Puerto Rico rolls back openings amid spike in virus cases
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s governor on Thursday announced major rollbacks including the closure of bars, gyms, marinas, theaters and casinos as the U.S. territory is hit by a spike in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.
The island of 3.2 million people has reported more than 3,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, more than 7,450 probable ones and at least 172 deaths.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez said the changes and an ongoing 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew will remain in place until July 31. Other changes include the prohibition of alcohol sales after 7 p.m., limiting the capacity of restaurants to 50%, and barring tourists from traveling to the popular nearby islands of Vieques and Culebra. Only those who are exercising will be allowed on beaches, including joggers, swimmers and surfers.
Vázquez also announced that she has asked the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily suspend flights from Texas and Florida, which are struggling with spikes in COVID-19 cases.
As of Wednesday, all visitors are required to wear a mask and must take a molecular test 72 hours prior to their arrival and submit the results to officials at the airport. Those who refuse to do so, or tested positive, or do not have the test results available, will be forced into a two-week quarantine.
U.S. extends date for lifting pandemic ban on cruise ships
WASHINGTON — Federal health officials are extending the U.S. ban on cruise ships through the end of September as coronavirus infections rise in most U.S. states, including Florida.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that it was extending a no-sail order that had been scheduled to expire July 24.
In the order signed by CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, the agency said the cruise industry hasn’t controlled transmission of the virus on its ships. It covers vessels that can carry 250 or more passengers
Companies that belong to an industry trade group, the Cruise Lines International Association, had already canceled cruises until Sept. 15.
From March 1 through July 10, nearly 3,000 cases of COVID-19 or similar illnesses and 34 deaths have been reported on cruise ships. Also there have been 99 outbreaks covering 80% of the ships in U.S. waters, with nine ships are still dealing with outbreaks, the CDC said.
Coast Guard figures show that on July 10 there were 14,702 crew members on board 67 ships.
Barbados prime minister hands over reins of CARICOM
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley handed over the chairmanship of the 15-member regional integration movement, CARICOM, during a recent special conference of regional leaders.
Her counterpart in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, will succeed Mottley, who had led the bloc for the past six months.
The regional leaders held their 20th special meeting on Friday via video conference after they had agreed during the previous one in April to stage the handing-over ceremony at the beginning of July.
The COVID-19 pandemic, which has affected all CARICOM countries, has forced the annual summit, usually held in July, to be rescheduled to Sept. 2 and 3 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
— Compiled From Tribune Wire Services
Like other islands, Barbados announced plans to reopen its borders on July 12. Visitors without a documented negative coronavirus test will be tested upon arrival and quarantined for 48 hours at their own expense until they receive results.
Britain acknowledges debt owed to Caribbean migrants
On the 72nd anniversary of the arrival of a ship bringing hundreds of West Indian migrants to the United Kingdom, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Boris Johnson paid tribute to Britain’s Caribbean community.
Prince Charles said in a statement that Britain owed the Windrush generation a “debt of gratitude.”
“Today, as we honor the legacy of the Windrush generation, and the invaluable contribution of black people in Britain, I dearly hope that we can continue to listen to each other’s stories and to learn from one another,” he said in marking the June 22 observance.
“The diversity of our society is its greatest strength and gives us so much to celebrate,” he said.
But critics say the Conservative government has failed to eliminate the racism and injustice faced by members of the “Windrush generation,” some of whom have fallen foul of rigid immigration policies.
Windrush Day marks the arrival of the Empire Windrush, a former troop ship that sailed from Jamaica to England in 1948 carrying hundreds of people who had been invited by the British government to help rebuild the nation after World War II.
Marriott exiting Cuba after U.S. terminates license
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has told Marriott International its license to run the Sheraton Four Points hotel in Havana will not be renewed.
Kerstin Sachl, the company’s director of public relations for Latin America and the Caribbean, “We have recently received notice that the government-issued license will not be renewed, forcing Marriott to cease operations in Cuba.”
Sachl said the Treasury Department told Marriott that operations in Cuba have to cease before Aug. 31 and that the company will not be allowed to manage other hotels on the island as it had planned.
