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Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett Shares More Details About Her VISA Waiver Act

WASHINGTON U.S. Virgin Islands Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett released the following statement of clarification regarding her Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act’s (H.R. 5460) approval by the House Judiciary Committee:

“The Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act was passed out of the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee, which is one step in the legislative process. The bill does not become law until passed by the House, passed by the Senate then signed by the President. The next step in this process will be for full House consideration. I am confident the measure will be considered by the full House in short order, and we are working to have a companion measure considered by the Senate.”

You can follow the progress of the Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act by clicking here.

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett released the following statement after her Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act (H.R. 5460) was approved by the House Judiciary Committee in a bipartisan vote of 24-14:

“I and my team have worked steadfastly with the House Judiciary Committee over several years on the Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act. I would like to thank my Republican colleague, Representative Thomas Massie from Kentucky, for his vote in favor of this bill.

“The Virgin Islands Visa Waiver Act would allow the Department of Homeland Security to consider approving non-immigrant visitor visa waivers for entry into the U.S. Virgin Islands for up to 45 days (primarily for residents of neighboring Caribbean countries). Such a non-immigrant visitor visa waiver program is already being utilized successfully in both Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands for nationals of other countries.

“This legislation would extend this same program to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  This limited visa waiver program would better enable the Virgin Islands to compete economically with other islands and nations in the Caribbean community. A nationwide U.S. Visa Waiver Program already allows nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.  This bill would apply solely to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and because the Virgin Islands is outside the U.S. customs zone by law, it would not allow entry into any other part of the United States.

I thank my colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee for their hard work during the marathon markup session that took place over the past few days.”

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Postmaster Installed By Trump Causing Huge Lines Due To Employee Cutbacks

CHARLOTTE AMALIE — With the U.S. Postal Service becoming further disrupted by policy changes, restrictions on employees overtime and reduction in productive machinery, the results are being felt on a significant level in both the USVI and Puerto Rico.

Wait times at local post offices can range between 30 min to an hour for picking up packages. Understandably, after a major storm, this would be seen as acceptable.

The postal workers often suffer on two fronts. Firstly through reduction in pay due to cutbacks. Secondly in having to deal with customers that are becoming increasingly frustrated with the overall performance and process of USPS. Be patient with the USPS employees.

The USVI as well as other territories, are unfortunately treated as the red headed step child of the US. Realizing US citizenship, however being denied various financial, commerce and basic citizenship equalities.

Meanwhile, people in the USVI say they’ve had enough and hope that Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett can take on Trump appointee Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.

“The problem is at the very top with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. This man is relentlessly and actively taking steps to gut the capabilities of USPS to make more room for FedEx/UPS and other private carriers,” Ivan Jacobs said. “This would be an absolute disaster, indeed we can see it already is, for the VI.One of many issues that Biden promised to tackle. Our non-voting delegate to congress was talking about this before the election but I haven’t heard anything much lately, might be worth emailing her office and inquiring about what needs to happen now: Ask.Stacey@mail.house.gov “

“The blue door is consistently not open. Is that because there is not enough staff on hand?” Elyssa Gerard said. “It was better at Christmas when they had seasonal help. Many hands make light work. How can we get more people on the payroll?”

https://www.chicagotribune.com/nation-world/ct-nw-louis-dejoy-postmaster-general-usps-20200830-rssmnjhnr5dffm7txrmxbdpw2q-story.html

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Plaskett Says 7 Grants Totaling $16.3 Million Have Been Awarded To DPW

WASHINGTON — Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released the following statement announcing seven grants totaling $16,315,508.90 recently awarded to the VI Department of Public Works:

“I am pleased to announce that the Virgin Islands Department of Public Works (VIDPW) has received seven grants totaling $16,315,508.90. The grants awarded are as follows:

“$2,810,250.88 in federal funding to the VIDPW for roadway repairs damaged as a direct result of Hurricane Maria. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. The island suffered damages to portions of five (5) gravel roads in the Mt. Pleasant West community. In response to the event, VIDPW will utilize contract labor services to repair the roads to their pre-disaster design, function, and capacity within the existing footprint per VI DPW roadway standards.

