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 precedent-setting 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!