US Homeland Security Chief visits T&T

WASHINGTON DC, USA, October 25, 2006 – The man at the helm of the US’ Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Michael Chertoff, is slated to be in the twin-island republic of Trinidad & Tobago tomorrow.

Chertoff’s visit, according to T&T’s National Security Minister Martin Joseph, is related to security arrangements for Cricket World Cup 2007.

The DHS Secretary is set to sign a Memorandum of Intent between the US and CARICOM nations on the Passenger Name Record system and hold discussions with national security ministers of the region.

The U.S. and the European Union yesterday reached a final agreement regarding Passenger Name Record data which will allow the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to share PNR data with other counter-terrorism agencies to combat terrorism.

Chertoff’s trip to T&T comes more than a month after the island’s prime minister bashed the U.S. for ignoring the Caribbean and as Caribbean tourism officials and owners rush to grapple with the US’ Western Travel Initiative that will require all air travelers flying to the Caribbean, Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America to have a passport to re-enter as of January 8, 2007.

Yesterday in the Bahamas, Secretary General of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Vincent Vanderpool Wallace, that despite initial claims, no major meeting between US officials and their lobbying team took place this week. Instead, he said the harnessing of stakeholders and at least one major Diaspora organization continues with intensive lobbying expected to commence after the November 7 general election.

Minister Joseph for his part said yesterday that apart from security, a number of other issues pertaining to the Caribbean will be raised with Chertoff.

The Chertoff visit comes on the heels of a meeting between CARICOM foreign ministers and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice in September.

Caribbean leaders in July announced a major World Cup security plan that resembled many of the features of the Bush travel plan that was put in place after 9/11. For instance, from mid-January to mid-March next year, airlines traveling to the region would have to furnish American-style manifests before passengers land in a country.

The region also announced the setting up of a US$13 million intelligence gathering and sharing data system that would allow sleuths from around the world to review names and backgrounds of the people attending the event, which runs through 47 days from March 11, 2007. (