01 Sep The power of the Caribbean (blog by Rosemarijn Hoefte)
The Caribbean: hundreds of islands in the heart of the Americas. Cuba is the largest (about 106,000 km2) and with 11 million inhabitants is also the most populous country. Tiny Saba (13 km2), a special municipality of the Netherlands, is not even in the top ten of smallest inhabited islands. Historically and culturally the three Guianas and Belize on the mainland are included in the Caribbean as well.
The entire Caribbean landmass is slightly smaller than the United Kingdom, while its population of approximately 42 million is smaller than Spain’s. Yet, in international affairs the Caribbean can pull above its weight because the area counts 16 independent nations. This makes that Caribbean nations constitute almost half the membership of the Organization of American States. The one country, one vote rule enables the Caribbean countries to exert more influence than regional giants as Brazil or the United States.
In other international affairs the quantitative power of the Caribbean is recognized as well. China has actively courted Caribbean nations to support its one-China lobby against Taiwan in the United Nations. The Caribbean’s numerical force is even more prominent in organizations that accept non-independent nations as members. Probably most visible to the outside world was the Caribbean role in a corruption scandal that rocked the world football organization FIFA.
In 2011 the British newspaper The Guardian published a leaked report by the FIFA Ethics Commission stating that two high officials, vice-president Jack Warner and presidential candidate Mohammed Bin Hamman, had bribed representatives of the Caribbean Football Union to vote for Bin Hamman. The CFU represents 25 FIFA member states (including such non-independent countries as the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico) as well as 6 territories (Bonaire, St Maarten, St Martin, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe) that are not affiliated with FIFA. This case of cash-for-votes showed that numbers not (football) prowess can make a difference: the 25 Caribbean members represented one eighth of the total FIFA votes. Size doesn’t matter.