Home > Themes > What is the Caribbean ? > Hegemony, contested hegemony and the Caribbean in the 21st century

Hegemony, contested hegemony and the Caribbean in the 21st century

The Caribbean is an expression of North Atlantic imperialism created to sum up a power relation that exerts hegemony over a specific space with a specific geographic presence. It is then necessary to articulate and deconstruct the discourses of power that exercise hegemony over this space that is summed up in the expression: the Caribbean. The Caribbean in the 21st century continues to be under the hegemony of specific nations of the North Atlantic. Vestiges of European colonial domination remain in the face of US hegemony over the region and for the first time since the arrival of Christopher Colombus in 1492, an indigenous power of the Caribbean basin has arisen challenging US hegemony in the region. The energy giant of the Western hemisphere, Venezuela, under the leadership of President Hugo Chavez Frias through the instruments of Petro Caribe and ALBA, is now aggressively challenging US hegemony in the Caribbean amongst energy poor Caribbean island states.  

The Bolivarian Revolution of Venezuela has in turn created opportunities to breathe life into a moribund and increasingly irrelevant Cuban revolution by being a benefactor of the kind the Soviet Union never was or could be. This is the potent symbol of the death of the Soviet model of socialism/communism and that points to the potency of 21st century socialism. The Caribbean then remains at the leading edge of discursive development and evolving power relations of the 21st century that impact world realities. Finally, the power relations of the shadows must be articulated and deconstructed. These are the power relations that are not hegemonic in the public domain as they are pushed to the periphery of the discourses of Caribbean societies. This attempt to silence reality does not decrease the potency of the power these realities wield in Caribbean social orders. These realities are the illicit trades of the Caribbean basin and the fact that they have constituted alternate social orders in this century. These trades are: illicit drug trafficking, illicit small arms trafficking and human smuggling/trafficking. The Caribbean basin is today the world’s most valuable illicit trafficking zone with the movement of illicit drugs to Europe, West Africa, Asia and the USA and with the movement of small arms and humans throughout the Caribbean basin. The value of the illicit trades of the Caribbean is indicated by the presence in the Caribbean of branches of the most powerful transnational organized criminal enterprises in the world. Such as : the Camorra and Ndrangheta of Italy, the Russian Maffia, the Chinese Triads, Los Zetas of Mexico, the Cosa Nostra of the USA and a number of Colombian trafficking organizations  such as the Black Eagles.  

The physical signs of US hegemony are the  legions  throughout the space designated as the Caribbean. The continued existence and use of the military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba allied to a punishing embargo points to American power in its quest to strangle the 1959 Cuban revolution. The use of Haiti as a laboratory to test the veracity of various strategies of imperialist domination and intervention into the political process of the first free black republic of the Western Hemisphere. Instances of these tests weigh as organic burdens on the social order of Haiti today and the experimentation is not over. The most oppressive of America’s experiments is the continued support of the hegemony of the notorious bankrupt, kleptomaniac oligarchy of Haiti with its attendant servile political elites. In 2011 Puerto Rico inhabits the constitutional netherworld and is in fact a living fossil in world constitutional evolution since the post 1945 era. Clearly America holds on to Puerto Rico for purely hegemonic interests tied up with a physical presence in the Caribbean basin. Puerto Rico is not a state of the Union as Hawaii, nor is it a sovereign independent nation. It is then a colony but never described as such. The US Virgin Islands is the other American colony in the Caribbean, but a colony facing chronic economic problems that threaten the viability of the social order. Finally, there are the military assets of America deployed in the Caribbean basin under the US Southern Command headquarters in the state of Florida, USA. Commencing the final decade of the 20th century, the US Southern Command has been re-conceptualized and the necessary military assets supplied to ensure that US Southern Command is now a leading edge instrument to project US power in the Caribbean basin.  

