Caribbean News Round Up Jan 21,2016

Caribbean News Round Up Jan 21,2016

Trinidad and Tobago

Four Trinidadians among ISIS fighters detained
Turkish security forces captured 961 foreigners fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Lesant (ISIL) last year, according to the Turkish newspaper Hurriet Daily News.
The paper, quoting a report released by the authorities last month, said four of the fighters were from Trinidad and Tobago.
According to the list, 324 Chinese citizens were caught in Turkey fighting for ISIL while 99 foreign fighters with Russian passports were caught. Palestinian fighters made up the third country in the list with 83, while there were 63 fighters from Turkmenistan, 57 from Afghanistan, and 44 from Indonesia.
There were also a number of fighters from western European countries, including 19 from Germany and the United Kingdom each and 18 from France.
Some of the fighters crossing into Turkey from the Syrian side of the border claimed to be fleeing oppression from ISIL, however, others admitted to plans to conduct attacks within Turkey.
Last week, a top United States general expressed deep concern that a small number of motivated Islamic State fighters could commit acts of terror in Caribbean nations.
General John Kelly, commander of the Miami-based US Southern Command, or South COM, said that about 150 Islamic extremists left the Caribbean region to join Islamic State fighters in the Middle East last year, about 50 more than in the previous year.
However, he said, the biggest threat might not be the extremists who leave to train and fight with the Islamic State, but the ones who stay behind.
Kelly, who oversees US security in Latin America and the Caribbean, said Islamic extremist groups seem to have a new message for would-be jihadists. And that [message] is, ‘rather than coming here to Syria, why don’t you just stay at home and do San Bernardino or do Boston or do Fort Hood?’” he said, alluding to attacks in the US perpetrated by Muslims sympathetic to extremist groups.
Caribbean security experts have warned that extremists could exploit the region’s relatively open borders with the US and Canada.
The Trinidad Guardian reported in November of last year that there were at least 89 citizens of Trinidad and Tobago fighting with ISIS.

The Caribbean
 Caribbean on alert for Zika Virus

With the Zika virus now circulating in 18 countries and territories of Latin America and the Caribbean, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is recommending that its member countries monitor and report any increases in neurological syndromes and congenital anomalies, which growing evidence suggests may be linked to Zika infections.
According to PAHO’s January 17, 2016  Epidemiological update, the countries and territories that have to date confirmed local Zika virus transmission are Brazil, Barbados, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, French Guiana, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Martinique, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Saint Martin, Suriname, and Venezuela. This is twice the number of countries and territories that were reported as having locally transmitted cases of Zika in the previous epidemiological update (December 1, 2015).
PAHO alert also recommends that countries in the Americas prepare their healthcare facilities to respond to a potential increase in demand for specialized care for neurological syndromes, to strengthen prenatal care, and to continue their efforts to reduce the presence of mosquito vectors through effective vector-control strategies and communication to the public.
The Zika virus epidemic has prompt the US to issue travel alerts to citizens travelling to the Caribbean Latin America.
The Zika Virus is a mosquito-borne ailment that causes birth defects and is rapidly spreading through Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Zika virus is transmitted by Aedes species mosquitoes, which also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. Zika causes a mild illness with fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, with symptoms usually lasting under a week.
But in pregnant women, the virus can spread to the fetus and cause brain shrinkage – a rare condition called microcephaly that severely limits a child’s intellectual and physical development – or death.
Cuba records unprecedented tourism growth

Cuba has reported outstanding growth in the number of visitors in 2015 with over 3.5 million tourists visiting the Spanish speaking Caribbean island.
According to a report from University of Havana School of Tourism professor Jose Luis Perello, in 2014, Cuba passed the 3 million-visitor barrier for the first time in its history.
With 521,000 more tourists in 2015, this represents a 17.3 per cent increase compared to the previous period.
Canada is the main source of visitors to Cuba with 1.3 million Canadians travelling south, but the fastest growing market is the United States, with 161,000 for a 76.6 per cent growth, following the easing of restrictions by the Obama administration. The US is the third largest market, trailing Canada and Germany.
Meanwhile, Amnesty international has once again called for the US to shutdown Guantanamo Bay ahead of the 14th anniversary of the first transfer to the detention center.
President Barack Obama signed an executive order for the closure of the infamous detention center within a year when he came to power in January 2009. Seven years later, it is still open.
There are currently 104 detainees held in the US detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba–45 of whom have been cleared for transfer yet remain behind bars. Many inmates at Guantanamo Bay has been held for many years with ever been charged.
Naureen Shah, Director of Amnesty International USA’s Security and Human Rights Programme, claimed that “The population at Guantanamo can be substantially reduced by transferring the dozens of detainees who have already been approved for transfers.” Shah further suggested that “Detainees who cannot be transferred should be charged in federal court of released and investigations should be expanded into reports of torture and other human rights violations suffered by detainees.”
The US’s handling of the Guantanamo Bay situation has lead to many referring to it as a country that consistently disregard internationally agreed standards of justice and human rights.

The Caribbean
China to Bolster Caribbean green energy efforts

China and Latin America has collaborated to launch a China-Latin American Cooperation Fund, which was officially launched earlier in January.
Endowed with an initial 10 billion U.S. dollars by the Export-Import Bank of China and China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange (SAFE), the fund is set up to invest mainly in renewable energy resources as well as other segments of society such as infrastructure, agriculture, and scientific innovation.
The fund comes on the heels of sustained low oil prices, which can potentially affect the energy efficiency of Caribbean countries; most of whom are heavily dependent on fossil fuel to drive electricity.
Fossil reserves, including coal, oil and gas, are limited and unevenly distributed in the Caribbean.  In 2005, Venezuela launched its Caribbean energy program (PETRO CARIBE), providing oil to Caribbean and Central American countries at bargain prices.
But a shattered economy, battered by low oil prices and political turmoil, is now forcing Venezuela to rethink its generous subsidy program.
Should it scrap the policy, Caribbean countries’ energy costs will rise sharply and the effects of high oil and electricity prices will impact their economies.
Faced with uncertainty, Caribbean countries, now more than ever are seeing how vulnerable they are to fluctuations oil prices and the need to adjust their energy structure to protect their national energy security.
According to the recent Caribbean Sustainable Energy Roadmap and Strategy published in October 2015, the region’s installed electricity generation capacity stands at 5,787.3 MW.
Its potential renewable energy capacity, however, is many times that, estimated at 20,953 MW, including solar, wind, hydropower and other types.
Renewable energy currently represents only 8 percent, or 485.4 MW, of the region’s installed electricity generation capacity, making sustainable energy exploitation very promising.
Chinese companies are hoping to partner with Caribbean countries to develop sustainable renewable energy alternatives and to make them far less dependent on crude oil powered electricity.
With that in mind, bilateral energy cooperation should be actively promoted through such mechanisms as the China-Latin American Cooperation Fund, which was officially launched earlier this week, with the first meeting of its board of directors.