President Reagan's Caribbean economic development program drew some praise but mostly was pummeled yesterday by representatives of labor, business and the U.S. Virgin Islands, alarmed that American workers may lose their jobs under the new plan.
While business and labor groups complained before the House Ways and Means trade subcommittee that their constituents might be hurt by the plan, Rep. Mervyn M. Dymally (D-Calif.), representing the Congressional Black Caucus, told another House committee that the administration should attempt quickly to halt the "insane drift toward war" in Central America. Rep. Michael Barnes (D-Md.) said the plan offered military aid to the region disguised as development assistance.
"I think it is great that the president has said the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico must be enhanced by the policy toward the Caribbean Basin," said Ron de Lugo, Virgin Islands delegate to Congress. "However, let's be realistic. No one looking at this legislation can say that the position of the flag territories is enhanced."
"The new trade arrangement with the Caribbean cannot result in the closing of U.S. plants," said Arthur Gundersheim, of the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. "
On the other hand, Puerto Rican representatives said although they have been critical of past Reagan administration policies, they welcome the Caribbean plan. "I strongly support President Reagan's Caribbean Basin Initiative as a bold and creative act of statesmanship which aims directly at the major problem of that important and neighboring area of the world, inadequate economic growth which endangers regional stability and peace," said Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Baltasar Corrada.