U.S.: Bahamas plays leading role in democracy in the region

A senior official at the U.S. Department of State said The Bahamas has played “a leading” and a “really principled role” in ensuring democracy in the region.

“I’ve talked a lot about…security and also economic and tourism, but let’s not forget our deep, shared value for democracy in the region,” Julie Chung, principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, told The Nassau Guardian on Friday.

“That’s where The Bahamas has played a leading role, a really principled role whether it’s on Venezuela and the peaceful democratic process that we both want there. Also, in Nicaragua and all the human rights abuses that we’ve brought to light in Nicaragua; and now the potential of Bolivia where it’s also undergoing a process toward free and fair elections that are really addressing the needs and wants of the people.

“These are things that the United States and [The] Bahamas shares. Amongst the Caribbean partners, I really applaud The Bahamas government’s senior leadership for taking these strong, principled positions.”

Chung’s comments came during an official visit to The Bahamas last week.

During the trip, she met with Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis as well as disaster response authorities and USAID implementing partners.

She also visited Abaco which, along with Grand Bahama, was ravaged by Hurricane Dorian three months ago.

On Friday, while speaking about what she observed on the island, Chung said, “There is a lot that has been done already and so much debris has been cleaned up, but there’s still a road to recovery that we must stay consistent and devoted to. And that’s a message that I’ll bring back to Washington in addition to many of the American philanthropists, private sector, churches and NGOs that are very much still interested in what’s going on in The Bahamas and want to help.”

She noted that she noticed that recovery was still “in process” on Abaco, adding that reconstruction seems to be the “mid to long-term phase”.

“I did see still much debris, much of the boats, schools still overturned, vehicles that are in disarray,” Chung said.

“So, I think to be able to welcome the communities back into those areas, that initial cleanup, the debris would be essential and that’s part of the reason we are funding many of our implementing partners through USAID, like Samaritans Purse, who has been a key partner on the ground.”

Nearly 30,000 people were impacted by Dorian in early September. According to police, at least 70 people were killed by the Category 5 storm.

U.S. authorities partnered with Bahamian authorities to assist with recovery efforts during Dorian.

Chung noted that the deadly storm “showed even more…how that friendship (between the U.S. and The Bahamas) comes into play”.

“We want to be able to build good foundations and the hurricane was just one example of that,” she said.

“It’s like a marriage; through thick and thin we are there for each other.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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