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Cablegate: Ambassador Ourisman Talks Crime, "Alba," Culture

VZCZCXYZ0023
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHWN #0063/01 0321800
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 011800Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6036
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1863
RUEHMU/AMEMBASSY MANAGUA 0141
RUCNDT/USMISSION USUN NEW YORK 0129
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J2 MIAMI FL
RUMIAAA/HQ USSOUTHCOM J5 MIAMI FL

C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000063

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

WHA/CAR FOR ALAIN NORMAN
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2018
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL ECON EINV XL NU VE
SUBJECT: AMBASSADOR OURISMAN TALKS CRIME, "ALBA," CULTURE
WITH SVG PM

REF: A) 07 BRIDGETOWN 1341

Classified By: PolOff Arend Zwartjes for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: In a wide-ranging discussion over breakfast,
Ambassador Ourisman and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime
Minister Ralph Gonsalves covered the crime situation in St.
Vincent, the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA),
the state of the region's primary air carrier (LIAT), the
IMF's involvement in the Eastern Caribbean, and cultural
influences and preservation. PM Gonsalves reiterated SVG's
gratitude for American military and law enforcement
assistance, and offered to investigate the handling of a
court case involving a Peace Corps Volunteer who had been
stabbed mid-2007. End Summary.

2. (SBU) On January 29, 2008 Ambassador Ourisman hosted St.
Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves for
breakfast at the Embassy before his first official meeting
with new Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson. Initially
meant to focus on the recent trial involving a Peace Corps
Volunteer (PCV) who was stabbed in St. Vincent last year, the
discussion soon wandered to cover a variety of issues.

"Daniel, My Brother"
--------------------

3. (C) Much of the discussion focused on Gonsalves'
participation in the sixth Bolivarian Alternative for the
Americas (ALBA) summit just days before in Caracas (septel).
Gonsalves was quick to deny any military and intelligence
agenda or component to ALBA, and appeared to generally want
to disassociate himself from Chavez's ideologies. He was
quick to thank the United States for is continued military
and law enforcement assistance. Gonsalves opined that
Nicaragua's Ortega (who he described as his "brother") is
"less strident" this time around, and noted that Chavez and
Ortega plan to visit St. Vincent, Dominica, and Antigua in
late February.

Barbados Elections
------------------

4. (C) On the subject of Barbados' newly elected government,
Gonsalves stated that he did not expect any significant
differences in the ruling Democratic Labour Party's policies,
as both major political parties in Barbados are "steeped in
social democracy and committed to regional integration."
Echoing Grenada PM Keith Mitchell's comments in the press,
Gonsalves dismissed the notion of "winds of change" sweeping
through the Caribbean with the recent change of governments
in Jamaica, St. Lucia, Bahamas, and Barbados. According to
Gonsalves, Barbados' two main parties are so similar that
"differences will have to be manufactured to keep the party
faithful happy."

Investment, Macroeconomics, and the IMF
---------------------------------------

5. (C) The Ambassador then mentioned USAID's recent support
for Investment Promotion Authorities (IPA's) in St. Kitts and
Antigua, and asked Gonsalves if SVG had interest in forming
an IPA as well. Gonsalves replied that while St. Vincent
currently has a type of investment authority now (the
National Investment Promotion, Inc.), he conceded that it
needed modernizing and expressed interest in partnering with
the United States to pursue an IPA. Expanding on the theme
of economics, Gonsalves noted that SVG farmers had "taken a
beating" as a result of the loss of European trade
preferences. He noted that SVG had begun importing sugar and
using the profits from selling the sugar to the private
sector to subsidize agricultural inputs.

6. (C) Gonsalves emphasized that while SVG currently receives
good marks from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the
organization is not generally constructed to understand the
"peculiarities" of small island economies. Saying "you
cannot use general economic theories" with countries such as
SVG, Gonsalves cited his use of "counter-cycle fiscal
policy", which the IMF originally opposed, and then later
praised but added that it should be discontinued. Speaking
philosophically, the PM noted that "the peoples in these
islands are wedded to good governance," and have a "devotion
to the rock but not necessarily to the government."

