Sir John Swan warns of need for new friends in US corridors of power
Bermuda will lose an ally at the heart of the US establishment after a veteran congressman with Bermudian ties retires, a former premier warned yesterday.
Sir John Swan said the decision by GK Butterfield, whose father was Bermudian, to stand down underscored the need for the island to find new friends in Washington DC.
He added: “I am sorry to hear of his retirement, but all these things are inevitable.
“When these voices are lost, some people assume they can do what they want to do without regard as to what the consequences will be.
“It is now up to us to build more allies. It only takes one or two people who can raise a voice for Bermuda.”
Sir John was speaking after Mr Butterfield, a Democrat, said he would quit his North Carolina seat in the House of Representatives after 17 years.
The former United Bermuda Party premier said Bermuda should emphasise its close relationship with America as tensions grew among the power blocs of the US, China and Russia.
He added: “We are, almost, a suburb of the US, and we need to promote the message that what benefits Bermuda benefits the US.”
Mr Butterfield, 74, helped secure the release of a container of high protection N95 masks for Bermuda in the early stages of the coronavirus crisis after then-president Donald Trump slapped an export ban on personal protective equipment.
Mr Butterfield, who has served in Congress since 2004, worked as deputy chief whip for his party, and was chair of the influential Congressional Black Caucus.
The Congressman and his staff had to lock themselves in his offices in the Rayburn Building across the street from the US Capitol as pro-Donald Trump insurrectionists rioted on January 6.
Mr Butterfield wrote at the time: “I am safe and monitoring the violent uprising that is ongoing at the US Capitol complex.
“Please pray for our country.”
Mr Butterfield used his retirement announcement to attack Republicans, who control the state, for “racially gerrymandering” his district before next year’s elections.
His father, GK Butterfield Sr, who emigrated to the US from Bermuda, was a dentist and was elected to the city council in Wilson, North Carolina in the 1950s.
Dr Butterfield was the first Black elected official in eastern North Carolina since the Civil War ended in 1865.