Your Excellency, Mr. Prime Minister
Good evening! Thank you for joining us to celebrate the 243rd anniversary of the Independence of the United States of America.
Each year we take an evening to celebrate our shared values and history…and how each of our countries have dedicated ourselves to democracy and human rights.
Our Independence Day is not only a celebration of our culture and history, it is also a commemoration of our struggle for democracy. However, it is also a time to remember those in the region who continue their own democratic struggle to this day.
The humanitarian crisis in Venezuela is our region’s most pressing issue…and threatens to erode our regional safety and security, as well as the institutions we hold dear.
Today, we must remember the Venezuelan people and all those around the world fighting for their rights as our ancestors did so long ago. We must also show our gratitude to those who protect our freedoms every day at home and abroad.
Our own joint forces have come together to protect the safety and security of both our nations. Since the beginning of 2018, together we have carried out five significant, complex law enforcement operations across The Bahamas…resulting in 152 arrests, confiscation of guns and drugs, and the gathering of intelligence. These operations throughout The Bahamas demonstrate that we are tightening the net on criminal actors.
I am committed to tightening that net further. It’s something Minister of National Security Marvin Dames and I discuss often, as we share a mutual commitment to doing everything we can to go after nefarious actors.
In fact, on June 14 during an event aboard the USS Stout, I announced the donation of a third maritime surveillance radar to the Royal Bahamas Defense Force. These radars will help illuminate illicit smuggling and trafficking in Bahamian waters. Minister Dames joked at that event that he didn’t expected us to announce the donation of another radar so soon, and asked when the next event would be, because, well, he thought maybe I’d make another such announcement. Well… Minister Dames, today is another event. You only gave me 10 days to work with, which isn’t a lot, but you know I don’t shy away from a good challenge.
So…I am happy to announce we have secured the funding for the fourth radar!
But law enforcement is not the only area in which we have made great strides. In May, the U.S. State Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Education at the Prime Minister’s office. This MOU re-opened our Fulbright Program to students from The Bahamas after a 23 year absence. The Fulbright Program is our flagship international exchange program.
The reopening of the Fulbright Program strengthens the ties between our two countries, and enriches our mutual goal of increased educational opportunities for Bahamians and Americans alike.
Speaking of enrichment, 2019 has already been a very big year for strengthening our economic ties. With over half a billion dollars in new contracts signed, our two nations are increasing prosperity at every turn. These projects will create hundreds of jobs here in The Bahamas, while attracting even more tourists to these beautiful shores.
But the mutual economic wins do not end there. The Royal Bahamas Defense and Police Forces will also benefit from U.S. contracts for an unmanned aerial vehicle program and body and dash cameras – these cutting edge U.S. technologies will enhance Bahamian national security. All of our joint efforts in priority areas of national security, economic development, and education will build stronger bonds as we enhance economic and national security.
Before I turn the platform over to the Most Honourable Prime Minister, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to Her Excellency The Most Honorable Dame Marguerite Pindling, Governor General of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, for the support you have shown the U.S. Mission over the last four years. Rain or shine (and mostly rain), you always participated in our Memorial and Independence Day celebrations. Thank you for enhancing our bilateral relationship.