The prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph E. Gonsalves, has accused U.S. and other foreign interests of meddling in his country’s internal affairs with the purpose of removing him from power and disrupting Saint Vincent’s increasingly close ties with the left-wing ALBA group of countries. ALBA is a trading bloc made up of left-wing led Latin American and Caribbean nations.
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a tiny and impoverished former British colony (population about 120,000) . The largely African-descended and English-speaking population has historically been highly dependent on cultivation of bananas for export to Britain and Europe. This puts its small-scale banana cultivators into competition with major transnationals such as Chiquita and Dole, who are able to produce bananas cheaply on huge plantations in Central and South America.
Saint Vincent and some of its neighbors had, for a long time, special arrangements with the former European colonial powers whereby they could export their bananas to Europe duty free, while the Latin American bananas had to face high import taxes.
The United States and the Latin American countries had gone to the World Trade Organization to complain. In late 2009, an agreement was reached between the European Union and the Latin American banana exporters whereby tariffs on Latin American bananas would be cut and the Asian, African and Caribbean banana producers would receive some aid in compensation.
In the meantime, the government of Saint Vincent, headed by Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of the left-leaning Unity Labour Party, has concluded that both trade wars and increasingly destructive storms make it urgent that his country move away banana monoculture. Service industries, including tourism, have been taking up a little of the slack, but Saint Vincent’s airport facilities are not considered to be adequate for a large increase in visitors.
Gonsalves’ party won a big victory in the legislative elections of 2005 and was able to move forward on a number of issues, including negotiating entry into the Bolivarian Alliance for America (ALBA), which includes Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Antigua and Barbuda, and Dominica. Through ALBA, Gonsalves thought to get aid, particularly in building a new airport that could contribute to an expansion in tourism.
Parliamentary elections are due this year, though the date has not been announced. In spite of Gonsalves’ big victory in 2005, his party lost a 2009 referendum to make Saint Vincent and the Grenadines into a Republic. This has encouraged the right-wing opposition party, the New Democratic Party (NDP).
So in his August 24 “Open Letter to the People of the Caribbean,” Gonsalves complained that since 2009 “foreign elements out of Britain and the United States of America have aligned themselves to the opposition New Democratic Party of St. Vincent and the Grenadnes in an insidious campaign of defamation of this blessed country and of attempting to destabilize the Unity Labor Party government led by me.”
Gonzalves singled out two U.S. businessmen as among the main perpetrators: David Copps of the Pure Discovery Corporation, a Texas based IT applications firm whose CEO, David Copps, has had past contracts with the CIA, FBI and Pentagon, and Blake Burris of Dynamo Labs, an electronic social networking enterprise. The two companies appear to work closely together, sharing a Dallas workspace.
Here is what you can read on Dynamo Labs’ Website http://dynamo-labs.com, in a piece signed by one Ajay Waghray.
“I don’t know about y’all, but we here at Dynamo Labs ‘love’ democracy. The smell of sweet freedom fills our lungs in the mornings before we set out to change the world…So when we were told about what’s happening in the island [sic] of Saint Vincent in [sic] the Grenadines, we knew that we had to help.
“…the current Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has aligned himself with Venezuela and Hugo Chavez. The New Democratic Party, led by Arnhim Eustance, wants to save SVG by raising the standard of living and guarantees of civil liberties (for more information on NDP’s campaign, click here….).”
The blurb goes on to tell people in the United States and beyond how they can contribute money (“Save Democracy for Just $5”) to the New Democratic Party of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. It makes clear there is a formal relationship between NDP and Dynamo Labs. So Gonsalves is not just blowing smoke.
Gonsalves’ letter finishes: “Solidarity, struggle, advancement and resistance are our watchwords. St. Vincent and the Grenadines is a vital beach-head in this enterprise of Caribbean solidarity. The foreigners who come to control us, divide us, ravage our resources and dull our consciousness with backward ideas, are antithetical to everything in our Caribbean civilization. We must resist them firmly!”
Gonsalves’ letter and attached materials can be read in full at http://www.normangrivan.info/pmgonsalves-open-letter
Photo: A woman in traditional West Indian dress with Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves, center, of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Chen Shui-bian, left, the president of Taiwan, in 2005. (AP)