Friday, April 27, 2012

Coming In From The Cold?

In recent months Fiji has welcomed to its shores, the Foreign Minister of Russia and more recently the senior diplomat of Qatar. Other bilateral meetings with Iraq and Kuwait have also eventuated, including other nations.
"Both Foreign Minster's unscheduled visit to Fiji, is somewhat symbolic in nature, as well as a face saving gesture to restore what shreds of their spheres of influence left intact since their self-imposed absence."

The recent announcement of the nascent Australian Foreign Minister, Bob Carr to visit Fiji, in mid stream of his Washington stop, was quite surprising to say the least . However, Carr's Fiji's stop was undoubtedly influenced by a little chat with  the 'foggy bottom' folks quite concerned at Canberra and Wellington's incessant refusal engage directly with the Fiji Government and in the process isolated the Western aligned alliance diplomatically and undermining their regional moves on the geo-strategic chessboard. 

Tagging along with Foreign Minister Bob Carr to display a united front, is New Zealand Foreign Minister, Murray McCully who also confirmed his itinerary in joining this last minute Pacific Islands Forum Ministerial Contact Group (MCG) visit to Fiji.
It is understood that other Ministers from Pacific Island Forum (PIF) nations, notably from Polynesian client states are only present to bolster the island look of the Anglosphere duo, Carr and McCully respectively; whose nations dominate the proceedings of the Pacific Forum, an organization deemed as an anachronism by Melanesian and Micronesian states.

36th Parallel interview, (video below) outlines the current seismic change in regional affairs.

This disengagement with Fiji by the Trans-Tasman nations, had subsequently encouraged other friends of Fiji, to close ranks and displace the diplomatic rapport they once held. Both Foreign Minster's unscheduled visit to Fiji, is somewhat symbolic in nature, as well as a face saving gesture to restore what shreds of their spheres of influence left intact since their self-imposed absence.

Another unspoken agenda in their visit of both senior diplomats and colonial cousins from the metropolitan nations, is the ambition to shore up support to the former premier regional multi-lateral organization Pacific Islands Forum(PIF) that has since been languishing in the looming shadow of the regional sub-group Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG).

Another perspective by Dr. Wadan Narsey provides another independent view.

The excerpt:

Pacific tilting west to PNG – and Super Power rivalry

PNG gold bars
Papua New Guinea gold ... vast mineral wealth changing Pacific politics
Photo: Kiridaresources

