Cablegate: Jamaica: Opposition Leader Hopes to Win at Least
DE RUEHKG #0803/01 1441630
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 241630Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY KINGSTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4811
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 0479
RHMFISS/CDR USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L KINGSTON 000803
STATE FOR WHA/CAR (RANDALL BUDDEN)
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/22/2016
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PINR ECON SOCI ENRG KCOR JM
SUBJECT: JAMAICA: OPPOSITION LEADER HOPES TO WIN AT LEAST
37 OF 60 PARLIAMENTARY SEATS IN IMPENDING NATIONAL
ELECTIONS, BUT DECRIES CHAVEZ'S GROWING INFLUENCE
REF: A. KINGSTON 393 (211315Z MAR 07)
B. KINGSTON 705 (111640Z MAY 07)
Classified By: Ambassador Brenda L. Johnson, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1.(C) Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP)
-- confidently predicts the JLP will win at least 37 of 60 parliamentar
seats in impending national elections;
-- has "now confirmed the arrival" in Jamaica of 4 to 6 million U.S.
dollars in cash given by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to finance th
upcoming election campaign of Prime Minister (PM) Portia Simpson Miller
(PSM)'s ruling People's National Party (PNP);
-- decries Chavez's growing influence in Jamaica, and asks "whether the
U.S. is merely a spectator, or is going to register serious concerns;"
-- sees no signs of election violence.
Chavez alleged to have given millions to influence impending national
2.(C) At his request, Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Leader
Bruce Golding met privately with Ambassador (accompanied by PolOff) the
afternoon of May 21 in his office at JLP Headquarters. Ambassador bega
by asking about Golding's recent visit to New York; he said he had held
an excellent meeting with former Governor George Pataki two weeks ago,
and had discussed at some length the prospects for Jamaica's impending
national elections. He had "now confirmed the arrival" in Jamaica of 4
to 6 million U.S. dollars in cash given by Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez to finance the upcoming election campaign of Prime Minister (PM)
Portia Simpson Miller (PSM)'s ruling People's National Party (PNP)
(Reftel A). JLP supporters had "seen signs of this money at work on th
ground." He then said: "at the risk of being blunt, the question is
whether the U.S. is merely a spectator, or is going to register serious
concerns." The Ambassador reiterated Washington's deep reservations
about Chavez's political and economic influence throughout the region,
and assured Golding that we had expressed these concerns to the
Government of Jamaica (GoJ); however, the U.S. was unable to intervene
directly in the electoral processes of other countries.
Petrocaribe and Petrojam
3.(C) Golding then said he had asked Opposition Energy Spokesman
(Member of Parliament for St. James West Central) Clive Mullins to
"investigate" the deal recently struck by the GoJ to sell 49 percent of
Jamaica's national oil company Petrojam to Venezuela for only 63-69
million U.S. dollars. He said the valuation of Petrojam should be
determined by the level of investment and shareholding; he understood
that the company's valuation recently had been estimated at 300
million U.S. dollars. PNP insiders had "told me it has gotten to the
point that whatever Chavez wants, Chavez gets." Golding then maintaine
that the JLP's "real fear" was that "when we take power, we'll find tha
the previous Government has made agreements without public discourse."
Meeting with DAS Duddy
4.(C) Golding then said he had appreciated his recent meeting at the
State Department with DAS Duddy, whose "disquiet" over growing
Venezuelan influence in Jamaica had been "obvious." But the question
"as to whether this was a serious issue with the U.S." was another
matter. Ambassador said she understood that Golding had been very
favorably received in Washington, and also noted that Gov. and Mrs.
Pataki were her personal friends.
JLP's Funding Difficulties
5.(C) Golding then noted that, historically, the JLP had relied on
corporate donors for 70 percent of the Party's funding; however, the
"levels of money needed" had "grown beyond corporate donors' ability."
He estimated the election would cost 250 million Jamaican dollars
(3.7 million U.S.). Once the elections had been called, the JLP's
donors would be "more forthcoming." However, the most recent results
from pollster Bill Johnson, published in the Jamaica Gleaner newspaper,
purporting that the PNP currently enjoyed a seven-point lead nationally
were "not helpful" in raising donations. The JLP was "going after"
about nineteen constituencies normally held by the PNP, and money was
"key" in swinging the marginal constituencies.
Timing of Elections
6.(C) In response to Ambassador's inquiry about the timing of
elections, Golding observed that the "most recent speculation" was that
PSM would announce in late June that the elections would be held in
July. Ambassador noted that PSM was scheduled to address an ILO meetin
on June 12 in Geneva and to meet with Prince Charles on June 13, and
also had indicated she would attend the Caribbean 20/20 Conference in
Washington June 19-21. Golding noted that PSM might announce elections
the last week of June, following her return; alternatively, she might
cancel one or more of her commitments. He then said he was unsure
whether the latest poll had "buoyed" the PNP, but his PNP contacts had
told him they were "worried." The JLP planned to be on the campaign
trail "three-to-four days per week over the next six weeks."
Corruption Endemic: Polls Suspect
7.(C) Golding then observed that there were "not many things in Jamaic
without a price tag: newspaper stories are for sale." He described
corruption as "endemic," and acknowledged its presence within the JLP.
Casting cold water on the Bill Johnson poll in the Jamaica Gleaner, he
said "if you want a poll, it's for sale."
JLP to win at least 37 of 60 seats
8.(C) In response to Ambassador's inquiry, Golding confirmed that he
and PSM had agreed to hold three debates within seven days following
nomination day: the first to focus on the leaders themselves, the secon
on the economy, and a third on social services. He then noted that, as
had been the case in the recent budget debates in Parliament (Reftel B)
PSM would enjoy the advantage of low expectations, and thus needed only
one sound bite to look good; in contrast, "I must perform for 90
minutes." In response to Ambassador's inquiry, Golding said that forme
PM P.J. Patterson was giving the PNP "tactical advice," but was not out
in the trenches. He then maintained the JLP was "confident of winning
37 seats (of total 60), and possibly as many as 41." He said there
were 18 ) 19 seats which were "really difficult for the JLP." He noted
that, in the Southwest St. Ann constituency, a traditional PNP
stronghold, divisions among contending PNP factions gave the JLP a
chance for victory.
No signs of election violence
9.(C) In response to Ambassador's inquiry as to whether the
elections might be marred by the kind of violence Jamaica had
experienced in past years, Golding said he saw "little indication of
violence;" it had become "politically unacceptable." While there alway
would be some risk of spontaneous incidents, he detected "no signs of
any violence being planned." Ambassador concluded by reiterating U.S.
hopes that the two parties would continue to eschew violence, and
that the country would benefit from peaceful and clean elections; this
would serve the mutual interests of Jamaica and the U.S.