By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA — According to informed sources, the recent action taken against Saint Lucia by the United States under the so-called Leahy Law could be connected to the circumstances surrounding the revocation in 2011 of the diplomatic and non-immigrant visas of former housing minister Richard Frederick.
It is now believed that Frederick’s visa was revoked as a result of false information supplied by members of the St Lucia Labour Party (SLP), then in opposition, in combination with a local propaganda campaign designed to tarnish Frederick’s reputation locally.
While these efforts were successful in having Frederick’s visa revoked, his personal political popularity apparently remained undiminished, although the news of the revocation of his visa may have played a part in his United Workers Party (UWP) being defeated in the 2011 general elections.
In particular, Prime Minister Kenny Anthony, then leader of the opposition, campaigned in the last general election on a promise, if elected, to make public the reasons behind the revocation of Frederick’s US visa. He has not yet done so since being re-elected to office in November 2011.
Frederick himself was returned as the parliamentary representative for Castries Central.
Now, it seems that the recent cutting off of security-related assistance to Saint Lucia by the US may be an undisclosed and unforeseen consequence of the US effectively being duped or deceived in connection with the visa revocation matter.
No reason has been given by the US government for the apparent disparity in the treatment of Frederick, which was based entirely on hearsay and innuendo and apparently fabricated allegations, contrasted to the continued ability of two prominent Saint Lucian government officials to enter the US and effectively travel freely and with immunity/impunity on diplomatic passports when they have a known history of violent sexual assault.
Inquiries with US law enforcement sources have produced no evidence against Frederick and no interest in him on their part. Indeed, in the opinion of one such source, it would have made no sense for the US to cancel his visa when the possession of such a visa would have enabled him to travel to the US, where he could have been detained and questioned if he had in fact been a person of interest.
Well known Washington lawyer and former US Attorney Joe DiGenova, who represents Frederick, said he has never seen anything like this in his 40 years of practicing law. He said he is certain that Frederick was “framed”.
“It is abundantly clear that false information was provided to harm Richard Frederick and certain individuals violated US law by providing such false information. At the appropriate time we will take civil action in the matter,” DiGenova said.
According to separate research, the individuals manipulating and/or influencing US embassy officials and, in particular, making false statements to US authorities may have committed a federal offence under Section 1001 of Title 18 of the United States Code (18 USC § 1001). This statute applies in a wide-ranging context and, most commonly, the US Justice Department uses this law to prosecute cover-up crimes such as perjury and false declarations, and in obstruction of justice and government fraud cases.
The US government is believed to have launched an investigation into the events and circumstances leading up to the revocation of Frederick’s visa. In particular, one or more Saint Lucia women are reported to have traded sexual favours to procure the co-operation of US embassy officials in Bridgetown.
As a result, according to so far unconfirmed reports, certain State Department and/or US embassy officials have been demoted and/or otherwise disciplined over the incident, although the continued existence of a “backchannel” line of communication between the Bridgetown embassy and elements in Saint Lucia sympathetic to the SLP has been uncovered just within the last few days.
Furthermore, Anthony and four other senior government officials – foreign affairs minister Alva Baptiste; national security minister Phillip La Corbiniere; commissioner of police Vernon Francois; and George Deterville, a former police superintendant now working directly in the Prime Minister’s Office — were reportedly asked to attend a meeting concerning the matter at the Bridgetown embassy over one year ago — on or about Monday, July 16, 2012 — when they were told to provide specific information as to the nature and sources of the allegations against Frederick and given a deadline by which to do so.
The prime minister’s press secretary has not responded to a request for confirmation and comment about the meeting in Barbados in July last year or the outcome thereof and, although acknowledging our inquiries, neither the State Department nor the US Embassy in Bridgetown has so far provided any substantive comment.
However, a subsequent failure to meet the US ultimatum to provide the required information may have played a major role in triggering the punitive measures against Saint Lucia, although ostensibly presented and explained as action pursuant to the Leahy Law (named after its principal sponsor, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont), which prohibits assistance to any unit of the security forces of a foreign country if the secretary of state has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.
Anthony confirmed in a nationally broadcast address on August 20 that the United States has in fact suspended all assistance to the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
He also claimed that the prohibition under the Leahy Law was grounded in the killing of 12 individuals by security forces in Saint Lucia in 2010 and 2011, which he pointed out took place under the previous UWP administration.
Anthony went on to explain that the Leahy Law prohibition will not apply if the US secretary of state determines and reports that the government of Saint Lucia is taking effective steps to bring the responsible members of the security forces unit to justice.
However, as such a determination is entirely within the discretion of the secretary of state – whose officials may have been deliberately and criminally misled by Anthony’s SLP over the Frederick visa issue – some doubt must remain as to the likelihood of the State Department taking a sympathetic or objective approach to the situation unless and until the matter is resolved to its satisfaction, which could involve the criminal prosecution of those responsible.