Look back at 2013 - July to December
Over the year, Caribbean Intelligence has been rounding up the news on a weekly basis. Here are some of the highlights from those weekly bulletins.
You can also find some of the top news analysis stories listed at the end of this page. Enjoy the catch-up!
On 13 July, a jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin. The growth of protests in the States took on a civil rights movement momentum. Caribbean-Americans became involved in the protests after the verdict. To read the impact on the Caribbean-American community, check out our story from New York.
The 2013 Transparency International (TI) global corruption barometer was published on 9 July, with Jamaica being the only Caribbean country under the spotlight this year.
Globally, one in four people reported that they had paid in a bribe in the last 12 months in interactions with key public institutions.
Jamaica fared better than many on the index. In the country’s highest score for bribery, 12% of respondents reported paying bribes to the police. Other kinds of illicit payments fell well below this figure.
However, in terms of perception, Jamaicans expressed a high level of belief of corruption or extreme corruption in the police (86%), political parties (85%) and their parliament and the legislature (74%).
Perceived as least corrupt were the country’s NGOs (11%) and the education system (19%).
Sir Richard Branson blogged and tweeted about a letter that denounced the Liat airline’s level of service under the title: “How to write a complaint letter”. The letter itself was a sarcastic note including lines such as “And who wants to fly on the same airplane the entire time?”, “I particularly enjoyed sampling the security and scanners at each and every airport” and “PS: Keep the bag. I never liked it anyway.”Liat has suffered many problems over the years but while some on social media responded to Sir Richard’s blog with annoyance, others cheered on the letter’s sentiments.
In response, Liat’s customer experience director, Leesa Parris-Rudder, appeared in a tongue-in-cheek video challenging the Virgin boss to a race to Necker Island, the island in the BVI that he owns.
“All airlines, even the mighty Virgin, have bad days,” Ms Parris-Rudder said in the Liat video.
Doreen Lawrence, the Jamaican mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence, was made a baroness by Britain’s opposition Labour party. She was one of 24 new appointments to the House of Lords, announced on 1 August, all chosen by UK political parties with parliamentary representation in the lower house, the House of Commons.
Doreen Lawrence, who has pursued justice for her son since his murder by white youths in 1993, is also the chair of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, which works with young black Britons.
Two decades on, she has been confronted by revelations of attempts by the police to smear her family, which came to light this year.
Stephen’s father, Neville, has returned to live in Jamaica.
The tension between UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President Ronald Reagan over the US intervention of Grenada was fully unveiled in accordance with Britain’s 30-year secrecy rule.
Files released on 1 August from Britain’s National Archives indicated that President Reagan notified Mrs Thatcher late on the evening before 1,900 US marines arrived in Grenada, where the Queen is head of state.
Mr Reagan said that an airstrip had been built in Grenada that “looked suspiciously suitable for military aircraft”.
After the murder of Grenadian Prime Minister Maurice Bishop on 19 October 1983, Mrs Thatcher and her ministers had said there was no likelihood of military invasion.
Before Mrs Thatcher could state her position in writing to President Reagan, he let her know that the troops had already arrived. Mrs Thatcher had also dined with the US ambassador to London that very evening.
Her response to the US leader, after being kept in the dark until after the event, is clear from the just-released notes and memos: “The decision which you describe causes us great concern. I cannot conceal that I am deeply disturbed by your latest communication.”
Rihanna proved once again that she is Barbados’s biggest global asset after her appearance in Crop Over made global headlines.
Across daily newspapers, celebrity magazines and social media, most of the attention paid to Barbados’ annual event was focused on Rihanna and THAT costume.
Twitter messages agreed on two things: “Rihanna looked great” and “I’m doing Barbados Carnival next year”.
The 11th Caribbean Festival of Arts and Culture (Carifesta) closed on 25 August in Suriname with an unusual performance. As the Carifesta mantle passed from Suriname to Haiti, the latter country’s President, Michel Martelly, flew in for the closing ceremony and even took to the stage to perform, as only a former singer-turned-politician can.
He was not alone. Other singers at the closing ceremony included Suriname’s President, Desi Bouterse, and Haitian-American hip hop star Wyclef Jean – all setting a new music benchmark for Carifesta closing ceremonies.
In September, it became official: Trinidadians are the happiest of Caribbean peoples!