“$5,146,952.42 in federal funding to the VIDPW for repairs to Water Island roadways and other infrastructure damaged. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. Water Island suffered damages to five (5) roads, a parking lot, and a commuter dock and ramp. There is a Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP) to strengthen pavement by replacing the gravel pavement with asphalt pavement, adding geotextile fabric between the aggregate base and subbase, improving storm water drainage by adding curbs and gutters, or paved waterways to control storm water run-off to prevent future similar damages. The mitigation measures will control and slow the flow of water run-off to lessen the erosive forces and improve the drainage of the roadbed to reduce moisture content. The mitigation measures will also allow for greater groundwater infiltration and reduce non-point source pollutants.“

$1,328,836.35 in federal funding to the VIDPW for permanent repairs to roadways and other infrastructure under their jurisdiction on St. Croix. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. VIDPW suffered damages to four (4) sites along a roadway (facility) in the La Grange Watershed. The VIDPW will utilize contract services for repairs per VIDPW roadway standards. This project captures additional funding for a Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP) to prevent future similar damages by strengthening the pavement structure in areas that would be most prone to having saturated subgrades or in high erosion locations. This would allow pavement in areas of saturated subgrade better to resist damage from heavy truck traffic or resist erosion in areas prone to it. The second proposed mitigation measure is to manage storm water by improving storm water drainage to lessen the damaging effect of saturated subgrades and run-off erosive forces. These efforts are applied on a watershed wide basis to both damaged and undamaged elements. The proposed pavement strengthening mitigation actions are to add geotextile under asphalt pavement between the aggregate base course and subbase. The proposed drainage mitigation actions include: grade roadsides to drain or add water bar, add concrete low water crossing, add curb and gutter, or paved waterways, construct new or enlarge existing drainage swales, add stone check dams, increase the size of existing culverts, and add new culverts.“

$1,111,414.17 in federal funding to the VIDPW for repairs to roadways and infrastructure on St. Croix Island. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. The VIDPW sustained damages to the roadways in the Williams Delight Subdivision. VIDPW will utilize contract labor services and (or) force account labor to restore the facilities to their pre-disaster design, capacity, and function per VI DPW roadway standards. Six (6) roads (sites) sustained damages to sections of the roadway components for a total 100 cubic yards (CY) of asphalt surface, and 133 CY of aggregate base. Damages also include 30 signposts, 17 double street signs, 13 stop and single street signs. This project captures additional funding for a Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP) to prevent future similar damages by strengthening the pavement structure in areas that would be most prone to having saturated subgrades or in high erosion locations by replacing the gravel pavement with asphalt pavement, or adding geotextile fabric between the aggregate base and subbase material, increasing the size of existing culverts, and adding new culverts to improve stormwater drainage.“

$1,763,006.81 in federal funding to the VIDPW/St Thomas. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. VIDPW sustained damage to three (3) sites on Seaview Road. This created an immediate threat to the health and safety of the general public. In response to the event, the VIDPW will utilize contracts for repairs to the segments of the Frenchman Bay Watershed to restore this facility back to its pre-disaster function and capacity within the existing footprint. To reduce or eliminate future damages, the VIDPW proposed to: Site 2, 3 and 4 – add curb and gutter to uphill side of new roadways; add clearing and grubbing; add roadway excavation; add aggregate base; add temporary traffic control, flagger. Additional mitigation measures include, Site 2 – replacement of embankment with rip rap revetment; remove backfill, select granular; add separation-stabilization geotextile; add placed rip rap; add aggregate base as bedding stone.“

$1,681,743.68 in federal funding to the VIDPW on St. Croix Island for repairs to roadways and infrastructure. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. VIDPW sustained damages to the Hovensa Watershed. This project was written to capture the storm-related Damage Description and Dimension (DDD), Scope of work (SOW), and Cost to repair the facilities to their pre-disaster design, capacity, and function (in-kind) within the existing footprint and per VIDPW roadway standards. Five (5) roads, sustained storm-related damages to 12 sections (sites) of the roadway. Damage includes 176 cubic yards (CY) of asphalt surface, 80 CY of crushed stone base material, and 5 stop signs with posts. FEMA generated a Cost Estimate Format (CEF) calculation using VIDPW provided historical cost data. This project captures additional funding for a Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP) to prevent future similar damages by strengthening the pavement structure in areas that would be most prone to having saturated subgrades or in high erosion locations by adding geotextile material between the aggregate base course and subbase material, enlarge culverts, and add paved waterways. The mitigation measure would allow pavement in saturated subgrade areas to better resist heavy truck traffic damage better or resist erosion in areas prone to it.“

$2,473,304.62 in federal funding to the VIDPW for repairs to damaged roadways. This funding is authorized under Section 428 of the Robert T. Stafford Act. St. Croix suffered damages to five (5) roadways (facilities) in the Williams Delight neighborhood. The facilities suffered similar damages to multiple sections of 3 inch (IN) deep asphalt road surfaces and 4 IN deep aggregate base material. VIDPW will utilize contract labor services to restore the facilities to their pre-disaster design, capacity, and function per VI DPW roadway standards. The Hazard Mitigation Proposal (HMP) measure adds geotextile material between the aggregate base and subbase for stability and enlarging the culvert from a 36-inch P-1 to 48-inch reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) to improve drainage.”

