ROBERT DE NIRO, DISASTER CAPITALIST, MASQUERADES AS HUMANITARIAN?
We all know and love Robert De Niro and all the amazing movies he’s made over the years. He’s also been the occasional activist. He’s spoken out in a good way on progressive politics. De Niro is also the parent of a child with autism and has been a good force in support of autism services and awareness. But De Niro is also a businessman with a variety of investments and commitments. One of those investments is a large luxury resort called Paradise Found Nobu in the Caribbean island of Barbuda. The problem is the project is trying to move forward by capitalizing on the disaster created by Hurricane Irma last Fall. That, unfortunately, makes De Niro a disaster capitalist.
CARIBBEAN BARBUDA COMPLETELY EVACUATED, INFRASTRUCTURE SHATTERED BY IRMA
All residents of Barbuda had to evacuate after Irma laid waste to most of the island. But now many of those displaced Barbudans are accusing De Niro of pushing a backroom deal to exploit their tragedy. Their main complaint is that De Niro and his partners have foisted an end-run around local longstanding Barbudan law getting rid of communal land rights. Those land rights date back to the abolition of slavery back in 1834. But those very land rights are what have protected the island from outside developers like De Niro. The only reason the island is pristine is because that law has protected the island and it’s citizens from becoming just another tropical playground for wealthy tourists. But that is all in jeopardy now. The door is open to turn the island into just a luxury destination.
DE NIRO LUXURY RESORT PROJECT GETS SWEETHEART DEAL, LOCALS CRY FOUL
De Niro’s group won an exception to the law while the entire population remained displaced in nearby Antigua. Hurricane Irma damaged 90% of all structures on the island, making it unsafe for everyone to return safely. Does that seem like a good time to allow an exception to common law? Or does that not pass the sniff test, at all? Quite frankly, it does not. It sounds like a Donald Trump project in many ways. De Niro’s group came to an agreement with Barbuda’s prime minister to receive a 198-year lease of 555 acres for a total of $6.2 million. They also won a number of local tax benefits! To add insult to injury, the Prime Minister also named De Niro an “official envoy” of both Antigua and Barbuda. Can you imagine?
DE NIRO BUDDY AND PRIME MINISTER CALLS PROTESTORS “ECONOMIC TERRORISTS”
So now Barbudans are crying foul. They’re trying to get this story out there as much as they can. Hundreds of Barbudans have signed a petition against the project’s plans. Members of the local political party Barbuda People’s Movement have sued to stop the project. They argue, with merit, that the referendum via the Prime Minister allowed non-Barbudans to vote to approve the sneaky deal. The Prime Minister has responded by calling these protesters “economic terrorists” in his defense of both the project as well as Robert De Niro. So it’s pretty ugly to say the least. So far, De Niro has declined to publicly comment on the unfolding drama and controversy.
TAXI DRIVER AND THE MIRROR ON THE WALL
I’m standin’ here. You make the move. You make the move. It’s you’re move. You talking to me? Are you talking to me? Well, I’m the only one here.
If you don’t get the reference, look it up. It’s painfully appropriate. Let’s all hope De Niro the disaster capitalist does the right thing here for Barbuda and its residents. Barbuda doesn’t need to be to be a playground for the rich like most of the Caribbean. Hey De Niro, it’s your move. We’re talking to you.