7 min read

#15 Barbados

A former British colony, Barbados officially removed the British monarch as its head of state and became a republic last year. But, like the United States, the tiny Caribbean island is still grappling with its legacy of slavery and its colonial past.

This week's episode is about Barbados.

Welcome to the 195 series, where I take you on a mini-tour of every country (and maybe some places that want to be countries). Each week I'll feature a new location. Some you may have heard of, while others may be new to you. The point is to learn and nurture our curiosity about the wider world. Maybe you'll find a new artist or musician you like, too.

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Country Info:

Population: Roughly 288,000.

Current government: The government of Barbados gets an impressive 95/100 score in the organization Freedom House's Freedom in the World Index.

The island gained independence from the British in 1966. But it wasn't until September 2020 that it announced it would remove the British monarch as its head of state and become a republic. Freedom House writes:

Barbados is a democracy that regularly holds competitive elections and upholds civil liberties. Challenges include official corruption and a lack of government transparency, discrimination against LGBT+ people, violent crime, and poverty.

The current Prime Minister is Mia Amor Mottley, who has been the leader of the Barbados Labour Party since 2008.

Languages spoken: Most people speak English or an English-based creole called Bajan. According to the 1986 book Focus on the Caribbean:

In addition to being among the first English-based creoles, Bajan is unusual in that it is the product of an uninterrupted span English-African contact.

Religion: Most people are practicing Anglicans, like the English settlers who arrived on the island in the 1600s.

Standout artists: Ronald Williams.

Screenshot from the Instagram account of Ronald Williams

Standout film: The Barbados Project. A horror movie released this year about a journalist in Barbados who investigates a video of a large unidentified creature and uncovers a government conspiracy.

A surprising thing: Barbados has one of the oldest synagogues in the Western Hemisphere. According to a local historian cited by the Barbados Synagogue Historic District:

“ Sugar in the latter half of the seventeenth century made Barbados very wealthy and attracted many settlers, including Sephardic refugees from Recife in Brazil and from Holland as well. Oliver Cromwell opened Barbados to permanent Jewish settlement before the ban on Jewish settlement in England was lifted. The Nidhe Israel Synagogue therefore is of considerable antiquity, dating from circa 1654. In some respects, it can be seen as the parent synagogue of several synagogues in the USA. ”

Story of the week: A year after becoming a republic, Barbados is pursuing damages for the sins of its colonial past, the Telegraph reports. Ministers are calling on Richard Drax, the British owner of the largest former slave estate on the island, to atone for the deeds of his forefathers.

Drax Hall was the largest slave plantation in Barbados and the only one still in the hands of the family of the original slavers. Its current owner is Richard Drax, the Conservative Member of Parliament for South Dorset, who has found himself caught up at the centre of a vitriolic, abusive hate campaign over the deeds of his ancestors.

What I'm writing:

• As the war in Ukraine reaches its ninth month, the international community has discovered evidence of systemic war crimes—including rape, torture, and the execution of civilians—in every region where Moscow’s forces have been deployed.  The scale of the atrocities has sparked initiatives on Capitol Hill and around the world to hold Russia responsible. It's also pushing the U.S. closer to the International Criminal Court. This story is free to read.

What I'm reading:

• The U.S. stopped Poland from giving Ukraine MiG-29 fighter jets in March due to a secret deal with China, journalist Owen Matthews claims in a new book, part of which was published by the Spectator Magazine.

• The Polish president spoke to Russian pranksters Vovan and Lexus, who were pretending to be France's President Emmanuel Macron, on the night a missile hit a village near the Ukrainian border, Reuters reports.

• Spanish police will deploy in Ukraine over the coming weeks to help investigate alleged war crimes, Reuters reports.

• Members of the European Parliament are calling for the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary militia, to be labeled as a terrorist organization, according to a letter obtained by Politico Europe.

• Hungary's Parliament will ratify Sweden and Finland's NATO membership in its first session in 2023, CNN reports. The announcement was made following a meeting of the Visegrad Group, which includes Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Hungary.

• European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen took a historic decision to confront Viktor Orbán’s government over chronic corruption and rule-of-law backsliding by freezing up to €13.3 billion in transfers, Politico Europe reports.

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• Then, on Thanksgiving Day in the U.S., Kosovo and Serbia reached a deal to end the long-running dispute over vehicle license plates, Al Jazeera reports. Serbia will stop issuing license plates with denominations from Kosovo's cities, and Kosovo will not demand that vehicles with Serbian plates be re-registered. Crisis averted for now.

• A group of European nations led by Germany and France pledged millions of euros in support for Moldova, but leaders of the Eastern European country urged a speedier deployment of the aid amid Russia’s intensifying energy blackmail, Politico Europe reports.

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• In Kazakhstan, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev won a landslide victory in a snap election last weekend, DW reports. In the year since deadly unrest shook the Central Asian country and left more than 230 people dead, Tokayev has unveiled reforms that included strengthening the parliament, reducing presidential powers, and limiting the presidency to a single seven-year term. That means he will now stay in office until 2029.

• Authorities in Kyrgyzstan have stripped investigative journalist Bolot Temirov of his Kyrgyz citizenship and deported him in a nebulous operation his supporters described as an act of state-organized abduction, EurasiaNet reports.

• The Syrian Democratic Forces in north-east Syria said they might be forced to abandon camps holding members of the Islamic State terrorist organization if Turkey launched a new ground operation there, the BBC reports.

• Foreign Policy published a dispatch on Russia’s Great Reverse Migration and the Russians fleeing conscription for Central Asia.

• Brazil’s outgoing far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, is contesting his defeat in the October election, the BBC reports.

• The Venezuelan government and the country’s opposition are resuming talks in Mexico, the Financial Times reports.

• The Iranian national team declined to sing Iran’s national anthem before their first World Cup match in an expression of support for anti-government protests in the country, the BBC reports.

• A riot by Israeli pilgrims in the West Bank city of Hebron over the weekend has drawn widespread criticism, the Wall Street Journal reports.  

• One person was killed and at least 18 others injured in two bomb attacks in Jerusalem, the New York Times reports. The attacks were the first on Israeli civilians in more than six years.

• Malaysia’s veteran opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was sworn in as prime minister, the BBC reports. The appointment ended days of post-election deadlock following inconclusive election results. Ibrahim has promised to give up his salary as prime minister and fight corruption.

• Vice President Kamala Harris met with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr to discuss 21 new projects funded by the U.S., CNN reports. The projects, part of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, include more defense sites around the Philippines, indicating to China that the U.S. is forging closer ties with the country.

What the State Department says:

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