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Stacey Plaskett Makes History As First Delegate To Congress Chosen As An Impeachment Manager

WASHINGTON — House Representative Jamie Raskin, lead impeachment manager, said it was a moment of “special pride” to introduce his fellow impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett to speak on the Senate floor as she is the first delegate to ever serve on a team of impeachment managers in American history. Raskin also noted that Plaskett was his former law student at American University.

“She was an A student then and an A-plus student now,” Raskin said.

Plaskett represents the United States Virgin Islands’ at-large congressional district. During her Senate remarks, she shared a bit of her personal story ahead of detailing the Democrats’ arguments against former President Trump.

Stacey Plaskett Makes History As First Delegate To Congress Chosen As An Impeachment Manager

“I’ve learned throughout my life that preparation and truth can carry you far. Can allow you to speak truth to power. I’ve learned that as a young black girl growing up in the projects in Brooklyn, housing community on St. Croix, sent to the most unlikeliest of settings and now as an adult woman representing an island territory speaking to the U.S. Senate,” Plaskett said.

“And because of truth, I am confident today speaking before you, because truth and facts are overwhelming, that our president, the President of the United States incited a mob to storm the capitol, to attempt to stop the certification of a presidential election,” she continued.

Because Plaskett is considered a delegate because she represents our territory, she is not able cast votes on the House floor and was unable to vote to impeach Trump. Now she is be able to make the case to convict Trump as an impeachment manager for the second trial.

During her speech, she accused Trump of knowing that the deadly riot on January 6 was foreseeable, arguing it was part of a months-long campaign to rile up violent supporters and send them “straight at our door.”

“When the violence erupted as a response to his calls to fight against the stolen election, he did not walk it back. He did not tell them no. He did the opposite. The opposite. He praised and encouraged the violence so it would continue. He fanned the flame of violence and it worked,” Plaskett said.

Plaskett’s presentation also showed a fresh angle of the scene as Capitol Police officer Eugene Goodman led a group of rioters away from the Senate chambers and toward a group of officers. Lawmakers have since introduced legislation seeking to award him with the Congressional Gold Medal “for his bravery and quick thinking” in that moment.

But Democratic managers introduced another previously unseen security video, this one showing Goodman redirecting Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, down a hallway after he unknowingly headed toward the mob.

Swalwell said he later measured that the mob was within 58 steps of reaching lawmakers at one point in the afternoon.

Stacey Plaskett Makes History As First Delegate To Congress Chosen As An Impeachment Manager

Plaskett highlighted videos and tweets showing Trump’s apparent support of a group of trucks displaying Trump campaign flags appearing to intimidate and run a bus of Joe Biden‘s campaign off the road in Austin, Texas.

Plaskett said Trump’s tweet praising his supporters’ actions in Texas was evidence that he encouraged violence on his behalf.

“For anyone who says Donald Trump didn’t know the violence he was inciting, I ask you to consider: His supporters tried to drive a bus off the highway…to intimidate his opponents’ campaign workers and his response was to…call those individuals…patriots,” she said.

Plaskett pointed to Trump’s call for the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by” when asked to condemn white supremacists as evidence that Trump incited the Proud Boys, showing video of Trump’s quote from a presidential debate. Several members of the Proud Boys have been charged in connection with the insurrection.

Before her election to Congress, Plaskett served as assistant district attorney for the Bronx District Attorney’s Office and as senior counsel at the Department of Justice. She was also general counsel for the Virgin Islands Economic Development Authority (EDA).

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V.I. Delegate Stacey Plaskett Shines In Starring Role As House Impeachment Manager Today

WASHINGTON (AP) — Prosecutors unveiled chilling new security video in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial Wednesday, showing the mob of rioters breaking into the Capitol, smashing windows and doors and searching menacingly for Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi as overwhelmed police begged on their radios for help.

In the previously unreleased recordings, the House prosecutors displayed gripping scenes of how close the rioters were to the country’s leaders, roaming the halls chanting “Hang Mike Pence,” some equipped with combat gear and members of extremist groups among the first inside. Outside, the mob had set up a makeshift gallows.