UN Voting Record
----------------

7. (C) When the Ambassador reiterated USG appreciation for
SVG casting the deciding vote in December's UNGA human rights
resolution on Iran, Gonsalves admitted, "we have not been
consistent in the past in voting on these matters." He
followed this surprising admission by blaming SVG's former
Ambassador to the United Nations, Margaret Hughes Ferrari
(2001-2007) for previous UN votes on human rights, saying she
was "cynical in her view that so-called Western nations used
the human rights issue selectively." (Note: Gonsalves
replaced Ferrari with his son Camillo Gonsalves in late 2007.
End note).

Peace Corps Stabbing, Crime, and Medical Schools
--------------------------------------------- ---

8. (C) The Ambassador then raised the recent dismissal of a
criminal case against a Vincentian who had stabbed a Pace
Corps Volunteer (PCV) in June 2007. According to USG
representatives who attended the recent rial, the case
against the perpetrator was withdawn by the police
prosecutor without calling allthe witnesses, and despite
overwhelming evidencethat had been collected by local
police. Saying I am very sorry about this," Gonsalves
promised o order investigations by te Police Chief, the
Director of Public Prosecutions and the Attorney General into
the handling of the case. Based on his knowledge of the
legal system, the PM said that a retrial is very unlikely,
given SVG's laws against "double jeopardy"; however, he noted
that a civil suit was still possible.

9. (C) When the Ambassador expressed general concerns about
the crime situation in SVG, Gonsalves downplayed any
concerns, and in reference to the closure of Kingstown
Medical College (Ref B), denied that crime was truly a
deciding factor. Instead, he noted that the College had
demanded "exclusivity" (a guarantee that it would be the only
medical school with access to SVG's hospitals) while
negotiating the renewal of its contract with the government.
Gonsalves claimed that since the closure of the college,
school officials had since offered to open a four-year
medical school on the site, but that the government had
decided (but not yet announced) to go with an offer from a
different institution to found a four-year medical school in
St. Vincent. Recognizing the potential of so-called
"educational tourism", Gonsalves noted that SVG was seeking
additional medical schools that would be interested in
attaching themselves to the medical center currently being
built in the nation's second-largest city of Georgetown.

LIAT, Race, and Culture
-----------------------

10. (C) When asked about recent claims in the Eastern
Caribbean that the sole regional air carrier, LIAT, was
inefficient and guilty of price-gouging, Gonsalves replied
that (St. Lucia's Minister of Tourism) "Chastanet talks a lot
of rubbish when it comes to regional air transport." Noting
the lack of air transport regulation in the Eastern
Caribbean, and in regards to governmental efforts to
increase competition in the region, Gonsalves stated, "we've
been down that road before", citing the failures of Carib
Express, BWIA, and Caribbean Star, among others. Gonsalves
said he was "not against competition" but wants "fair
competition."

11. (C) He further criticized St. Lucia's Alan Chastanet as
among "a species of brown people in the Caribbean with money"
who are "not loyal to anybody". Gonsalves continued by
noting that such people, whom he described as "Castries
mulattos", believe they are "oracles" and represent a "break
in the social advancement in the Eastern Caribbean."

12. (C) Continuing on the theme of culture, Gonsalves
lamented the influence of "U.S. prison culture" on his
country in the modes of dress adopted by young people. On a
positive note, the Ambassador expressed her desire to provide
cultural preservation funding to the GOSVG to refurbish wood
panels depicting the indigenous Carib population that are
currently housed in the dilapidated Fort Charlotte.
Gonsalves expressed gratitude and promised to provide the
appropriate contact so that such a project could proceed
immediately.

Comment
-------

13. (C) While the friendly nature of the meeting reflected
the Embassy's generally good relations with St. Vincent and
the Grenadines, Gonsalves was at his legalistic best,
downplaying both SVG's involvement in ALBA and the crime
situation (which by most accounts has severely escalated of
late). Still, he was extremely responsive to the
Ambassador's concerns regarding the incident involving the
Peace Corps volunteer, and was quick to offer extremely frank
views on a variety of subjects. Gonsalves remains a master
of contradictions, who continues to court whatever foreign
government he can in order to secure financial and other
benefits for his country. End Comment.
OURISMAN

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