The Star (St. Lucia) - - COMMENT -

Less than two months fol­low­ing the Saint Lu­cian peo­ple’s de­ci­sion to ef­fect a change of govern­ment, some­thing ex­tra­or­di­nary oc­curred: the new leader caved in to naked op­po­si­tion pres­sure and apol­o­gized. It re­mains con­jec­tural who had de­manded the apol­ogy and to whom it was of­fered. A day or so ear­lier a press com­mu­niqué from the cast-out Saint Lu­cia Labour Party claimed the U.S. had “re­buked” the na­tion’s new prime min­is­ter; that by say­ing to a Bar­ba­dos news­pa­per re­porter the U.S. de­ported an­nu­ally to Saint Lu­cia more crim­i­nals than the record stated, he was sig­nal­ing to po­ten­tial in­vestors and visi­tors that the is­land was un­safe, both as a tourist des­ti­na­tion and as a place to do busi­ness.

The SLP also as­serted that “none of what the prime min­is­ter stated is true,” and that the U.S. Em­bassy’s re­ac­tion to his pub­lished comments rep­re­sented a “rare dis­play of chid­ing a leader of a sov­er­eign state.” In truth the cited July 13 me­dia state­ment nei­ther chided nor re­buked Prime Min­is­ter Chas­tanet. On the con­trary, some might say his pub­lished dec­la­ra­tion handed the em­bassy an op­por­tu­nity to lay on Amer­ica’s resurg­ing racist im­age an­other coat or two of white­wash.

In part, the em­bassy re­lease noted that Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter had told the re­porter, “The United States govern­ment was slash­ing fund­ing for se­cu­rity as­sis­tance in the re­gion and con­tribut­ing to re­gional crime by de­port­ing crim­i­nals to their place of ori­gin.” Chas­tanet also was quoted as say­ing the U.S. had de­ported to Saint Lu­cia “800 crim­i­nals in one year.”

With the U.S. pres­i­den­tial elections around the cor­ner and race cards shoot­ing ev­ery sec­ond out of the cam­paign­ers’ mouths, the U.S. Em­bassy is un­der­stand­ably ex­tra-sen­si­tive at this time. Af­ter all, Caribbean politi­cians have for years been hurl­ing in­sults at the U.S. with­out ob­vi­ous fall-out. Sev­eral months be­fore the prime min­is­ter’s chair was kicked out from un­der Kenny An­thony he had bla­tantly snubbed a vis­it­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Joe Bi­den in fa­vor of cozy­ing up to Raoul Cas­tro in Cuba. On count­less oc­ca­sions the same prime min­is­ter had, with ap­par­ent im­punity, pub­li­cized his plan to court “non-tra­di­tional friends” by which he re­ferred to such per­ceived en­e­mies of the United States as Venezuela and Iran.

Then there were the fa­mously leaked State Depart­ment ca­bles, wherein U.S. Am­bas­sador Mary Kramer re­called a visit “to ded­i­cate two SOUTHCOM-con­structed projects and meet in­for­mally with St. Lu­cia’s Prime Min­is­ter Kenny An­thony.” From ob­serv­ing him up close the am­bas­sador formed the im­pres­sion, “PM An­thony is con­sid­er­ably less com­mit­ted to, and less ca­pa­ble of, man­ag­ing St. Lu­cia’s diplo­matic and se­cu­rity re­spon­si­bil­i­ties than he claims.”

More­over: “He pro­fessed un­aware­ness that St. Lu­cia had de­layed sign­ing an Ar­ti­cle 98 agree­ment, as well as ig­no­rance of his govern­ment’s un­re­spon­sive­ness to re­peated U.S. govern­ment ef­forts to fo­cus St. Lu­cian of­fi­cials on bi­lat­eral co­op­er­a­tion—or even to re­turn phone calls.”

Am­bas­sador Kramer also noted the prime min­is­ter was less sup­port­ive of U.S. pol­icy than he was of Venezuela’s. Per­haps most damn­ing was the U.S. am­bas­sador’s deadly as­sess­ment that “a for­mer pro­fes­sor, PM An­thony seems more in­ter­ested in pon­tif­i­cat­ing on what oth­ers should be do­ing in the in­ter­na­tional arena than in be­com­ing a re­spon­si­ble leader at home, in the re­gion or glob­ally.”

But back to Allen Chas­tanet’s June 11 comments to the Bar­ba­dos news­pa­per and the Amer­i­can re­ac­tion. Far from re­buk­ing or chid­ing Saint Lu­cia’s prime min­is­ter, the em­bassy re­lease un­der­scored that “the United States, in part­ner­ship with East­ern Caribbean gov­ern­ments, is com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing se­cu­rity in the re­gion. As ev­i­dence of this com­mit­ment, the United States govern­ment steadily in­creased fund­ing for re­gional se­cu­rity since Pres­i­dent Obama launched the Caribbean Basin Se­cu­rity Ini­tia­tive in 2009.”

Ac­cord­ing to the re­lease, “Fund­ing from the State Depart­ment’s

Bureau of In­ter­na­tional Nar­cotics and Law En­force­ment alone in­creased by 31 per­cent be­tween 2015-2016.” As for the fu­ture, the INL planned to spend “at least US$3.94 mil­lion on equip­ment, in­fra­struc­ture up­grades and law en­force­ment train­ing to com­bat traf­fick­ing, en­hance se­cu­rity, and strengthen jus­tice sys­tems in the East­ern Caribbean.” The U.S. was also con­tribut­ing “US$8.25 mil­lion to a joint US-Cana­dian project to re­fur­bish the Re­gional Se­cu­rity Sys­tem Air Wing, which will im­prove RSS in­ter­dic­tion and search-and-res­cue ca­pa­bil­i­ties.”