At one dramatic moment, the video shows police shooting into the crowd through a broken window, killing a San Diego woman, Ashli Babbitt.

The vice president, who had been presiding over a session to certify Joe Biden’s victory over Trump — thus earning Trump’s censure — is shown being rushed to safety, where he sheltered in an office with his family just 100 feet from the rioters. Pelosi was evacuated from the complex as her staff hid behind doors in her suite of offices.

Though most of the Senate jurors have clearly already made up their minds on acquittal or conviction, they were riveted on the video and audio as the rioters took over the chamber where the impeachment trial is now being held. Screams from the audio filled the chamber. At times, it almost seemed as if some senators were seeing and hearing Trump for the first time as he urged his supporters on.

V.I. Delegate Stacey Plaskett Shines In Starring Role As House Impeachment Manager Today

“They did it because Donald Trump sent them on this mission,” said House prosecutor Stacey Plackett, the Democratic delegate representing the U.S. Virgin Islands. “President Trump put a target on their backs and his mob broke into the Capitol to hunt them down.”

Plaskett’s stunning presentation opened the first full day of arguments in the trial as the prosecutors argued Trump was no “innocent bystander” but the “inciter in chief” of the deadly Capitol riot, a president who spent months spreading election lies and building a mob of supporters primed for his call to stop Biden’s victory.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, lead House impeachment manager, said it was a moment of “special pride” to introduce impeachment manager Stacey Plaskett to speak on the Senate floor as she is the first delegate to ever serve on a team of impeachment managers. Raskin also noted that Plaskett was his former law student at American University.

“She was an A student then and an A-plus student now,” Raskin said.

The House Democrats showed piles of evidence from rom the former president himself — hundreds of Trump tweets and comments that culminated in his Jan. 6 rally cry to go the Capitol and “fight like hell” to overturn his defeat. Trump then did nothing to stem the violence and watched with “glee,” they said, as the mob ransacked the iconic building. Five people died.

The senators on Wednesday saw for the first time the detailed security video of the break-in and heard grim emergency calls from Capitol police.

“To us it may have felt like chaos and madness, but there was method to the madness that day,” said Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead prosecutor, who pointed to Trump as the instigator.

“And when his mob overran and occupied the Senate and attacked the House and assaulted law enforcement, he watched it on TV like a reality show. He reveled in it.”

The day’s proceedings unfolded after Tuesday’s emotional start that left the former president fuming when his attorneys delivered a meandering defense and failed to halt the trial on constitutional grounds. Some allies called for yet another shakeup to his legal team.

Trump is the first president to face an impeachment trial after leaving office and the first to be twice impeached. He is charged with “incitement of insurrection” with fiery words his defense lawyers say are protected by the Constitution’s First Amendment and just figures of speech.

The prosecutors are arguing that Trump’s words were part of “the big lie” — his relentless efforts to sow doubts about the election results. Those began long before the votes were tabulated, revving up his followers to “stop the steal” though there was no evidence of substantial fraud.

Trump knew very well what would happen when he took to the microphone at the outdoor White House rally that day, almost to the hour that Congress gaveled in to certify Biden’s win, said Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colo.

“This was not just a speech,” he said.

Trump’s supporters were prepped and armed, ready to descend on the Capitol, Neguse said. “When they heard his speech, they understood his words.”

Security remained extremely tight Wednesday at the Capitol, fenced off with razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said Biden would not be watching the trial.

The difficulty facing Trump’s defense team became apparent at the start as they leaned on the process of the trial, unlike any other, rather than the substance of the case against the former president. They said the Constitution doesn’t allow impeachment at this late date, after he has left the White House.

Even though the Senate rejected that argument in Tuesday’s vote to proceed to the trial, the legal issue could resonate with Senate Republicans eager to acquit Trump without being seen as condoning his behavior.

Defense lawyer Bruce Castor said Tuesday he shifted his planned approach after hearing the prosecutors’ emotional opening and instead spoke conversationally to the senators, saying Trump’s team would denounce the “repugnant” attack and “in the strongest possible way denounce the rioters.” He encouraged the senators to be “cool headed” as they assessed the arguments.

Trump attorney David Schoen turned the trial toward starkly partisan tones, arguing the Democrats were fueled by a “base hatred” of the former president.