Pacific Scoop:
Commentary – By economist Professor Wadan Narsey
If this was a news release by a geologist, alarm bells would be ringing around the Pacific and international scientific community. But retitle it “Pacific politics tilting to PNG” and the alarm bells would be ringing in Samoa, Tonga and the Cooks (as I am sure they already are).
However, if Papua New Guinea ever decides to flex its burgeoning muscles, encouraged by a belligerent Fiji, the alarm bells would be ringing loudest in Canberra and Wellington.
Without doubt, Pacific politics is tilting towards the west, drawn by the all-powerful and inexorable gravitational forces of the massive LNG and other minerals wealth being generated in Papua New Guinea (and in West Papua – another sorry saga).
Pacific regional initiatives such as PICTA and EPAs with the European Union (administered by Forum Secretariat in Suva) or PACER Plus (administered through the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser in Vila) are going to be largely eclipsed by the Melanesian Spearhead Group of PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, headquartered in the Chinese built secretariat in Vila. But are the PNG politicians prepared for the leadership role that comes with their wealth and markets?
Or will they be too bogged down in their debilitating internal squabbles for political power so as to ensure preferential access to the massive new wealth flows being created?
Relations with Australia and NZ are going to be a key factor in the direction taken by PNG and the MSG group, and that will depend critically on what PACER Plus offers the PICs, and how fast.
Understanding the complex chop-suey of forces at work in the Pacific is extremely difficult, as the diversity of issues discussed by this article indicates.
Super Power rivalry
But almost certainly, history, time and the “Pacific tilt” are not on Australia’s side. More than a decade ago, US withdrew its Peace Corps programme from the Pacific.  But in 2011, US Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton warned the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee not to cut the US foreign aid budget, citing the growing competition with China for global influence, specifically mentioning the Pacific and its vast natural resources.
The US is now back in the Pacific with a large new US Embassy in Suva, to rival the equally large Chinese Embassy. US has  also now stationed a small number of troops in North Australia, a move which is seen by an annoyed China as part of the US “containment policy” towards China.
The numbers of US troops will no doubt slowly grow, alarming Australian strategy advisers who see too close an attachment to US military strategies as being potentially harmful to long term Australian economic interests, which are inextricably linked to China’s economic growth (and which was the most significant factor saving Australia from the Global Financial Crisis).
Without doubt, super-power rivalry in the Pacific is now escalating.
PNG will have far more bargaining chips than ever before, especially if its leaders are able to successfully play off one Super Power against another, and take a leadership role in the Pacific, including the MSG.
W. Narsey
" Pacific regional initiatives such as PICTA and EPAs with the European Union (administered by Forum Secretariat in Suva) or PACER Plus (administered through the Office of the Chief Trade Adviser in Vila) are going to be largely eclipsed by the Melanesian Spearhead Group of PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, headquartered in the Chinese built secretariat in Vila. "
Largest market
Papua New Guinea with its population of 7 million people is the largest market in the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), with the others just making up less than 2 million.
Yet 10 years ago, the PNG market was not given much importance by the other Pacific Island companies because the largely rural PNG consumers were too poor to spend money on modern goods. That has now totally changed with the massive economic growth now taking place in PNG, with equally large investment and consumer expenditures from both the private sector and government.
Foreign companies, including Australian, are taking a renewed interest in PNG. Even Fiji companies have made a beeline for PNG, pushed abroad by the last six years of economic stagnation in Fiji. All of a sudden, the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG) of PNG, Fiji, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu has become the substantial integration movement in the Pacific, totally eclipsing PICTA.
The MSG is also achieving trade integration advances which PICTA has failed to deliver while PACER Plus totally stagnates.
Pacific countries will continue to talk endlessly on PACER Plus, as they did when PICTA was being negotiated, with every tiny trading or local commercial interest dragging the negotiations down to a snail’s pace, to the financial delight of an army of consultants.
This strengthening of the MSG has been assisted by Fiji’s belligerent attitude towards Australia and NZ, secretly admired by the political leaders of PNG, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu, who have long harboured intense resentment at what they perceive to be the paternalistic and condescending attitudes of Australian and NZ political leaders towards the Melanesians.
Underlying all this antagonism is the virtually taboo subject of Australian and NZ racism against the Melanesians, which surfaced in an oblique way at a recent conference at Deakin University in Geelong on PNG’s future.
Melanesians feel racism
This two-day conference produced many useful contributions from Australian and PNG academics and participants. But one jarring note in an otherwise diplomatic opening address by the debonair  Sir Charles Lepani (PNG High Commissioner to Australia) was his emotional complaint about the “galling” barriers faced by PNG nationals requiring a visa to come to Australia, while Australians come and go freely in PNG. This observation was greeted with applause by the largely white Australian audience, who had faced such difficulties when trying to get visas for PNG nationals.
Another senior and influential bureaucrat, a “mover and shaker” in PNG, complained bitterly that he had been coming to Australia for four decades, yet the Australian immigration department still wanted his bank balance and his grandparents’ addresses.
