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AP Reports: U.S. losing Caribbean clout

[Editorial Note: This report published by the Sun-Sentinel touches upon the smae developments covered in the previous Latino Insurgent analysis report "South American Union Becoming a Reality." This is of course only compounded by the EU's renewed interest in the region see upcoming report "EU Pledges Aid to Latin America & Caribbean"

U.S. losing Caribbean clout

By Jonathan M. Katz
The Associated Press

April 17, 2007

The United States neglects its Caribbean neighbors and is losing influence in the region to China and Venezuela, a U.S. Congress member visiting the islands said Monday.

U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, said officials in Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago feel Washington ignores the region and are looking elsewhere for investment and aid.

"The people there are begging us to be engaged. By our neglect, other countries operating in their own self-interest will move in and fill the void," Engel said by phone from Trinidad.

During a four-day Caribbean trip, Engel and four other congressional Democrats met with Trinidadian Prime Minister Patrick Manning and toured a Grenada medical school that draws a large number of U.S. students.

The other members of the delegation were Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and Yvette Clarke of New York.

In Grenada, the delegation stopped by a $40 million cricket stadium financed by China and rebuilt by Chinese workers after it was damaged in a 2004 hurricane.

"They built the whole place. They're moving in," said Engel, whose Bronx district is home to thousands of Caribbean immigrants.

U.S. aid to the Caribbean declined by more than a third in the 1990s and stayed low for most of this decade, the Congressional Research Service reported in 2005.

Though funding has risen since -- the White House requested $316 million in 2006 -- the majority of that assistance goes to Haiti.

Meanwhile, Venezuela's Hugo Chavez has gained popularity offering low-cost, long-term financing for oil. China has dramatically increased investment in the region and recently asked to join the Inter-American Development Bank.

Chavez received a warm reception when he visited Haiti last month. And in March, Dominican Republic President Leonel Fernandez chastised Washington for having abandoned his country in its fight against surging cocaine traffic.

Copyright © 2007, South Florida Sun-Sentinel

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