A frustrated Trump revived his demands to focus on his unsupported claims of voter fraud, repeatedly telephoning former White House aide Peter Navarro, who told The Associated Press in an interview he agrees. He is calling on Trump to fire his legal team.

“If he doesn’t make a mid-course correction here, he’s going to lose this Super Bowl,” Navarro said, a reference to public opinion, not the unlikely possibility of conviction.

Republicans made it clear that they were unhappy with Trump’s defense, many of them saying they didn’t understand where it was going — particularly Castor’s opening.

While six Republicans joined with Democrats to vote to proceed with the trial, the 56-44 vote was far from the two-thirds threshold of 67 votes that would be needed for conviction.

Minds did not seem to be changing. Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a leader of the effort to challenge the Electoral College tally that day certifying the election, watched from the public gallery with a shrug. “Nothing new here, for me, at the end of the day,” he said during a break.

As the country numbs to the Trump era’s shattering of civic norms, the prosecutors sought to remind senators and the nation how extraordinary it was to have a sitting U.S. president working to discredit the election.

In hundreds of tweets, remarks and interviews as far back as spring and summer, Trump was spreading false claims about the election and refusing to commit to the peaceful transfer of power once it was over, they said.

As violence mounted in the states in the weeks and months before Trump supporters marched to the Capitol, he could have told loyalists to stand down. But he didn’t.

The mob “didn’t come out of thin air,” said Rep . Joaquin Castro, D-Texas.

The public scenes of attack were distilled in highly personal terms, first when Raskin broke down in tears Tuesday describing his family hiding in the Capitol that day. On Wednesday, Neguse, the son of immigrants, recalled telling his father how proud he was to return to Congress that night to finish the work of certifying the election. Castro said as a Democrat from Texas, he knew how hard it is to lose elections.

They also shared comments of the Capitol Police, including a Black officer who described racial epithets being hurled at him by the rioters.

“That’s the question before all of you in this trial, is this America?” Raskin told the senators.

It appears unlikely that the House prosecutors will call witnesses, and Trump has declined a request to testify. The trial is expected to continue into the weekend.

Trump’s second impeachment trial is expected to diverge from the lengthy, complicated affair of a year ago. In that case, Trump was charged with having privately pressured Ukraine to dig up dirt on Biden, then a Democratic rival for the presidency. It could be over in half the time.

The Democratic-led House impeached the president swiftly, one week after the attack. A Capitol police officer was among those who died.

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As Trump Prosecutor, V.I. Delegate Plaskett Gets Her Say In Impeachment Trial

WASHINGTON (AP) — Stacey Plaskett couldn’t cast a vote last month when the House impeached former President Donald Trump. But she can help prosecute him.

The non-voting delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands is among the impeachment managers selected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to argue the case that Trump incited a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. It’s an extraordinary moment that places Plaskett in the center of just the fourth impeachment trial of an American president.

But there will also be a familiar dynamic when Plaskett walks into the Senate chamber, one that she’s experienced from elementary school through her legal career: being one of the only Black women in the room. Now that Kamala Harris has left the Senate to become vice president, there are only two Black senators left, both male. The chamber remains overwhelmingly white despite growing diversity in the House.

Like most of the impeachment managers, Plaskett brings considerable legal experience to the case, including a stint in the Bronx District Attorney’s office and as a senior counsel at the Justice Department. She said being asked to join the team was an invigorating way to deal with the catastrophic events of January 6, when she and her staff barricaded themselves in her office as the rioters descended on the Capitol.

“My method of handling things like this is to work,” Plaskett said, adding that receiving the unexpected call from Pelosi “really gave me a charge and something to do.”

As an impeachment manager, it falls to Plaskett and the other Democrats to break through partisan divisions and persuade skeptical Republicans in the Senate — 45 of whom have already voted for an effort to dismiss the case — that they should take the unprecedented step of convicting Trump and barring him from office.

To do so, they’ll have to retell the harrowing events of Jan. 6, when hundreds of people, some bearing racist and anti-Semitic symbols on their clothing, terrorized the Capitol and forced lawmakers into hiding. They intend to link it all to Trump, the man they say is “singularly responsible” for the riot by telling his supporters to “fight like hell” against the certification of President Joe Biden’s election victory.

Trump’s rhetoric, Plaskett said, was “an attempt to destroy what I believe America is.”

As a woman of color, Plaskett says she’ll be speaking at the trial for individuals who were “particularly traumatized by what happened on January 6th. You know, as an African-American, as a woman seeing individuals storming our most sacred place of democracy, wearing anti-Semitic, racist, neo-Nazi, white supremacy logos on their bodies and wreaking the most vile and hateful things.”