Ironically, while speaker after speaker (both PNG and Australian) complained about the post-independence debilitating deterioration in PNG civil service efficiency and widespread corruption, eminent Professor Ross Garnaut threw in a sobering reminder that the decades in which Australia controlled PNG before independence was “no golden era” for PNG people either, when they were required to have a permit to even come into their own capital, Moresby.
The conference was also reminded by yours truly that while Australia easily and freely gave out more than 600,000 work/holiday/study visas to a number of mostly white countries, PNG had yet to be confirmed for a quota of a mere 100
‘Blackbirding’ memories
Melanesian countries still remember their people being “blackbirded” a century ago, to clear the land in Australia for white farmers, and then callously and cruelly expelled (with the Chinese and Indians) to create the “White Australia” after federation in 1905 (led by Prime Minister Deakin). Today, the Melanesians are affronted that the descendants of that early slave labour are clearly not wanted in Australia in the way whites are.
In an evening function, very senior PNG people (including white Australian PNG “old hands”) confided quietly that the negative Australian attitude to PNG people was racism pure and simple – a continuation of the “White Australia” policy.
Few from the Melanesian Pacific would disagree, as they see that the Pacer Plus negotiations are bogged down by Australia on the one benefit that the Pacific countries feel would balance all the many costs of pure trade integration.
All PICs want is reasonable access for unskilled PIC “guest workers” into Australia – to ease their home unemployment and increase their valuable remittance earnings which has kept poverty at bay in several countries such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga.
But for almost a decade now, Australia has been dragging its feet on proposals to let a few thousand Pacific Islands workers come to pick fruit, all under tightly controlled conditions, while 600,000 young workers from Europe, with minimal control or organisation whatsoever, come and go with a year’s permit for work and/or holiday, readily granted.
Add Sino-phobia
Many political strategists in Australia and NZ are worried about China’s rapid incursion into Pacific economies and politics, even though China is merely doing much the same kinds of things which other Super Powers and donors have done in the past century.
China may be extremely secretive about their financial flows to recipient countries and politicians. For instance, there is little publicly available data about what exactly are the loans which many Pacific countries are taking on for future generations.
But unlike Australian and NZ, China has little concern for insisting on local governance standards or basic human rights of the PIC citizens.
Sadly, the Western powers excluded China in their regional discussions with PICs, as I pointed out at a PIDP meeting in Honolulu early in 2011, on the future of the Pacific. The improbable excuse given was that there were “visa difficulties” for Chinese delegates.
It is open to question whether China will be any less racist or paternalistic or condescending than Australia or NZ.  But Chinese diplomats are not likely to make the political gaffes which Australian politicians make regularly with respect to the Pacific.
Australian failures
Australia’s failure to win the hearts and minds of Pacific political leaders may be contrasted with NZ’s greater success with Pacific countries, and with their Maori population.
No power-hungry Pacific politician is ever going to prise the Cook Islands, Tokelau or Niue (or even Samoa and Tonga) out of New Zealand’s camp.
Even Kiribati is now over the moon with Fiji, which has offered (sold) them a large block of land which will have more earth in it than all of Kiribati combined. While Kiribati’s President Tong hastily said the purchase was for food security and not settlement, there is little doubt that it also is going to provide a refuge for any I-Kiribati climate change refugees.
The I-Kiribati know that Tuvaluans are already quietly and happily acquiring property in Fiji, with no fuss whatsoever from Fiji authorities.  Tuvaluans are hard-working law-abiding residents of Fiji, enjoying all the benefits of good education for their children, health services for their sick, and a hospitable social environment.
Massive Australia, despite its daily acknowledgement of significant labour shortages for the foreseeable future, has made no such grand symbolic gesture towards the atoll countries which would have cost it so little and gained so much. It is not surprising that, apart from a few small Polynesian countries, the rest of the Melanesian and Micronesian Pacific has refused to speak out against the military regime in Fiji, despite the considerable diplomatic pressure from Australia and NZ.
W. Narsey
"Many political strategists in Australia and NZ are worried about China’s rapid incursion into Pacific economies and politics, even though China is merely doing much the same kinds of things which other Super Powers and donors have done in the past century. "
The PICs all know that Australia has been dragging its feet for a decade on PACER Plus negotiations and refusing to budge on access to Pacific unskilled labour, while the smaller NZ economy has had a small guest worker scheme operating very successfully for several years.
Australian needs to pay more attention to PNG views: one speaker at the Deakin conference on PNG futures quite bluntly told the gathering: “If Australia does not want to play ball with PNG, then we will play ball with China”.
The reality is that PNG is now positioned to lead a mass break-out of the economic barriers that Australia has built up against the ordinary poor and unskilled black populations in the Pacific.
While perpetually decrying the deterioration in governance and public services in PNG and other Melanesian countries, Australia has been ruthlessly extracting the very professional and skilled PIC citizens, whose departure is one fundamental cause of PIC economic and social disintegration.
It is a paradox to many Pacific economists why Australia is so backward in its policies towards the Melanesian countries.

