Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Welcome to the Caribbean: Paradise Lost

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Welcome to the Caribbean: Paradise Lost

Article excerpt

The tiny island states of the Caribbean are drifting in the dark. In a world dominated by huge corporations, national economies expanding beyond the human imagination, enormous armies erupting in bloodshed in remote corners of the world, tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes tossing and turning millions into human detritus, these islands, from which a substantial number of British citizens have come, appear doomed.

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It is clear to me that, from Haiti in the north to Trinidad and Tobago in the south, there is little or no tomorrow. At the start of this very month, Dr Catherine Mullaney and her husband, Ben, were visiting the island of Antigua, a picturesque tourist destination, on their honeymoon. They were safely ensconced in their hotel on Jolly Beach, or so they thought.

In the dead of night, they were savagely murdered. The news spread throughout the UK. Every radio and television news broadcast carried reports of the brutal murders, informing the 90,000 foreign tourists who visit Antigua yearly that there is trouble in paradise.

Antigua has a population of roughly 70,000. Tourism accounts for between 6 o and 70 per cent of its income. Any withdrawal of enthusiasm for Antigua as a tourist destination will at once reduce the island to a basket case. Such is the economic fragility of these island states.

One may write a similar script for Jamaica, St Vincent, St Lucia and Barbados. Haitians await their Caribbean brothers and sisters, who are threatening to join them in orgies of violence and self-destruction.

Add to these the long-drawn-out volcanic explosions that all but destroyed Montserrat from 1995 onwards, and Hurricane Ivan, which almost blew Grenada into oblivion.

I was on holiday in Barbados when Peter Mandelson arrived in Jamaica to pursue the World Trade Organisation's objectives. …

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