Iron­i­cally, the cited con­tri­bu­tions to “re­gional se­cu­rity” ceased in 2012, thanks to Kenny An­thony’s mis­han­dling of the so-called IMPACS fi­asco.

As for the sore point that was at the heart of Chas­tanet’s in­ter­view with the Ba­jan news­pa­per: “United States statis­tics in­di­cate that the to­tal num­ber of deportees re­turned to St. Lu­cia in the last five years was less than 100. In 2015 there were only eight such cases.”

The em­bassy might’ve added that at least fif­teen more de­clared crim­i­nals had for some months now been await­ing de­por­ta­tion and that the process had been stymied by the Kenny An­thony’s govern­ment’s re­luc­tance to co­op­er­ate with U.S. Im­mi­gra­tion Au­thor­i­ties. The em­bassy re­lease also ne­glected to men­tion its IMPACS-re­lated sanc­tions that for three years have de­nied the Saint Lu­cia govern­ment just over $2 mil­lion dol­lars an­nu­ally, to say noth­ing of spe­cial train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for the po­lice and other as­sis­tance.

Con­trary to last week’s SLP sug­ges­tion that the em­bassy’s re­ac­tion to Chas­tanet’s pub­lished comments was “un­usual” and “a rare dis­play of chid­ing a leader of a sov­er­eign state,” the fol­low­ing from the same em­bassy last March speaks for it­self: “De­spite the sig­nif­i­cance of the IMPACS re­port for hu­man rights, na­tional se­cu­rity con­cerns and Saint Lu­cia’s in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion, the govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia has made no mean­ing­ful progress to­ward crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion in ten months. The Em­bassy of the United States of Amer­ica to Bar­ba­dos and the East­ern Caribbean there­fore urges the govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia to en­sure the rule of law is up­held. We are con­cerned that four years have passed since these al­le­ga­tions of hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions first sur­faced and due process is yet to be served . . . A clear demon­stra­tion of the govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia’s com­mit­ment to the rule of law would ben­e­fit the peo­ple of Saint Lu­cia, as well as Saint Lu­cia’s in­ter­na­tional stand­ing as a trusted, demo­cratic part­ner in eco­nomic and se­cu­rity co­op­er­a­tion.”

No sugar-coated diplo­macy. Here was a word to the wise, as bit­ter as it was naked. The re­lease was fol­lowed by the prece­dentset­ting press con­fer­ence con­vened here by EU diplo­mats who re­peated Amer­ica’s con­cerns about hu­man rights and the then govern­ment of Saint Lu­cia. And now it has fallen to the Allen Chas­tanet govern­ment to seek a res­o­lu­tion of the Me­dusa that is the IMPACS re­port, with pre­vi­ously ig­nored help from the U.S. and the EU.

As ear­lier stated, there has been no fall-out from Chas­tanet’s ex­po­sure of the dirty lit­tle semi-se­cret of crim­i­nal de­por­ta­tions by the gov­ern­ments of the United States, the UK and Canada. While pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ments have sought diplo­mat­i­cally (qui­etly?) to per­suade the cited gov­ern­ments to re­con­sider their re­lated re­spec­tive poli­cies, on the ba­sis that crim­i­nal deportees pose grave threats to the cash-strapped and in­ap­pro­pri­ately po­liced re­gion’s se­cu­rity, it took Chas­tanet’s comments to a Bar­ba­dos pa­per to draw the mon­ster out of its lair.

Iron­i­cally, at least one prime min­is­ter has praised Chas­tanet’s ef­forts at work­ing out a pos­si­ble ame­lio­ra­tion of the deportees sit­u­a­tion. St. Vin­cent prime min­is­ter Ralph Gonsalves— ar­guably the re­gion’s most out­spo­ken leader—un­der­stands that re­gard­less of whether crim­i­nal deportees are de­posited in his coun­try, in Gre­nada, Do­minica, Trinidad or Ja­maica, the con­se­quences af­fect Saint Lu­cia. In­deed, who can say for cer­tain the sev­eral un­re­solved lo­cal mur­ders were not com­mit­ted by im­ported hit­men, all of them deportees to other parts of our re­gion?

That he may have over­stated (cal­cu­lat­edly or oth­er­wise) the ac­tual num­ber of crim­i­nals dumped an­nu­ally on un­sus­pect­ing Saint Lu­cians, when com­pared with the enor­mity of the fall-out, pales into near in­signif­i­cance. Des­per­ate times call for des­per­ate mea­sures. Ralph Gonsalves ac­knowl­edges this. Ob­vi­ously Kenny An­thony’s Labour Party does not. (Or would it be more cor­rect now to say Philip J. Pierre’s SLP?)

Clearly the party’s re­lease was as hyp­o­crit­i­cal as it was self-serv­ing and in­sult­ing to the na­tional in­tel­li­gence. Then again, the Kenny An­thony govern­ment had so many times pulled the wool over trust­ing Saint Lu­cian eyes, chances are he and his al­ter ego were self-con­vinced they could fool all of the peo­ple all of the time—a delu­sion that fi­nally proved more than they could af­ford!

While at home the St. Lu­cia Labour Party, now led by Philip J. Pierre (cen­ter) con­tin­ues its de­clared war on Chas­tanet the Fa­ther and Chas­tanet the Son. St. Vin­cent’s prime min­is­ter, Ralph Gonsalves (right) has pub­licly praised the ef­forts s of his Saint Lu­cian coun­ter­part, Allen Chas­tanet (left) in bring­ing out into the open the far-reach­ing but hid­den reper­cuss­sions of Amer­ica’s deportees pol­icy!

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