Saying ‘sorry’

In the absence of any great Australian awareness of Australia’s exploitation of Kanaks in the past, it might be difficult to argue that Australia has any subconscious guilt complex towards Melanesians, as they seemed to have towards the Aboriginals.

But Australian political leaders, after a century of silence, finally said “sorry” to Aboriginals for all the horrifying injustices done to them in the past. It would be an interesting PhD to examine whether saying “sorry” has made any improvements at all to the political relationships between Australian and Aboriginal political leaders, and more importantly, to the welfare of the Aboriginals whose conditions are closer (by all the MDG criteria) to the poverty stricken people in sub-Saharan Africa, than to the rest of white or Asian Australia.

Perhaps the Melanesian countries should demand that Australia also say “sorry” to them, for the atrocities committed against the Kanak labourers a century ago. Acknowledging those past brutalities (and you might first need a few TV documentaries to drive that message home to the unaware Australian public) might encourage Australia to treat Pacific Island countries fairly and with human decency in the PACER Plus negotiations.

If PACER Plus delivers on the unskilled labour market benefits that PIC leaders want, and quickly, then Australian and NZ politicians might also have fewer nightmares about being outmanoeuvred by China in the Pacific, plus enjoy a lot of benefits as well.

Dr Wadan Narsey is a Fiji economist, academic, former parliamentarian and independent media commentator. He is a regular columnist on Pacific Scoop and Pacific Media Centre Online.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Beazely Bi-lateral Gatekeeping & US Engagement In The Pacific

Fiji One TV segment covers the recent remarks of Australian Ambassador to the U.S, Kim Beazely (K.B) in an interview with "The Diplomat" dated April 14th 2012 titled "How Australia Sees America".

"The Diplomat "(T.D) interview excerpt that focused on US's engagement in the Pacific and Australia's assumed sphere of influence:

(T.D) Within the alliance, the South Pacific has traditionally fallen within Australia’s sphere of influence. In recent years, Australia has taken the lead on engaging its neighbors in the region on behalf of the West, including taking on major peacekeeping operations in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands and taking the lead on engagement with Fiji. However, significant challenges have emerged in a number of these countries. Democracy hasn’t taken hold and there now appears to be a slitting of the Pacific Islands Forum along Melanesian and Polynesian lines.
This raises the question of whether the United States should not only take a more assertive role in the region, but also advance an alternative diplomatic approach in situations like Fiji or PNG. From Australia’s perspective, do you see any tension forming within ANZUS on diplomatic engagement in the South Pacific? And, how concerned are you about the rise of anti-Australian sentiment and the emergence of the Melanesian Spearhead Group as a possible alternative to the Pacific Islands Forum?

(K.B) The thing that we have always appreciated in our relationship with the United States is that the U.S. has always kept its engagement with the South Pacific islands under constant discussion with us. They engage us on where American policy is going. Clearly, from our point of view, the U.S. determines its own direction wherever it goes. It will rationalize that policy direction with its friends and others as the U.S. sees fit.
From our point of view, what’s much more important is that the U.S. is engaged. We think that it is good for the countries of the region that the U.S. involves itself. We have been arguing to – rather than with – the United States for a very long time that they become more involved in the region. So, we would do nothing but encourage them.
The region is getting increasingly complex as the leaders in the region become more adept at international diplomacy and more aware of the character of international relations. Australia doesn’t own any of this territory. We did once – at least part of it. But, we don’t own any of it now. So, our concern for that region is that they be wealthy, happy, cheerful, well-governed. That is our objective. And, we all stand for democracy. So, we are prepared to provide material assistance where that aid is sought – not imposed – by countries in the region. Because the U.S. tends to have very civil values, the U.S. is engaged in pursuing those objectives too. 

We don’t have any problems with the U.S. keeping the backdoor open as long as they consult with us. Clearly the U.S. will make up its own mind on what direction it wants to go. So long as it doesn’t give us any surprises, we have no basis for complaint.
The MSG has been around quite a long while, and we have coexisted with it jointly. So, it’s not something that has us phased or fussed.
More views from Kim Beazely below:

Trade &  Security Lecture At University of Virginia March 28 2012(Video posted below)

CSIS Interview Oct 17th 2011 (video posted below)

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Sunday, April 15, 2012

Islands In The Cyber Stream.