That was according to the World Happiness Report 2013, produced as part of the objectives for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2015 to 2030. The latest report showed a slight increase for Trinidad and Tobago between the period 2005-07 and 2010-12. The twin island republic came in at 31 on the global index of 150 countries analysed.
The next Caribbean country, Suriname, weighed in at the 40th slot.
Other Caribbean nations in the measurement included Jamaica (75th), Dominican Republic (95th) and Haiti at 126.
The calls for discussion about the legalisation of ganja for medicinal use gained even further momentum with a request by a Caribbean leader for the Caribbean Community (Caricom) to discuss the issue.
St Vincent and the Grenadines' Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, joined the debate by suggesting the regional grouping should discuss the matter in a “sensible” and “reasoned” way that was “not hysterical”.
In a 2 September letter to Trinidad’s Kamla Persad-Bissessar, who is currently chairing Caricom, Dr Gonsalves said: “I make my plea for reasoned debate, led by Caricom’s political and civic leadership in the context of the legalisation of marijuana for medical/health purposes in 20 states in the United States of America.”
He came in with a new-broom approach expected of any new chief executive of a key company.
However, Ian Brunton announced on 16 September that he was stepping down as chief executive of Caribbean island-hopping airline Liat.
No reason was given, but his step down follows a spring and summer full of woes for the airline, which ranged from servicing the first Caribbean T20 cross-island cricket series to a spat with Virgin mogul Richard Branson.
Cuba announced changes which allowed its state tourism bodies to hire private businesses for accommodation, meals, trips and other tourism activities.
Previously, some state organisations had been allowed to do deals with private, but the tourism industry had been out of bounds.
It meant that state-run tourism agencies can seek contracts with the many private restaurants and bed-and-breakfasts which have grown up in Cuba in recent years.
Jamaican-born British MP Diane Abbott was relegated to the back benches in a reshuffle by Britain’s opposition Labour Party.
Labour leader Ed Miliband moved Ms Abbott from her position as shadow health minister in a reshuffle on 8 October.
Diane Abbott, one of the first intake of black MPs in Britain in the 1980s and a contender for the Labour leadership which Ed Miliband won, had recently questioned Labour’s position on immigration, saying it was being influenced by poll results.
The World Doping Agency (WADA) asked Jamaica for in-country doping inspection tests, following a furore over the country’s out-of-competition testing schedule. The WADA asked to conduct an “extraordinary” audit immediately, following revelations by a former Jamaican Anti-Doping Commission (JADCO) executive director that the tests had not been conducted because of a lack of resources.
The constitutional court in the Dominican Republic ruled on 23 September on whether Dominican nationality should be based on “right of soil” or “right of blood”.
The outcome, in effect, means that a person born on Dominican soil to parents who are “in transit” is a foreigner and not eligible for citizenship. The ruling was retroactive to 1929.
The court decision could lead to more than 200,000 Dominican-born people of Haitian descent being deprived of their nationality.
The decision set off a slow burn of condemnation from global human rights groups and legal experts.
As chair of the Caricom regional grouping, Ms Persad-Bissessar met Haiti’s Foreign Minister, Pierre-Richard Casimir, on 14 October to discuss the issue.
Her office said in a release that she would consult with Caricom’s Bureau [of current, past and upcoming chairs and the regional organisation’s Secretary-General] on how to bring about a resolution.
“The ruling strips Dominican citizenship from people born in the Dominican Republic during this almost 85-year period,” the statement said.
Tributes poured in for St Kitts-born British comedian Felix Dexter, who died on 18 October following a battle with multiple myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer.
The comedian and actor was best known for roles in the black British pioneering 1990s comedy The Real McCoy and went on to feature in mainstream British comedies including Absolutely Fabulous and The Fast Show, as well as radio's Down the Line comedy series.
Felix Dexter moved to Britain at the age of seven.
Jamaica announced a financial boost for its national anti-doping commission (JADCO) in a revitalisation programme that will include the filling of more posts.
An audit in Jamaica by World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) officials took place on 28-29 October.
WADA promised collaboration with JADCO to strengthen its programme, which now also has a new chief executive, a recruitment drive and an improved communications arm on the way, plus a commitment from the Jamaican government for a 14% budget increase.
Even though Jamaica’s top athletes are some of the most tested in the world at international competition level, a country is still required to conduct regular out-of-competition tests.
His wife has Caribbean roots, his photogenic children are the darlings of social media and his stance against stop-and-search could only have boosted Bill de Blasio’s appeal to many Caribbean voters in New York's mayoral election.
