WASHINGTON, USA -- The US State Department has contradicted assertions made by minister of national security, Senator Hermangild Francis, that the United States government has pledged to fund a proposed new border control entity for Saint Lucia.
“No funding has been pledged, approved, or distributed for a border security force in Saint Lucia,” a State Department spokesperson said in an email on Wednesday.
Last month, at an executive luncheon of the Saint Lucia Chamber of Commerce, Francis stated that the US government had pledged to fully fund a new border control entity comprising, amongst other agencies, the marine police.
In 2013, Saint Lucia was restricted by the terms of what is commonly referred to as the “Leahy Law” from receiving security-related assistance from the United States as a result of “credible evidence of extrajudicial killings of 17 people in 2010-2011” by the island’s security forces. The US Department of State suspended assistance to the local police force and cancelled the visas of a number of senior police officers, denying them travel to the US.
In response to an earlier inquiry, the State Department confirmed that the sanctions imposed by the US are still in place against the security forces in Saint Lucia under the Leahy Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).
“Leahy law restrictions remain in place against the Royal St Lucia Police,” a State Department spokesperson said last month.
However, since the term “security forces” is not defined in the FAA, the State Department also clarified last month that “Security forces units subject to Leahy vetting generally include foreign militaries, reserves, police, homeland security forces such as border guards or customs police, prison guards, and other units or individual members of units authorized to use force”.
When previously asked whether or not the US government has pledged to fund a proposed new border control entity in Saint Lucia as claimed by Francis, the State Department equivocated: “The United States does not provide assistance to entities that fall under the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force. We continue to support the efforts of the government of St Lucia to improve safety and security for its citizens and visitors.”
If and when this claimed “pledge” would have actually been kept by the US appeared to depend on whether or not funding for the new marine police unit was included when the 2017 budget request was sent to Congress and, if not, it would likely require prior notification to Congress, and thus had the potential to become a political hot potato in Washington, given that, currently, the 2018 budget not only proposes a 29 percent cut in State Department funding, it also reduces spending on an already financially constrained US Coast Guard.
The reported promise by the State Department to fund an entire border security entity for a sanctioned country, when the US administration is not even prepared to support its own coastguard, was therefore something that was likely to be taken up by the respective congressional committees.
If any such pledge was ever made or implied, the State Department has now unequivocally resiled from it.