Protesters try to pass the police cordon during a demonstration to demand the resignation of Haitian president Jovenel Moise, in the streets of Petion Ville, Port-au-Prince
Protesters try to pass the police cordon during a demonstration to demand the resignation of Haitian president Jovenel Moise, in the streets of Petion Ville, Port-au-Prince, Haiti October 11, 2019. REUTERS/Andres Martinez Casares

The Caribbean Diaspora Has A SOUTHCOM Problem

Only in office for three weeks, Joe Biden administration’s ideas for ‘Building Back Better,’ which includes repositioning the US as ‘leader’ on the world stage, has been making itself evident and coming in hot with foreign policy. Recently, think tank, The Atlantic Council, held a virtual forum titled, “Passing The Baton 2021: Securing America’s Future Together ” forum, moderated by Condoleezza Rice. The event exposed the administration’s collaboration with the State Department to continue antagonizing Iran, China, and Russia. But what has been most evident through actions has been this administration’s attention on the Caribbean.  

At the end of 2020, at an Americas Society/Council of the Americas roundtable conversation, commander of the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), Navy Adm. Craig S. Faller, alongside the civilian deputy commander of U.S. Southcom, Jean Manes, advised that China, Iran, and Russia were a threat to the US because of its influence and alliances in the Caribbean region. Due to US sanctions, Covid-19 has accelerated allyships between these nations and, specifically, countries like Cuba and Venezuela, already targeted by US imperialism. Presidents and administrations may have changed, but imperialism has not. Biden has continued in these efforts. 

What The Biden Administration Has Been Up To

Last week, a federal judge ordered the Biden administration not to enforce a 100-day moratorium on deportations. The Biden’s administration, under Alejandro Mayorkas, has deported hundreds of immigrants. Those hundreds of people were from at least three Caribbean countries: Jamaica on Thursday, and Guatemala and Honduras on Friday. On Monday, two flights chartered by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) deported at least 72 people to Haiti, including a two-month-old baby and 21 other children. 

Last Friday, the Biden administration accepted the unpopular Haitian President Jovenel Moïse‘s claim to hold power for another year, which would have allowed him to rewrite Haiti’s constitution. How does the US have the power to decide whether a sovereign country’s president can go against its constitution and its citizens’ wishes to extend his mandate by a whole year? The Biden administration actively chose to ignore the general strike and demands made directly to Biden to stop supporting Moïse. 

The mixed-signal denunciation of Moïse by Ned Price of the State Dept and other congressional liberals should not be viewed as support of Haiti’s sovereignty and self-determination but instead a need to co-opt and control the uprisings. Despite that, Haiti welcomed a new provisional president without U.S. intervention nor approval.

As Jemima Pierre of Black Alliance For Peace explains, “there is a direct connection between The U.S. actions in both Haiti and Venezuela. When Hugo Chavez set up the “PetroCaribe” fund to help Caribbean countries, giving them access to Venezuelan oil at a fraction of the cost so that they can use the profits for development, the U.S. forced many countries in the region not to participate. Haiti has been one of the last holdouts. The US also needs Moïse to recognize Juan Guaido as leader of Venezuela, like Biden already has, with a vote at the Organization of American States (OAS). ”  The vote to recognize Guaido will serve to oust the current democratically elected president, Nicolás Maduro. What is happening in Haiti illustrates just one aspect of the collateral damage the entire Caribbean will face arising from U.S geopolitical aggression on Venezuela. 

Why Does This Matter?

The Caribbean diaspora danced in the streets on election day and pulled out their chucks and pearls on inauguration day, celebrating Kamala Harris’ identity— the first Black South Asian Caribbean Woman Vice President. Comparisons to Shirley Chisolm, who is of Guyanese heritage, have been made in bad faith despite the two having distinctly different politics. Although frequently misused, “identity politics” is meant to address inequality as a structural and intersectional phenomenon primarily affecting colonized/ racialized people.  Stripped from the politics of the Combahee River Collective, the collective of women who coined the term,  what we’re witnessing can not be reduced to “identity politics.” Instead, it is identity reductionism— a phenomenon reducing people to characteristics of their identity.  Symbolism is encouraged in favor of politics allowing a smooth transition into “Americanism.” 

The symbolism of Harris is a tool used to placate the Caribbean diaspora in the US. While celebrating all the ways they can see themselves in this “symbol of progress,” there’s been no recognition, aside from a few organizations, of the policies currently carried out by this administration in these last few weeks that directly target the region that is home to their families and cultures. 

Many are becoming more familiar with the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) however, the US has divided the whole world into military commands. The US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has been responsible for a consistent and steady escalation of US militarization in the Caribbean related to U.S pressure on Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. In the same way the expansion of AFRICOM relied on Barack Obama’s connection to Africa, we can expect that Harris’ identity, as both Jamaican and South Asian, will pose as much of a threat to the Caribbean region. The Caribbean Diaspora in the US must be aware of how they are being used to expand US hegemony in the region and be vigilant in calls to shut down ALL US military commands. 

Learn more about what’s happening in Haiti:

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Renegade Culture Haiti is On Fire: Political Unrest, Kidnappings and US Imperialism feat Dr. Mamyrah Prosper  (video)

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Erica Caines is a poet, writer and organizer in Baltimore and the DMV. She is an organizing committee member of the anti war coalition, the Black Alliance For Peace as well as an outreach member of the Black centered Ujima People’s Progress Party. Caines founded Liberation Through Reading in 2017 as a way to provide Black children with books that represent them and created the extension, a book club entitled Liberation Through Reading BC, to strengthen political education online and in our communities.