Smriti Sen Gupta
According to a confidential cable dated January 5, 2009, Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerritt had on purpose insulted the outgoing US ambassador. It also shows, Roosevelt Skerritt possibly tried to kill the US ambassador at the suggestions of his Venezuelan mentors.
Insulting the US ambassador and even attempting to murder:
The cable said: Despite repeated confirmation the day prior to the Ambassador’s planned December 17 farewell calls on Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerritt and Foreign Minister Vince Henderson, both were no-shows on the day of the Ambassador’s visit. The Ambassador instead met with Minister of Community Development Lorraine Bannis-Roberts and Minister of International Trade Senator Colin McIntyre, who thanked the Ambassador for her commitment to building strong ties between the U.S. and Dominica. The Ambassador noted the broad range of U.S. economic, military, and law enforcement engagement with Dominica during her tenure, and expressed regret that she would not have an opportunity to review the status of a few ongoing issues with the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister directly. To cap off the visit, shoddy jet way maintenance resulting from a Venezuelan construction project at Dominica’s main airport forced the Ambassador’s plane to be grounded when construction nails strewn on the jet way punctured one of the plane’s tires.
Skerritt: Elusive PM a No-Show
Ambassador Ourisman traveled to Dominica to pay farewell calls on Dominica’s President Liverpool, Prime Minister Skerrit, and Foreign Minister Henderson. Despite having confirmed the call on the PM the day prior to the meeting, we were informed upon arrival in Dominica that the Prime Minister was off island and unavailable. Instead, the farewell call was held with Acting Prime Minister Lorraine Bannis-Roberts, the Minister of Community Development, Culture and Gender Affairs. The Ambassador Asked Bannis-Roberts to convey to Skerritt the U.S. desire to invigorate our dialogue on security launched by the Secretary with CARICOM ministers in New York in September. The Ambassador also noted the active role of the Peace Corps in Dominican community development efforts, which the Minister warmly welcomed. The Ambassador also noted that she had wanted to raise a number of issues regarding human rights voting in the UN, HIV/AIDS, the PEPFAR program and economic issues, but told Bannis-Roberts she had hoped to be able to discuss these directly with the Prime Minister. The meeting ended on a cordial and friendly note.
Immediately after the cancelled meeting with Skerritt, another meeting that had been confirmed with the recently appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vince Henderson, was also downgraded without previous notice — this time to Senator Colin McIntyre, the Minister of Trade. After a brief review of the economic situation in Dominica and the potential impact of international economic conditions, the Ambassador cut the meeting short, kindly asking McIntyre to convey to PM Skerritt her disappointment that she had traveled to Dominica specifically to bid farewell to the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, but had been unable to meet with either.
Scurrying to Cover Tracks
Shortly after the second meeting ended, Emboff received a phone call from the MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] informing him that PM Skerritt (now miraculously on the island) would in fact like to meet with the Ambassador. The Ambassador politely declined and the Emboff informed the MFA representative that the Ambassador’s schedule required her to return to Barbados that afternoon and would therefore not permit a meeting. Simultaneously, the Dominican Protocol Officer accompanying the party received a call from the Acting FM, who reiterated to the DCM [Deputy Chief of Mission] the PM’s desire to meet with the Ambassador. The DCM reiterated that regretfully the schedule would not permit such a meeting.
Airport Scare Raises Concern
Upon returning to the airport, the Ambassador’s traveling party was dismayed to learn that one of the tires on the Ambassador’s plane had been punctured by one of dozens of construction nails that had been left strewn about the jet way by construction crews building an addition to the airport terminal. The pilot confirmed with aviation experts that the plane could not safely take off or land on the damaged tire, so the plane was left in Dominica and the party made alternate arrangements for their return. This jet way is used daily by American Airlines, American Eagle, and LIAT, and transports hundreds of passengers every day, including many American citizens. The potential danger of jet way or runway obstructions, the party was told, was serious, and appears to be unattended by Dominican airport authorities.
Elusive behavior of Roosevelt Skerritt
This was not the first time that we have encountered elusive behavior on the part of the Dominican Prime Minister. On three other occasions over the past year, Skerritt had agreed to join with the Ambassador for donations of vehicles, for military medical teams working in the country, and for the arrival of Denton flight with relief supplies. In all cases, Skerritt was a no-show. Other cooperative engagements planned with Dominica by our Military and USAID have also encountered last minute delays requiring high-level intervention to resolve. It is hard to way whether these problems are the result of incompetence on the part of Dominica officials, Skerritt’s unreliability, or a wariness of engaging to openly with the U.S. out of fear of antagonizing Venezuela, which is becoming increasingly active within Dominica with involvement in a major runway extension, oil storage facility, and PetroCaribe oil shipments. Despite repeated assertions of goodwill on the part of the government, Dominica remains the most difficult country in the region for all of our mission elements to work with, as many Dominicans cancel their training programs at the last minute leaving the U.S. to foot the bill and counter-drug operations often find coast guard boats unable to take action on reliable intelligence. The poorest and most vulnerable of the Eastern Caribbean islands, Dominica also appears to be the most susceptible to outside influences and will merit a close watch on Venezuela’s expanding influence.