Vestiges of British colonial hegemony exist today in the Caribbean in the potent example of the Cayman Islands. One of the most active offshore laundering operations in the world is located in the Caribbean and under the direct control of the British. The Cayman Islands serve then as a beacon to organized criminal groups in search of laundries to wash their illicit funds thereby influencing their presence in the Caribbean. The British territories/colonies of Bermuda and the British Virgin Islands are also noted for international players in the offshore sector, together with the Cayman Islands forming the three horsemen of the British offshore complex noted for weak and smiling regulation. The failure of British colonial rule to provide and ensure good governance is exemplified in the case of the crisis of government that engulfed the British Caribbean colony of the Turks and Caicos Islands in the period 2008-9. Under British colonial rule, corrupt practices normally associated with post colonial governance pervaded governance in the Turks and Caicos Islands under the oversight of the British Governor forcing the British government to assume full colonial control in 2009. A case of Caribbean constitutional regression in the 21st century.   The French maintain their colonial legacy in the Caribbean basin with the overseas departments of Martinique, Guadeloupe and French Guiana. But what is an overseas department of France ? Is it France projected overseas ? A French civilization outpost amongst children of a lesser god ? Or colonies under a new designation as Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands ? It is in fact a combination of all of these and more. A sort of hollow consolation for the loss of Algeria to Islamists posing as secular, Western house slave Arabs. A holding bay to house the unwanted burdens of projecting France overseas into the Caribbean. A holding bay that evolves into tropical settings for satiating desires for black flesh regardless of age and gender.  

On the 10th October 2010 or 10-10-10   the Netherlands  government dismantled  its colonial empire in the Caribbean as Curacao, Bonaire and Saint Maarten became “independent” sovereign nations of the Caribbean… within the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The ABC islands situated off the North Caribbean coast of Venezuela must now fend for themselves in a hostile world as the warm embrace of Venezuela beckons. Both Curacao and Bonaire are already integrated into the Caribbean basin energy infrastructure of PDVSA – the state owned energy giant of Venezuela – and Aruba needs Venezuelan economic links as much as the other two former colonies. The Dutch retreat has rebounded to the strategic benefit of Venezuela as the Dutch presence just off the North Caribbean coast of Venezuela is now history. Already political players in Curacao are calling for the embrace of Venezuela and President Hugo Chavez Frías with the departure of the Dutch summed up in the sale of the Isla refinery of Curacao to PDVSA and the dismantling of the FOL bases on Curacao. Given the fractious nature of coalition politics in Curacao it is expected that the Isla refinery and the FOL bases are future flash points in the politics of Curacao which will invite US and Dutch activity of both the covert and overt varieties.      

Venezuela in 2011 is then challenging the hegemonic order of the Caribbean basin through complementary, yet independent strategies. Through Petro Caribe, Venezuela is supplying energy on long-term credit to the energy poor countries of the Caribbean. At the same time PDVSA is integrating specific Caribbean states into a network of offshore energy refining and storage facilities. The signal energy refiners are identified as : Cuba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Curacao and the US Virgin Islands. Storage facilities other than on these islands are planned for Dominica, St Vincent, and Antigua. Given the continued US dependency on imported energy, the US Southern Command is then responsible for protecting the energy supply from the Caribbean basin under the control of Venezuela. The political clout of Venezuela in the Caribbean is the strategic use of energy in the 21st century.

Sources for the image. 

Catégorie : What is the Caribbean ?

Pour citer l'article : (2013). "Hegemony, contested hegemony and the Caribbean in the 21st century" in Cruse & Rhiney (Eds.), Caribbean Atlas, http://www.caribbean-atlas.com/en/themes/what-is-the-caribbean/hegemony-contested-hegemony-and-the-caribbean-in-the-21st-century.html.


 Figueira, Daurius (2004) : « Cocaine and Heroin Trafficking in the Caribbean the case of Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana » USA iUniverse Inc

 Figueira, Daurius (2006) : « Cocaine and Heroin Trafficking in the Caribbean the case of Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela » USA iUniverse Inc

 Robinson, Jeffrey (2004) : « The Sink » UK Robinson

 United States Southern Command (2010) : « Partnership for the Americas Command Strategy 2020 »