The trial also gives Plaskett a chance to work alongside Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., the lead impeachment manager who was one of her law school professors at American University’s Washington College of Law. She called him an “incredible man” and said his ability to “be inclusive, and to tease out and to encourage people to share” has brought her back to those days.

In turn, Raskin said Plaskett was “truly dazzling” as a law school student.

“Other students used to take notes when she spoke and that was amazing to me,” Raskin says. “She struck me quickly in class as a potentially brilliant prosecutor and I encouraged her to take that path. I could not be prouder of her career, and adore her even though she has more seniority than me and teases me about that constantly.”

Plaskett was born in the Bronx to parents who moved to the United States from the Virgin Islands. At 13, she started at an exclusive Connecticut boarding school were she says she “continually had to raise my hand and try and speak to non-minority people about actions and events to let them see through a lens that what has happened is, in fact, racist or demonstrates their privilege.”

Pelosi’s impeachment team is diverse — including Colorado Rep. Joe Neguse, who is also Black — but Plaskett will be the first manager of a presidential impeachment from a U.S. territory.

Plaskett says people in the Virgin Islands — once home to a young Alexander Hamilton — may live in a small place, but don’t think of themselves as small people. “We’re big shots in everything we do,” she said.

“Virgin Islanders are always looking for space to be a part of this America and try to make it better, even without a vote,” she said.

“I’m going to make sure that their voice and the voice of people from territories representing four million Americans — Puerto Rico and other places — are actually heard.”

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EXCLUSIVE! RNC Rules John Canegata Is Not Virgin Islands GOP Chairman

WASHINGTON — In a blistering ruling issued late today, the Republican National Committee stripped the Virgin Islands of most of its delegates to this month’s GOP convention and further ruled that John Canegata is no longer the territorial party chairman.

The nine-page ruling, issued by the RNC’s Standing Committee on Contests, determined that Canegata’s repeated violations of party rules at the territorial and national levels made it impossible for them to seat all nine delegates to the convention renominating President Donald Trump.

The only delegates that will be seated are National Committeewoman and former St. Croix Senator Lilliana Belardo de O’Neal and National Committeeman and Virgin Islands Board of Elections member Jevon O.A Williams. Each is on St. Croix.

The RNC further ordered its general counsel to conduct a fresh election for party leadership.

The ruling comes after months of intra-party dispute, including Canegata failing to run candidates in 2020 for Delegate to Congress race against incumbent non-voting Democratic Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett and Senators in the Legislature of the Virgin Islands.

Canegata can appeal, but the unanimous ruling is the handwriting on the wall for the embattled former chairman.

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100 Hot Meals Donated to VIPD Officers Thanks To Naturi Naughton

FREDERIKSTED – The officers of the Virgin Islands Police Department, St. Croix District, were beneficiaries of 100 plates of food, donated by actress Naturi Naughton of “Power” fame.

The food donation, organized by the Office of the Delegate to Congress, was presented to the officers on Sunday at the VIPD Administration & Police Operations building in Mars Hill, Frederiksted.

100 Hot Meals Donated to VIPD Officers Thanks To Naturi Naughton
Naturi Naughton

Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, who was present with staff members at the food donation, explained that Naughton, whose family is from Frederiksted, reached out to her and said she wanted to provide support to the people of the Virgin Islands.

“We have been going throughout the island serving food, primarily to the elderly and to those with disabilities, during this time,” Plaskett said. The Delegate said her office decided to donate hot meals to employees of the Juan F. Luis Hospital the day before and decided to give meals to police officers to show appreciation for the job they are doing.

Police Commissioner Trevor Velinor thanked Naughton and Delegate to Congress Plaskett for the donation.

“This just shows that Virgin Islanders, whether domestic or abroad, we come together,” Velinor said.

100 Hot Meals Donated to VIPD Officers Thanks To Naturi Naughton

The food was prepared by Ciboné, a restaurant in downtown Frederiksted.

Much of the ingredients were locally-sourced from St. Croix farmers and fishermen, according to Plaskett.

Naturi Cora Maria Naughton (born May 20, 1984) is an American singer, songwriter and actress. Naughton is best known as one-third of the R&B group 3LW and for her acting roles in Fame, Notorious, where she played Lil’ Kim, and The Playboy Club.

Naughton, 35, is from East Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.

