Viewing cable 07BRIDGETOWN369
Title: OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR SAINT VINCENT'S OPPOSITION

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
07BRIDGETOWN3692007-03-26 17:12:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Bridgetown
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DE RUEHWN #0369/01 0851712
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P 261712Z MAR 07
FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4441
INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1665
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C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 000369 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR 
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/19/2017 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PREL SNAR KCRM VC VE XL
SUBJECT: OPPORTUNITY KNOCKS FOR SAINT VINCENT'S OPPOSITION 
 
REF: BRIDGETOWN 299 
 
Classified By: DCM Mary Ellen T. Gilroy for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  The head of the St. Vincent and the 
Grenadines (SVG) opposition party, Arnhim Eustace, has 
stepped up his criticism of Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves in 
the last three weeks.  His most recent themes included 
Gonsalves' December pardon of a convicted drug dealer and 
Gonsalves' embrace of Hugo Chavez, who visited SVG in 
February.  Both issues sparked fierce public exchanges 
between the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP) and the 
ruling Unity Labour Party (ULP).  A 6,000-strong protest 
march in late February demonstrated that this is not just an 
NDP fight, but that popular disaffection with the Gonsalves 
administration may be growing.  End Summary. 
 
Drugs and Thugs 
--------------- 
 
¶2. (C) In December 2006, PM Gonsalves granted a formal pardon 
to convicted drug dealer Alex Lawrence based on "national 
security interests of St. Vincent and the Grenadines." 
According to Eustace, the pardon and its timing (during 
Christmas) were deceptive and irresponsible.  In reaction, 
St. Vincent's newspapers have been filled with articles and 
opinion pieces, some of which have criticized the pardon as 
"immoral," "unprecedented," and "raising international 
credibility implications."  The pardon was also the major 
impetus for a 6,000-strong opposition march through Kingstown 
in late February, during which protesters called for the 
prime minster's resignation and new elections.  According to 
Eustace, the pardon is also evidence of Gonsalves' remaining 
ties to drug trafficking elements and their influence over 
the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines (GOSVG). 
Ken Boyea, first cousin and former political confidant of 
Gonsalves, told EconOff that "in the back of all Vincentians' 
minds is the fact that Gonsalves went from a drug trafficker 
defense attorney to Prime Minister, practically overnight." 
According to both Boyea and Eustace, "Gonsalves' background 
casts serious doubt on the genuineness of Gonsalves' 
anti-narcotic efforts."  (Note:  According to Drug 
Enforcement Administration (DEA) representatives at post, 
they enjoy a cooperative working-level relationship with the 
GOSVG's Drug Squad but also admit that the country's serious 
lack of resources may hinder the Drug Squad's ability to be 
fully effective.  End note.) 
 
Chavez and Gonsalves:  Too Close for Comfort 
-------------------------------------------- 
 
¶3. (C) Another major point of contention for the opposition 
party is the perceived growing influence of Venezuelan 
President Hugo Chavez over St. Vincent.  Opposition members 
criticized Gonsalves' apparent approval of Hugo Chavez's 
anti-U.S. rhetoric during his February visit to St. Vincent. 
The opposition was especially incensed by Chavez's indirect 
attacks on the NDP.  During one rally, Chavez yelled, 
"However, not only in Washington.  Those who want to keep us 
divided are here also in St. Vincent!  Here, we have people 
who want us divided!"  At the opposition march, EconOff 
witnessed at least four protesters carrying American flags, 
returning Chavez's verbal attacks with attacks of their own. 
One protester yelled, "Who does Chavez think he is; coming to 
our country and telling us what to be for or against.  This 
is St. Vincent; we make our own decisions!"  Eustace summed 
up his party's concerns: "As St. Vincent and the Grenadines 
gets closer to Venezuela, receives more gifts, we could find 
ourselves also embracing their ideologies." 
 
Comment 
------- 
 
¶4. (C) Gonsalves was easily re-elected as Prime Minister in 
December 2005 on a populist platform that painted him as the 
paternal guardian of the poor and disenfranchised.  In recent 
weeks Opposition Leader Eustace appears to have focused on 
two issues, drugs and Chavez, that have resonated with 
Vincentians, and may put some pressure on Gonsalves. 
Although the public display of displeasure with the prime 
minister was exceptional, Gonsalves may succeed in shrugging 
off the opposition's recent attacks, especially if he 
continues his potentially lucrative relationship with Chavez, 
which has already yielded promises of cheap fuel and a new 
airport. 
 
BioNote------- 
 
¶5. (C) Following the NDP's crushing defeat in the 2005 
elections--it retained three seats to the ULP's 12--rumors 
were rife about a change in the opposition party's 
leadership.  To quash doubts about his control over the NDP, 
Arnhim Eustace decided to stand for re-election as party 
president during the NDP's December 2006 convention, even 
though he had two years remaining in his previous term.  He 
won overwhelmingly.  Nevertheless, Dr. Godwin Friday, an NDP 
member of parliament, said that supporters wanted a more 
"vigorous opposition."  Eustace's new mandate has probably 
motivated the recent escalation in his criticism of PM 
Gonsalves, serving also to dispel Eustace's image as an 
introvert and boring.  Ken Boyea, himself a former contender 
for PM, told EconOff that "although Eustace lacks charisma, 
he is bright, capable and honest," and added that he would 
"completely trust Eustace with the keys to the country." 
OURISMAN