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Tit For Tat For Trump In The Bahamas: Now Americans Are The 'Very Bad People'

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Bahamian Prime Minister Hubert Minnis on Sunday announcing most U.S. visitors will be indefinitely banned from entering The Bahamas because of COVID-19.

COMMENTARY

When the Bahamas closed its doors to American visitors this week – because of the U.S.’s catastrophic inability to control the new coronavirus – you could hear the payback.

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“The countries that come out of this better will be the disciplined countries,” Prime Minister Hubert Minnis said in what many took as a dig at President Trump’s widely condemned pandemic leadership. “Countries and people who do not follow sensible public health advice will have more deaths, sickness and chaos.”

The leader of one of the small, poor and predominantly Black island nations Trump likes to call “shitholes” is reminding us the world considers Trump’s America an epidemiological sinkhole – a place where public health discipline disappears.

READ MORE: Political Paella: Why the 'Goyaffair' Could Really Hurt - or Really Help - Trump

It was especially notable coming from Minnis – and especially as we near the dangerous days of the hurricane season. After Hurricane Dorian destroyed the northern Bahamas last September, Trump made a political base-pleasing point of denying Bahamians escaping the devastation a customary visa waiver. They could have entered the U.S. temporarily to recover and regroup – but it was too risky, Trump insisted. In racist Trumpese, he said too many refugees might be “very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers.”

In one instance, Trump’s edict got more than 100 Bahamian evacuees, including children, booted off a ferry boat headed for Florida in the days after the deadly storm, when food and fresh water were scarce.

The leader of one of the small, poor and predominantly Black island nations Trump likes to call shitholes is reminding us the world considers Trump's America an epidemiological sinkhole.

That insult stung Bahamians more because by then, they and everyone else in the Caribbean were all too aware of why the hurricanes slamming them today are bigger and stronger. Scientists say the reason is climate change – global warming – caused largely by the greenhouse carbon belched into the atmosphere not by small, poor and predominantly Black island nations like theirs, but by large, rich and industrialized countries like the U.S.

A few days after Dorian ravaged The Bahamas, I toured Grand Bahama island with a local Anglican pastor named Father Stephen Grant. He showed me not just the destruction but several examples of how monsters like the near-record storm surge could have been mitigated. Sites, for example, where watershed construction would make a difference.

“It can be done,” Grant told me as we stood outside a house where storm surge had claimed the lives of a family trapped in the attic. “But we need help from the countries like yours that bear a certain responsibility for this new kind of storm phenomenon.”

Minnis said much the same thing to CBS’ “60 Minutes” a few months later when he showcased the infrastructure changes The Bahamas is pursuing, like solar-powered energy “microgrids,” to make its vulnerable islands more storm-resilient.

“We cannot afford it…alone,” Minnis said, adding, “First World nations” should contribute because they “make the greatest contribution to climate change.”

VERY INFECTIOUS PEOPLE

Now Minnis is saying, as he indefinitely bars U.S. commercial flights and ships from entering The Bahamas, that the First World nation next door presents the greatest threat of COVID-19 transmission. I doubt anyone but Trump and MAGA World would have objected if the Prime Minister had also remarked that too many American tourists might be “very infectious people, very infectious mask-rejecting gang members and some very, very infectious hydroxychloroquine dealers.”

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Ramon Espinosa
/
AP

In fact, given the surreal corona-chaos we’re witnessing in U.S. hotspots like Florida, Minnis actually would have been justified tossing in a jibe like that – as opposed to the bogus, bad-hombre aspersions Trump cast on Bahamians who’d just had their homes razed by 200-mph winds.

Minnis has reason to be nervous. Yes, The Bahamas has a population of fewer than 400,000 and has recorded fewer than 200 COVID-19 cases. But more than a quarter of those infections were registered since just last Saturday. That’s the kind of spike that, given this pandemic’s insidious history, prods responsible heads of state to take measures like putting Grand Bahama under a two-week lockdown, as Minnis also did this week.

What the Bahamas can’t do is ban the effects of America’s carbon emissions – or make the U.S. share the cost of hurricane defense. But it can ban contagious Americans. And deliver Trump a little well deserved payback along the way.