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4 Buildings Soiled With Motor Oil By Vandal In Frederiksted Town: VIPD

FREDERIKSTED — The 911 Emergency Call Center received reports over the weekend of vandalism at three offices in downtown Frederiksted. When police investigated, they discovered that four buildings had been tarnished.

On Saturday at 8:27 a.m., a concerned citizen reported what appeared to be motor oil was splashed on the doors of the Delegate to Congress’ office on King Street, Frederiksted. No other damage was observed to the building.

On Sunday, concerned citizens made reports that motor oil was used to vandalize the office of the Delegate to Congress, the Supreme Court, and the Frederiksted Health Care building on Strand Street.

Investigation into the acts of vandalism is ongoing.

Although police say they have identified a person of interest, the VIPD said they still need the community’s assistance with more information.

If you have any information that may lead to the arrest of the perpetrator of this act, please call 911, VIPD at (340) 778-2211, or the paying anonymous tip line Crime Stoppers USVI at (800) 222-8477 (TIPS).

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Guyana Businessman Komal Samaroo Tells Congress That Sugar Is A Sweet Business

WASHINGTON — Komal Samaroo, a leading Caribbean business personality, wants the Caribbean region to be better positioned to benefit from its trading relations with the United States through the removal of trade barriers and expanded American investment in the region.

Komal Samaroo, chairman of the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA) and Guyana’s Demerara Distillers Limited (DDL) also wants the U.S. to reallocate sugar quotas from non- producing sugar countries in the region which are not being used to those that produce sugar.

He was at the time delivering the keynote address at a working lunch on Capitol Hill earlier this week at the Caribbean Legislative Forum.

Address by Komal Samaroo

Allow me at the outset to thank the Institute of Caribbean Studies (ICS) for inviting me to participate in this year’s Legislative Week activities and more specifically to be a part of the deliberations at this Legislative Forum.

Having participated so far in just the morning session of this Forum I am already impressed with the quality of the discussion and the exchange of ideas which have been put forward to address the challenges and to strengthen the relations between the Caribbean Region and the United States.

So against this backdrop let me congratulate the ICS for the work it has been doing over the years to advance the cause of the Caribbean and its Diaspora in the US and to forge initiatives designed to bring about a better quality of life for the people of the Caribbean.

The support which you have received over the years from Friends of the Caribbean in the US Congress must also be acknowledged and appreciated.

Your efforts are even more necessary now with the closure of Caribbean Central American Action (CCAA) last year and I would suggest that ICS seeks to engage both the regional and US private sector more aggressively with a view to more effective collaboration in addressing the challenges which confront the US/Caribbean relationship at this time and in the future.

The United States characterizes the Caribbean as its Third Border

According to its Caribbean 2020 Multi-Year Strategy “The Caribbean region is the United States’ “third border,” characterized by common interests and societal ties that yield daily, tangible benefits for U.S. citizens.

The United States is the primary trading partner for the Caribbean, representing a vibrant economic partnership that in 2016 saw a $4.6 billion trade surplus for the United States, 14 million U.S. tourist visits, and 11,042 Caribbean students studying in the United States. “

This vibrant economic partnership however requires that the Caribbean region is better positioned to take advantage of its potential share of this vibrance through the removal of existing barriers to market access in the US as well as expanded US investment and technology transfer in the region.

As we are gathered for lunch it is probably apposite to reflect for a moment or two how our dietary habits change over time and the economic impact of such changes on the lives of people.

In this regard, let me quote from the work of Elizabeth Abbott, the former Dean of Women at Trinity College, University of Toronto, writing about 17th century England in her 2008 book – SUGAR – A Bittersweet History –

“In their former agrarian life, most laborers have had access to gardens where they grow vegetables and fruits and perhaps raise poultry or even a cow. In the cities and even rural areas affected by the enclosure laws, workers had to purchase their food and they often changed their diets in response to costs and availability. For the first time, they had access to non-European foodstuffs previously restricted to the privileged, and soon potatoes, rice, maize, tea, coffee, chocolate, sugar and tobacco were staples in the English diet…

“By 1700, the percentage of imported foodstuffs, notably tea, coffee and sugar had doubled from 16.9 percent to 34.9 percent with brown sugar and molasses the most popular.”

She quoted sugar historian Noel Deerr who “estimates that per capita sugar consumption was four pounds in 1700, eight pounds by 1729, twelve pounds by 1789, the year of the French Revolution, and 18 pounds by 1809”

The market dynamics described by Elizabeth Abbott, shaped the history and the economy of the Caribbean for centuries, as the region’s climatic condition was naturally ideal for the production of sugar.

