The history of many Caribbean nations is twisted and intertwined with controversial dictatorships and imperialism. From the largest nations in the Caribbean, to the smallest, modern governments are working to reshape the future of Caribbean nations with an eye on improving the welfare of native populations. Chief Minister Hubert Hughes is leading a charge in Anguilla to change the direction of his native island for the future.
The Rise of a Native
Hubert Hughes is a born and raised native of Anguilla. He was born on the small island nation in 1933 and has lived the majority of his adult life in the political spotlight. After spending the first 14 years of his life on Anguilla, it was an excursion to St. Kitts in his teenage years that helped direct his future ambitions.
Growing up on Anguilla, Hughes was accustomed to a society which for generations had been dominated by Anguillans. The people of Anguilla had owned their own land, growing all the food they needed to survive. The locals produced their own butter, and had excesses of goods and commodities such as livestock and looms that could be exported to its island neighbours, including St. Kitts and Saint Martin.
On the island of St. Kitts, Hughes witnessed a different state of affairs for the local population. Although St. Kitts possessed a strong economy based on the sugar industry, the wealth it generated remained in the hands of a select few individuals and state-owned plantations. Though slavery was abolished on St. Kitts in 1834, the local population remained in a state of servitude. They had no control over land and played no role in the sugar industry beyond providing the physical labour needed to harvest and supply goods for the industry.
The Labor Movement
Today, Hughes notes a number of similarities between labor movements around the world and his own interest in labor and politics. He has likened the situation he witnessed on St. Kitts to that of African-Americans in the United States. Following the abolition of slavery and the end of the Civil War in the US, African-Americans were merely left to wander the countryside with little organized effort to improve their lives.
After taking in the circumstances on St. Kitts, Hughes took an interest in the labor movement. However, he did not immediately jump into politics as a young man. He did not find himself involved in politics in his native Anguilla until after spending time living abroad in England. The United Kingdom maintains to this day control over the island of Anguilla.
As a young many living in England, an Anguillan political association asked Hughes to return to his homeland and help lead the charge for a different vision of Anguilla’s future. Hughes admits to a sense of trepidation about returning home. He enjoyed his life in England, had invested in property in London, and had extended business ties with foreign nationals from the US, Pakistan, and India.
It was a feeling of neglect that drove Hughes to return to Anguilla and get into politics. Prior to 1971, St. Kitts was linked under a presidency with its sister island of Nevis and Anguilla. The seat of power was located on St. Kitts, and this did not suit Nevisians and Anguillans. Anguilla was able to separate from the arrangement, but the island’s inhabitants and new political leaders such as Hughes felt that Anguilla was being neglected by England.
Hughes helped lead a new labor movement in Anguilla during the 1970s and 1980s, but he eventually backed away from politics for a period of ten years. Fearing that the country was still not headed in the right direction, he returned to politics in 1994 and was successfully elected Chief Minister of Anguilla in 1994. He would hold that position until 2000 when he again pulled back from politics for another decade.
Return to Politics with a New Vision
Hughes again returned to politics in 2010. Hughes was not satisfied that Anguilla’s future had been set on the right path. The country ended its reliance on the sugar industry in 2005, and as a result the nation has been going deeper in debt since. Anguilla had long been famous for its lack of taxation, but the British government increasingly tightened monetary loans to Anguilla and made it harder for the island nation to maintain balanced budgets.
In the election of 2010, Hughes was again elected Chief Minister of Anguilla as a member of the Anguilla United Movement. He has not been shy about insisting that his homeland move towards independence from British rule. Hughes does not approve of measures enacted by the British government that serve to dictate toward his government in Anguilla what must be done to secure loans.
As a politician and Anguillan, Chief Minister Hughes is working to protect the welfare of his fellow Anguillans, and in the process secure a future that shines brightly for all people from his homeland.