas in detecting and
interdicting illicit radioactive material in container
shipping.

New Investment: Liquefied Natural Gas


--------------------------





8. (C) U.S.-based Applied Energy Services Corporation (AES)
has proposed a $650 million liquefied natural gas project
which would link a re-gasification plant on the man-made
Ocean Cay near Bimini with South Florida by pipeline. U.S.
and Florida regulators have approved the project, but a final
decision by the Bahamian Cabinet has been pending for
eighteen months despite approval in principal from the
previous Bahamian government and approval from the Bahamian
environmental assessment committee. Florida Governor Jeb
Bush discussed LNG with the Prime Minister when he visited
The Bahamas last month, agreeing to set up a meeting between
Florida and Bahamian environmental oversight bodies to review
the regulatory framework in The Bahamas. The Secretaries of
Commerce and Energy have written the Prime Minister on this
issue, which has also generated Congressional interest from
SFRC Chairman Lugar, seeking government action on the
proposal.

Hesitant to Lead or Break From CARICOM


--------------------------





9. (C) Our strong operational cooperation and deep economic
ties -- the Bahamian economy depends overwhelmingly on
American tourists and trade -- do not translate into support
for U.S. foreign policy positions as much as we would expect
from a country that shares our fundamental democratic values.
The Bahamas has been sensitive to accusations from within

CARICOM that it is too closely tied to the U.S. and has
therefore been reluctant to break from the group or lead it
in "pro-U.S." directions, even when its interests align
closely with ours. For example, while its geographic
position and problems arising from Haitian migrants should
have given The Bahamas a heightened stake in promoting
stability in Haiti, it joined CARICOM in shunning the Interim
Government for two years until sending two observers as part
of CARICOM's election observation team. No other CARICOM
government has more at stake in Haiti, and you should
encourage The Bahamas to push CARICOM to quickly
reincorporate Haiti and to be more active in promoting
stability and development there.



10. (C) Looking beyond Caribbean shores, you should urge The
Bahamas to stand up internationally for the values they
cherish domestically. Too often, these proud democracies
have been reluctant to step forward and speak out against
human rights violations elsewhere in the world. CARICOM
countries, including The Bahamas, were particularly unhelpful
at the UN General Assembly in 2005 where they supported
no-action motions on multiple country-specific human rights
resolutions, and were part of a narrow majority that blocked
consideration of a resolution on Sudan. Overall, CARICOM
countries have a poor record in voting coincidence with the
U.S. We have made some progress in calling public attention
to some of these votes, which has resonated with a public
that believes strongly in democratic freedoms and the rule of
law. You should urge CARICOM to reconsider its no-action
policy and urge The Bahamas and others to better reflect
their cherished domestic principles in their international
engagement.


Comment


--------------------------





11. (C) Despite recent tensions over the Cuban detainees,
The Bahamas, by virtue of its proximity, history, economic
ties, and personal connections, is the most American-oriented
country in CARICOM. Its fate is inextricably linked to the
tourists -- 90 percent American -- that generate its
prosperity. Because of extensive and ongoing personal,
professional, and trade connections, Bahamians are open to
U.S. views and instinctively ook North, even if they do not
always agree withus. Prime Minister Christie's Progressive
Liberl Party (PLP), has governed The Bahamas for much o the
independence era, but Christie faces a formiable challenge
in the elections that he must cal no later than May 2007.
His indecisiveness has become a political liability which the
opposition has already begun to exploit. His clumsy handling
of the Cuban dentists and continued dithering on the LNG
investments have reinforced this perception, so Christie will
be eager to show that relations with the U.S. are back on
track, but may also want to hint that he is willing to stand
up to the U.S. We should emphasize that the United States
values and respects our diverse partnerships with the Bahamas
and that our common interests can be even better served by
deepening our cooperation and working together to advance our
values internationally.



12. MINIMIZED CONSIDERED.

ROOD