Tin order to meet market demand for sugar the region was populated with laborers who were brought from Europe, Africa and Asia, under the system of slavery and later indentureship, and their descendants today make up most of the population.

In recognition of its importance to the region, sugar was the subject of special trade arrangements until just over a decade ago (2006) when the EU Sugar Protocol.

The USA imports sugar on a duty -free basis from the Caribbean countries under the tariff-rate quotas established in 1990 by the Farm Bill.

The tariff rate quota announced by the USTR for 2019 for individual countries included 7,371 tons for Trinidad & Tobago and 7,258 tons for St Kitts & Nevis. Interestingly, these countries have ceased sugar production quite some time ago.

A case could be made to reallocate these quotas to countries in the region, which are still producing sugar.

This is particularly relevant in light of the movement towards a Caricom Single Market and Economy that will eventually allow for free movement of people within the Region.

Today, I take this opportunity to urge the United States, through its Members of Congress and officials of the Executive Branch to work with the CARICOM region to have these country specific tariff quotas transferred into a regional quota.

Perhaps the most lasting impact of the sugar industry in the Caribbean was the creation of the regional Rum Industry.

For over three centuries the region has been producing rum from the molasses by-product of sugar production shipping Bulk rum to Europe where it was bottled branded and sold. From 1745, for 225 years, rum was served as part of a daily ration to the men who served on the British Royal Navy, until that practice ended on 31st July 1970.

From 1975 to 2000 the Caribbean exported rum to the EU under the Rum Protocol of the Lome’ Convention, a trade and aid agreement between the European Union and the African Caribbean and Pacific states.

In addition, from January 1st1984, under the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA), rum from the region benefited from duty free access to the US market. We support the extension of CBERA.

It enabled our initial market access into the US and continues to provide a valuable preference against third country low value products, which often originate in countries where the raw material inputs are subsidized, leading to artificially low product pricing.

The US Rum Market is dominated by supplies from USVI and Puerto Rico to the extent of about 80% of total market as these territories benefit from the Rum Excise Tax Cover-Over that provided for generous support and subsidies.

The outlook of Caribbean rum brands in the US market continues to be a challenging one. Our strategy is directed at the premium and super premium segment of the market and this is where there has been some success. But these segments are small and still developing requiring significant investment to keep it growing.

As a whole, however, our total branded volume has not grown substantially over the past decade and our bulk rum business, so important in financing our brand building, has plummeted in the face of tremendously subsidized products.

In addition, there is a plethora of new brands entering the market, some with very dubious provenance. We also see a dramatic increase in the trade of ethyl alcohol and worry that this is finding its way into rum in violation of international trade rules.

Our response to these challenges has been to present ourselves as quality premium products. Our products have authentic provenance, they are fermented and distilled in the country of Origin and we follow common rules and regulations as to what can be called rum.

Rum has become the region’s largest agriculture- based export earner, in the face of significant reduction in earnings from sugar which has been facing major marketing and production challenges.

For example, in Guyana based on information in the 2018 Central Bank report, while in 2016 export earnings from sugar was two times that of rum, in 2018 sugar earned only 56% of what the rum industry earned from exports.

There is, of course, the need to broaden the base on the regional economy. The agriculture potential must be fully exploited, and investments made in agro-processing so as to move higher up the value chain. Similar strategies must be pursued in the forestry and mineral sectors.

The newly emerging Oil and Gas industry in Guyana would most certainly provide an increased revenue stream, which once well managed can help to create a competitive environment for the other sectors of the economy to develop in a sustainable manner, becoming globally competitive, and contributing to growth and improvement in the quality of life of its people.

During the course of the morning’s deliberations we heard of the challenges posed to the banking sector in the region brought on by de-risking of correspondent banking arrangements.

The challenges occasioned by de-risking have had an enormously negative impact on the Caribbean business community.

Speaking from a private sector perspective I urge that the US works with our regional governments to speedily find a lasting solution to this problem.

Once again, I want to thank the organizers of this luncheon on the occasion of the 21stAnnual Caribbean American Legislative Briefing and for the opportunity to have shared my perspective on issues that are close to me.

I strongly believe that with the mechanisms and arrangements already in place such as an extended CBERA and TPA; the U.S. Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act and the Caribbean 2020 Multi-Year Strategy, there exists the platform to overcome the challenges and to strengthen the economic and social relations between the U.S. and the Caribbean for our mutual benefit.