Pacific Institute of Public Policy (PiPP) a think-tank (some have equated think tanks to universities without students).
PiPP unveiled a discussion paper (PDF) on the inherent benefits of the internet and the extent of mobile  penetration in the South Pacific:
 Over the past few years, attitudes towards telecommunications in the Pacific have
shifted. Complacent monopolies are being replaced by greater policy engagement,
and a more competitive marketplace. Wireless networks are significantly cheaper to
roll out than cable-based ones, especially in areas lacking significant road and power
networks. As wireless capabilities increase, so too do revenue opportunities as we are
now seeing with the delivery of data services via mobile phone networks.

Map from discussion paper.
Read More

Saturday, April 07, 2012

X-Post- New York Times: China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, Catching U.S. Notice

China's developments in the Caribbean as outlined in a New York Times (NYT) article, brings to mind an earlier SiFM post titled "The Islanders with a Dragon Tattoo" , the recent reports of the arrival of US Marines in Darwin and Huawei being blocked from bidding on Australia's broadband network. All symptoms of the changing geostrategic landscape.

The excerpt of NYT article:

China Buys Inroads in the Caribbean, Catching U.S. Notice 

Jason Henry for The New York Times

Tourists and locals enjoying the view at a restaurant and bar in Nassau, a beneficiary of China's largess. More Photos »Slide Show Jason Henry for The New York Times

T he tiny island nation of Dominica has received a grammar school, a renovated hospital and a sports stadium, also courtesy of the Chinese. Antigua and Barbuda got a power plant and a cricket stadium, and a new school is on its way. The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago can thank Chinese contractors for the craftsmanship in her official residence.
China’s economic might has rolled up to America’s doorstep in the Caribbean, with a flurry of loans from state banks, investments by companies and outright gifts from the government in the form of new stadiums, roads, official buildings, ports and resorts in a region where the United States has long been a prime benefactor.

The Chinese have flexed their economic prowess in nearly every corner of the world. But planting a flag so close to the United States has generated intense vetting — and some raised eyebrows — among diplomats, economists and investors. “When you’ve got a new player in the hemisphere all of a sudden, it’s obviously something talked about at the highest level of governments,” said Kevin P. Gallagher, a Boston University professor who is an author of a recent report on Chinese financing, “The New Banks in Town.” Most analysts do not see a security threat, noting that the Chinese are not building bases or forging any military ties that could invoke fears of another Cuban missile crisis. But they do see an emerging superpower securing economic inroads and political support from a bloc of developing countries with anemic budgets that once counted almost exclusively on the United States, Canada and Europe.

Jason Henry for The New York Times (More Photos)
The $35 million stadium in Nassau financed by China.
China announced late last year that it would lend $6.3 billion to Caribbean governments, adding considerably to the hundreds of millions of dollars in loans, grants and other forms of economic assistance it has already channeled there in the past decade. Unlike in Africa, South America and other parts of the world where China’s forays are largely driven by a search for commodities, its presence in the Caribbean derives mainly from long-term economic ventures, like tourism and loans, and potential new allies that are inexpensive to win over, analysts say. American diplomatic cables released through WikiLeaks and published in the British newspaper The Guardian quoted diplomats as being increasingly worried about the Chinese presence here “less than 190 miles from the United States” and speculating on its purpose.
One theory, according to a 2003 cable, suggested that China was lining up allies as “a strategic move” for the eventual end of the Castro era in Cuba, with which it has strong relations. But the public line today is to be untroubled. “I am not particularly worried, but it is something the U.S. should continue to monitor,” said Dennis C. Shea, the chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a bipartisan Congressional panel. But, he added, “With China you have to be wary of possible policy goals behind the effort.” This archipelago, less than a one-hour flight from Florida, has gotten particular attention from the Chinese. Aside from the new stadium, with its “China Aid” plaque affixed prominently at the entrance, Chinese workers here in the Bahamas are busy helping build the $3.5 billion Baha Mar, one of the region’s largest mega resorts.

