The Caribbean is in every sense of the word the neighbor of the United States. All islands in the Caribbean and specifically those heavily dependent on tourism (like St. Maarten) know the saying: “If the US sneezes, the Caribbean gets a cold.” This is often used in relation to the economy. In today’s reality, the governments and peoples of the Caribbean have to be aware and prepared to deal with possible threats to US citizens in this part of the world.
Though the Caribbean is and, hopefully, continue to be peaceful, level-headed and not prone to any form of fundamentalist ideas, it is necessary to have contingency plans to identify, combat and quell any threat. A threat to US citizens in any part of the Caribbean is a threat to all the people of the Caribbean.
Any threat or suggestion of a threat means the life blood of our chain of islands in this azure sea is at risk. It means the livelihood of us as a people is threatened. It means our ability to take care of our children, ability to buy medicine, to look after our elderly, simply to grow from peaceful, developing countries to peaceful developed countries are challenged by forces, who do not belong or realize that the Caribbean is not a place to fight battles or to alienate.
The Caribbean has longer been a place that brought people together geographically and after many struggles have keep us together in one spirit with different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs. Our unique differences bind us. Our determination to build countries surpasses any divider.
It is unnerving to read the warning issued “out of an abundance of caution” on Sunday, February 9, 2014, by the US Embassy in Guyana that called on all US citizens booked to travel on Caribbean Airlines CAL flight to make alternative travel arrangements. No details – quite possibly for security purposes – were given about the “unconfirmed threats” which led the embassy to issue such a specific travel warning.
Despite for which country the threat is issued for, the one motivating fact in this un-Caribbean situation is Caribbean Airlines is as vital to these islands in the sun as milk is to a new-born. It does not matter to which country this regional airline belongs. What matters is those white iron birds so poignantly embolden with a hummingbird is a Caribbean symbol, through and through.
Any warning, therefore, is a resounding warning to the Caribbean as a region. It is a warning for every country and its people to become aware that we must be ready for the new realities of the world we live in. Being ready does not mean paranoid; it means we as a region need to become even more vigilant to protect our life source – tourism.
The Caribbean must remain a place where our neighbors to the north can visit us freely and not have to watch over their shoulders. But for that secure feeling to remain, all countries need to be prepared to deal with the fallout of travel warnings whether it is related to a mosquito disease threat or threats of a man-made and sinister kind.
Tourism officials, locally and regionally, must come up with contingency plans to deal with any travel warning. They must be ready to counter any misgivings, ready to accommodate displaced passengers – ready and always prepared to take care of their countries and by extension the wider Caribbean. The waters of the Caribbean Sea separates one island from the other. The innovations in air travel keep us forever linked together through airlines such as Caribbean Airlines, LIAT, Inselair, Winair and AirStMaarten.
No one in the Caribbean, not now in the reality of today’s world, can turn away and say: “No, it can’t happen to us.” Yes, when the US sneezes, the Caribbean catches a cold. Same holds true that when a symbol, a vital link for our islands, is cast in a shadow, the Caribbean can’t see its famous sun. Peace in paradise would definitely be at risked if that was to be the case in the Caribbean.
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