In the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, Mr de Blasio had said: “Racial profiling happened in Florida. Racial profiling is happening here. It’s unacceptable in both places.”
The de Blasio family’s enjoyment of this year’s West Indian Carnival parade added to those credentials.
So much so that his mayoral rival, Bill Thompson, was prompted to seek the central and eastern Caribbean-American vote by complaining about rents pricing people out of their neighbourhoods, while telling Flatbush residents the saga of how his grandfather emigrated from St Kitts.
In the end, Bill de Blasio won on 5 November, stepping up from New York public advocate to become the city's mayor-elect. His wife, Chirlane McCray, lists speechwriting and public affairs specialist as part of her own career path.
In an interview with the Barbados Nation newspaper in September, she spoke of being part of a "conventional unconventional couple".
Usain Bolt and Shelley-Ann Fraser-Pryce were named male and female athletes of the year by the International Amateur Athletics Federation (IAAF) on 16 November.
It was the fifth time for Bolt (2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012), who hinted at the awards ceremony in Monaco that he was seeking to do the 200m in under 19 seconds.
“This season will be the one to go for the [200m] world record. I want to get ready to attack the world record,” he said in Monaco.
Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce regained her 100m title and ran the fastest 200m time for 2013, as well as leading her 4x100m team to the second-fastest time in history.
“I’m shocked and excited,” she told the Monaco audience.
“They did it!” said the Jamaica Observer, pointing out that they were the first Jamaican duo to cop both IAAF titles in one year.
Tributes to Nelson Mandela flooded in and Caribbean leaders flew to South Africa to join the growing number of world leaders planning to attend a week of commemorative events, ending with the funeral on 15 December.
We rounded up some of the statesmen and women’s comments and the tributes to Nelson Mandela on our dedicated page.
Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica signed an agreement mapping out new approaches to immigration after two days of talks in Kingston aimed at defusing a row over rights of movement.
The row had been caused by the deportation of a group of Jamaicans from Trinidad.
Anger grew as lobby groups started to call for a boycott of all Trinidadian goods by Jamaicans, both at home and in the diaspora.
Following 2-3 December talks in Kingston between Jamaica's Foreign Affairs Minister, A J Nicholson, and Trinidad and Tobago’s Foreign Minister, Winston Dookeran, the two announced a deal which included ways to improve free trade and free movement between the two countries.
Bunji Garlin won the Best International Performance category at America's Soul Train awards on 1 December with his Differentology.
The music video, which many Trinidadians at home and in the diaspora have hailed as the 2013 Carnival anthem since its launch in February, has been described by music critics as "eye popping" and appealing to a crossover audience.
Bunji was in contention against fellow Trinidadian Machel Montano, as well as artistes Emeli Sande, P-Square and Iyanya.
Barbadians learnt on 13 December of major job losses for the public sector in the new year.
In the first wave of cuts, 2,000 jobs will go on 14 January, with a further 1,000 jobs scheduled to be axed by 1 March.
Finance Minister Chris Sinckler said that the measure was part of a package aimed at plugging a US$71m finance gap.
As well as the staff cuts in government ministries and statutory authorities, MPs and permanent secretaries are to take a 10% pay cut and all ministerial travel budgets will be slashed in half.
Caribbean people at home and abroad showed their joint power on social media and lobbying with the 18 December victory in season five of The Voice US for 28-year-old Jamaican songstress Tessanne Chin. For three months, Jamaicans had been hosting Twitter parties, linking up with friends and relatives abroad and urging Jamaicans and other Caribbean people in the US to vote for Tessanne as she made her way through the American TV series.
Tessanne had the backing of many of Jamaica’s other best-known names: Shaggy introduced her to the contest, while Usain Bolt made a guest appearance at one of her performances.
Her social media following, under the handle #TeamTessanne, grew week after week.
Her final appearance was followed by Jamaicans abroad joining the virtual #TeamTessanne social media parties, mostly on Twitter, while Jamaicans at home had a number of real venues where wide screens showed the competition at hotels, bars and the ever-popular Half-Way Tree Junction in Kingston.
Caribbean Intelligence© rounds up the top stories on the Caribbean, its Diaspora and stories which impact on Caribbean affairs on our News Analysis page. Away from the news, there’s our cultural, sporting, food and Caribbean chatter rolling page – What’s the Buzz. Profiles on the Caribbean Diaspora are to be found in our Caribbean Abroad pages.