The Economist reports on the United States’ use of a U. S. visa as a diplomatic weapon against Caribbean politicians.
In the Caribbean being barred from flying to Miami can spell social shame and political oblivion. The latest to be ostracised was James Robertson, who resigned as Jamaica’s energy and mining minister last month, four days after being told that his visa for the United States had been revoked. The reason, he said, was that a fellow Jamaican had told a Florida court that Mr Robertson conspired with gangsters to have him killed (he denies the allegation).
Almost 5% of Jamaica’s population of 2.7m applies for an American visa each year; around half are successful. An American diplomatic cable from 2005, made public through WikiLeaks, admitted that the potential loss of a visa is “a source of considerable leverage” and suggested this could be used to press Jamaica’s then prime minister to act against corruption. Another cable, from 2007, said that the current premier, Bruce Golding, had asked for help in identifying corruption in his party.
Early last year, when Mr Golding was still stalling on extraditing Christopher Coke, a drug trafficker, several prominent Jamaicans had their visas revoked. Many others feared they would be next and blamed their government. A year ago Mr Golding sent the security forces in to Mr Coke’s stronghold; he was duly extradited after 73 people were killed.
Guyanese officials have thicker skins. Ronald Gajraj clung to his job as home minister for a year after losing his American visa in 2004, amid claims of a police death-squad. Guyana’s current police commissioner was promoted after suffering a similar fate in 2006. But American officials realise they have a cheap and useful weapon. “There is more to come,” one told the Jamaica Observer.
For the original report go to http://www.economist.com/node/18775103?story_id=18775103