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China's Long-Game Strategy For The Caribbean Sea

The U.S. has long enjoyed hegemony over the 2.7-million sq km Caribbean basin. But whether Washington likes it or not, Beijing is showing that it too wants a piece of the pie.

In the Caribbean Sea, a geostrategic move for China
In the Caribbean Sea, a geostrategic move for China
María del Pilar Ostos Cetina


MEXICO CITY — China's geostrategic expansion toward the Caribbean Sea says a lot about the deeper interests feeding tensions between the world's biggest players. We see, most notably, how the United States, the hegemonic power of our region, is squared off against China and the Russian Federation, two emerging powers determined to challenge U.S. preeminence in the Caribbean and thus redraw the map of regional geopolitics in the early 21st century.

"In our infancy, we bordered upon the Atlantic only; our youth carried our boundary to the Gulf of Mexico; today, maturity sees us upon the Pacific," U.S. strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan wrote in 1890. Nearly 130 years later, his statement remains relevant, and imperial disputes over distant possessions or islands are still crucial to U.S. foreign and defense policies.

China's ascent through strategic alliances has not, therefore, gone unnoticed in Washington. One such alliance is with Russia, in the framework of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. If this were to prove resilient, it could become a veritable obstacle to America's expansion-and-control plans worldwide. It would force the United States to boost spending and investments at strategic points in the world, including the Caribbean, where it will want to maintain an active presence.

In this context, China's ascent is renewing the importance of the Caribbean and may turn it into an authentic, geopolitical pivot within the century.

A paradise of strategic importance — Photo: Pablo García Saldaña

Chinese interests regionally revolve around a number of countries and islands bordering the 2.7-million square kilometer basin. This stretch of sea linked to the Atlantic includes territories administered by the European Union, such as Martinique, Guadeloupe, or French Guyana, as well as islands considered tax havens. In the cases of the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica, their geostrategic value lies in their farming and food production, while Trinidad and Tobago, Cuba, and Venezuela are important for oil and gas.

China's ascent is renewing the importance of the Caribbean and may turn it into an authentic, geopolitical pivot within the century.

In addition to the sea's vast natural resources, the Chinese also have their eyes on several small islands and states with votes in the United Nations. Closer ties with those islands could help boost Beijing's global influence. The Caribbean is therefore again becoming a focus and corridor of human activities, as seas like the Mediterranean were throughout history. It illustrates the mobile nature of geopolitical axes over time, in keeping with the shifting rivalries of major powers and the directions in which they project their strength and aspirations.

In this context, it's worth considering the position of Mexico as a country adjacent to the United States and located at the very heart of the basin. Its geographical position, proximity to the United States, and colonial past could give it a pivotal role along both the North-South and East-West axes, although, this time around, we shouldn't expect to see galleons on the horizon like in the days of Hernán Cortés, as China is envisaging other ways of sailing to this side of the world.

China has already "landed," for example, in Panama, where the government broke ties with Taiwan and recognized the People's Republic as the "Chinese government." The result, needless to say, was closer Chinese-Panamanian relations. Expect more such moves as China seeks to expand its presence and influence in the so-called "American Mediterranean."

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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