Beyond that, a Chinese state bank agreed in recent weeks to put up $41 million for a new port and bridge, and a new, large Chinese Embassy is being built downtown. The new stadium here, Bahamian officials said, was in part a reward for breaking ties with Taiwan in 1997 and establishing and keeping relations with China. It is one of several sporting arenas that China has sprinkled in Caribbean and Central American nations as gratitude for their recognition of “one China” — in other words, for their refusal to recognize Taiwan, which Chinese officials consider part of their country. “They offered a substantial gift and we opted for a national stadium,” said Charles Maynard, the Bahamian sports minister, adding that his government could never have afforded to build it on its own.

 In this enduring tug of war with Taiwan, others have switched, too, with a little financial encouragement. Grenada ended relations with Taiwan in 2004, and it is now in talks with China about getting a new national track and field stadium. The parting has not been entirely amicable; Taiwan and Grenada are now locked in a financial dispute over loans that Grenada received to finance the construction of its airport. Determined not to be sidelined, Taiwan is seeking to solidify its existing relationships with countries like Belize, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Lucia — which in 2007 broke relations with China in favor of Taiwan — with a bevy of projects, many of them agricultural, including an agreement signed with Belize in recent weeks to develop the fish farming industry there. Still, Taiwanese diplomats in the region conceded that they could never keep up with China’s largess but continued to make strategic investments in the Caribbean. There are some commodities in the region that China wants.

In August, a Chinese company, Complant, bought the last three government sugar estates in Jamaica and leased cane fields, for a total investment of $166 million. Last year, Jamaica for the first time shipped its famed Blue Mountain Coffee to China. The Jamaican government has also received several hundred million dollars in loans from China, including $400 million announced in 2010 over five years to rebuild roads and other infrastructure. “In order to be prosperous you need to build roads first,” said Adam Wu, an executive with China Business Network, a consulting group for Chinese businesses that has been making the case for China in several Caribbean countries.

Several analysts in the Caribbean say they believe that China eventually will emerge as a political force in the region, with so many countries indebted to it, at a time when the United States is perceived as preoccupied with the Middle East and paying little attention to the region. “They are buying loyalty and taking up the vacuum left by the United States, Canada and other countries, particularly in infrastructure improvements,” said Sir Ronald Sanders, a former diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda. “If China continues to invest the way it is doing in the Caribbean, the U.S. is almost making itself irrelevant to the region,” he added. “You don’t leave your flank exposed.” In some places, Chinese contractors or workers have stayed on, beginning to build communities and businesses.

So many have opened in Roseau, Dominica, that local merchants have complained about being squeezed out. immigration over the past century, but locals are now seeing more Chinese restaurants and shops, as well as other signs of a new immigrant generation. “I am second-generation Trinidadian-Chinese, and like most of us of this era, we have integrated very well in society, having friends, girlfriends, spouses and kids with people of other ethnicities,” said Robert Johnson-Attin, 36, a mechanical engineer now with his own successful business. “It’ll only be a matter of time before it happens with the Chinese coming in now.”

Here in the Bahamas, Tan Jian, the economic counselor at the Chinese Embassy, said he that believed “it’s only the start” of the Chinese presence across the Caribbean, casting it as one developing country using its growing economic power to help other developing ones. The Bahamian government, he said, “cannot afford to build huge projects by itself.” While the Chinese built the stadium, the Bahamas is responsible for utility hookups and the roads and landscaping outside it. The $35 million gift “is costing us $50 million,” said Mr. Maynard, the sports minister. “But at the end of the day it will pay for itself” by putting the Bahamas in position to host major sporting events and reap the tourism revenue that comes with that. For Baha Mar, the Chinese Export-Import Bank is financing $2.6 billion, nearly three-quarters of the cost, and China’s state construction company is a partner.

The Bahamas agreed to allow up to 8,000 foreign workers, most of them Chinese, to work on the project in stages, but it also required employment for 4,000 Bahamians, dampening concerns that Chinese workers were taking jobs. American companies will also take part in building and running it. Mr. Jian played down any economic competition with the United States, whose tourists, he asserted, stood to benefit from China’s presence in the Caribbean. The Chinese workers here live in barracks behind the project fences, largely shielded from public view. “We hardly know they are here,” said James Duffy, watching a track practice next to the stadium one recent afternoon, adding with a chuckle: “Except for the big things they build.”  

Karla Zabludovsky contributed reporting from Mexico City, Camilo Thame from Kingston, Jamaica, and Prior Beharry from Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago .

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