The hotel’s opening in 2016 marked the first one run by an American company since 1959 and became one of the symbols of the thaw in relations with the communist country under President Barack Obama.
The agreement generated criticism from the start because the hotel is owned by the Gaviota company, which is linked to the Cuban military.
Thee State Department recently included seven hotels and companies, including Fincimex, on its list of restricted entities linked to the Cuban military. Fincimex is the Cuban company that processes all remittances to the island’s residents.
Puerto Rico court orders new murder trial for judge’s son
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The son of a federal judge convicted in 2014 of killing his wife in one of the island’s most high-profile cases will get a new trial, an appeals court ruled in late May.
Puerto Rico’s appeals court issued the ruling based on a U.S. Supreme Court decision in April that criminal trials require unanimous verdicts. The appeals court said going against that decision would mean that “the people of Puerto Rico would enjoy fewer rights than their fellow American citizens residing in any state of the Union.”
Pablo Casellas was charged with fatally shooting his wife, 46-year-old Carmen Paredes, at their home in a wealthy suburb of San Juan in June 2012 where they lived with their two children. She was shot several times, including in the forehead and chest.
Nearly two years later, a jury found the former insurance broker guilty on charges including first-degree murder and destroying evidence in an 11-1 verdict. He was sentenced to 109 years in prison.
Casellas blamed the killing on an unidentified intruder while authorities accused him of falsely claiming he was kidnapped and reporting that the weapon used in the crime was stolen.
In 2015, Casellas’ attorneys sought to have the ruling revoked, arguing that the requirement of unanimous verdicts in federal cases applied in Puerto Rico.
Trindad official hints at general elections in September
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad — A senior government minister earlier in June hinted at the possibility of the general elections in Trinidad and Tobago scheduled for later this year being held in September.
Finance Minister Colm Imbert, who has served as prime minister on numerous occasions since the ruling People’s National Movement won on Sept. 7, 2015, told a parliamentary committee that there is a possibility that the elections could be held before Sept. 30.
Imbert was addressing the Standing Finance Committee hearing on increased funding of about $7 million for the Elections and Boundaries Commission as part of its preparation for the election.
“In this fiscal year, we already have had one election, the local government election of November 2019 and it is likely, possible that there may be an election before the end of this fiscal year by September 30,” Imbert said.
Aruba bans blackface during annual Dutch celebration
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba will ban the blackface makeup worn every December during Sinterklaas, a celebration of St. Nicholas in which white people often dress up as a children’s character called “Black Pete.”
Culture Minister Xiomara Maduro said in a Facebook post on Monday that she doesn’t want to encourage a celebration that would offend people. She called on participants to use multicolor paint or none at all.
“Not every problem has been resolved, but this is a first step,” she wrote.
Jerry Afriyie, a prominent Dutch Black activist, has long been calling for the eradication of the children’s character.
Jamaica theology school appoints first woman president
Viviene Kerr was recently appointed as the first female president of Caribbean Graduate School of Theology in Kingston, Jamaica.
She had just assumed responsibility as campus registrar when she was called to take over from David Corbin who had been at the helm of the St. Andrew institution since 2017.
Kerr is an educator, counseling psychologist, librarian and life coach. A Westmoreland native, she said her journey was not without challenges, as she contemplated quitting her doctoral studies at the Nova Southeastern University during her final year due to financial constraints.
Jamaica working on offering COVID insurance to visitors
Jamaican Minister of Tourism Edmund Bartlett said in early June that discussions were in the final stages with insurance and global logistics providers to enable travelers who test positive for COVID-19 to be quickly isolated and repatriated.
The move came as the country prepared to reopen the sector for business beginning June 15.
“I want to make the point that we have done checks around and Jamaica is the only country in the Caribbean and arguably, the only one in the Americas that has taken on this responsibility now, to begin those negotiations and discussions with insurance and global logistics providers,” said Bartlett who was speaking during a recent digital press conference.
Bartlett said that the discussions are focussed on a program “that will enable low-cost coverage for visitors who come into the country.” He added that the cost would be “less than $20 per person for that coverage.”