KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves said Monday that American officials misrepresented him in a diplomatic cable regarding his portraying of Bolivia’s President Evo Morales.
Gonsalves further said that the Americans were wrong when, in a separate cable, they said that Iranian money influences how Kingstown votes on Iran issues at the United Nations.
A diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Barbados, released by WikiLeaks last week, said Gonsalves told a congressional delegation visiting Kingstown in 2009 that Morales personified the whole history of repression of the indigenous people and that his ability to control the pent-up historical frustrations was limited.
“He described Morales as a leader for whom normal tactical considerations play little role, and who acts on emotions rather than political reason,” the leaked document said of Gonsalves.
Morales, an Aymara Indian, in 2005 became the first Bolivian president to come from the country’s indigenous majority.
“The American diplomats who write these things, they have their own agendas, they may hear what they want to hear, or whatever spin they want. Sometimes, you don’t know if they want to impress their bosses in the State Department. Some of them might be looking for promotion,” Gonsalves said at a press briefing on Monday.
He said that in giving a political socio-analysis of the natural constituency of the Bolivian president, he told the Americans that the aboriginal peoples in Bolivia have suffered over 500 years of genocide, colonialism, and imperialism.
“They do not have to think about whether a particular system or person is oppressing them. They know it instinctively. … They don’t have to engage in any excessive rationalisation, they are a living embodiment of centuries of suffering,” Gonsalves said in recounting his discussions in 2009.
“Now, that becomes metamorphosed into a not understanding American scribe in an embassy that Morales don’t think,” Gonsalves further explained.
Gonsalves said that many people believe what American officials write in the leaked diplomatic cables but added that these officials sometime do not understand what is being communicated to them.
“… [Y]ou talk to them they don’t understand the richness of the point you are making and they distort it for all sorts of purposes and they try to summarise complicated thought and ideas and philosophies,” Gonsalves said.
“Some of them, perhaps, have only gone philosophy 101, maybe not even philosophy 101. So it is like it is lost upon them. So, we the ex-colonial now [say] ‘Hear, hear what they say’,” he added.
After the story broke, La Celia Prince, Kingstown’s ambassador to Washington told this writer that the cable somewhat misrepresented the proceedings of the meeting, which Prince, former foreign affair minister, Sir Louis Straker and journalists also attended.
“Indeed, if WikiLeaks reported honestly and faithfully, then it would appear that the mischief lies in the internal U.S. cables,” Prince said in an e-mail.
“Everything which was discussed in that meeting is on record and would bear testament that many of the claims made by the U.S. cables and revealed by [WikiLeaks] are somewhat misrepresented,” she added.
Distortion of facts
Gonsalves also responded to a leaked cable in which American officials said Kingstown abstained from a 2009 vote on a United Nations Iran resolution because it wanted money to finance the international airport at Argyle.
The resolution condemned violence in Iran and expressed support for the dissidents there.
The cable further suggested that the Gonsalves government would continue to support Iran as long the Tehran is likely to provide financial assistance to the airport project.
“Here again, the thing is just a distortion of facts,” Gonsalves said.
He explained that in 2007, Kingstown’s was “the casting vote” that allowed the resolution to be debated.
“We said let it be debated,” he said, adding that “the Americans were full in praise of us”.
“When the resolution comes before the floor of the assembly itself, whether you condemn Iran or don’t condemn Iran, there are different circumstances which may apply. And, most of … CARICOM countries, abstained on those substantive resolution,” Gonsalves said.
“Because very often, [it is] not that there is something which is not wrong, but because there is a lot of political manoeuvring and politics infuses the issue of human rights,” Gonsalves explained.
He further noted that when St. Vincent got assistance form Iran, the country did not vote alongside Iran but abstained from voting.
Gonsalves reiterated that Kingstown conducts “a principled foreign policy — at the same time, a foreign policy which reflects the interest of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”