Ecuadorian soldiers photographed in Kingstown on Sept. 25, 2014.

Two opposition lawmakers have objected to uniformed Ecuadorian soldiers in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The Ralph Gonsalves government has said that the soldiers are in the country to build four Quito-funded Bailey bridges to replace ones that collapsed during the December 2014 extreme weather.

Speaking on his radio programme on Monday, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace spoke of the presence of the soldiers, adding that he understands that some of the soldiers will form part of the labour force for building the bridges.

He, however, asked the opinion of programme host, Central Kingstown representative, St. Clair Leacock, who also an opposition legislator and Vice-president of the Eustace-led New Democratic Party.

Leacock attained the rank of major in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Cadet Force, of which he was also commandant.

He said countries are generally wary of seeing foreign troops on their soil, even if they have had historical relations with that foreign country, but often give way, from time to time, for ceremonial and historical reasons.

Leacock, however, said that SVG is at the beginning of a relationship with Ecuador, which was part of the campaign to remove preferential treatment for Windward Islands bananas in Europe.

“We must not lose sight of that at all. And if it is that Ecuador wanted to make a grand entrance into St. Vincent and the Grenadines and we wanted to have an open mind to it, I don’t think that the military presence is the best way to do it,” he said.

He said SVG should have a “martial plan” to kick start the economy after the disaster and should want to put monies from the rebuilding process into the hands of Vincentians.

“That’s the only thing that would make sense, because if in fact the labour is going to go outside, which is really the value added … then the material benefit to St. Vincent and the Grenadines is negligible,” he said.

Related: SVG to teach Ecuadorian teachers English

Ecuadorian soldiers photographed in Kingstown on Sept. 25, 2014.
Ecuadorian soldiers photographed in Kingstown on Sept. 25, 2014.

Leacock said it is “really reprehensible” that as an independent country, SVG couldn’t respond to the “mildest aspect” of the disaster and re-build one single bridge, adding that this shows the country is badly run and has gaps in financing.

“To bring the military out of Ecuador to do that shows you how much we are behind time,” he said, adding that he would have taken a different view if the soldiers were from a CARICOM country that has an engineering corps as part of its military.

He said soldiers from another Caribbean nation, would be seen as “our own people”.

“But to take off this thing wholesale and to put Ecuador here in uniform to build bridges when [local tradesmen] are looking to how they can make a dollar is terrible,” Leacock said, added that the bridges are being built in rural St. Vincent, where “this hands-up is needed most”.

“And it is going be terrible to see the signal that is being sent. I don’t think it’s the best thing to happen to us at this time, especially in our Independence month,” he said.

Eustace said he agrees with Leacock’s view.

The Opposition Leader said he has  been receiving calls about the presence of the soldiers in SVG, adding that some people see it as something that they should be fearful of, “given the nature of the exercise as we see it thus far”.

Eustace said that some persons have forgotten about the role that Ecuador played in eroding preferential access of Windward Island bananas to European markets.

He said countries in Latin American worked with the United States to remove preferential access, and Ecuador was one of the main countries in that exercise.

Eustace said this experience was one of the first things that struck him when he heard of the Ecuadorian soldiers.

“But I am glad you put a face on that matter so that we can think about it. We sometimes allow these things to pass; we say nothing. So I am looking forward to hearing the details of exactly how this matter is going to be worked out,” Eustace said.

He noted that Gonsalves had said that Venezuela would pay wages of Cuban workers building the Argyle International Airport, but Caracas has not delivered on that alleged promise, leaving Kingstown to pay EC$370,000 to the workers every month.

One media house has quoted Commissioner of Police Michael Charles as saying there is not reason to be concerned about the presence of the Ecuadorian soldiers in SVG.

Ecuador made a commitment to rebuild the bridges when Gonsalves visited Quito in July. He defended his decision to visit the South American country, which he said is emerging as one of the progressive lights in Latin America

Gonsalves said Kingstown and Quito began developing strong ties after President Raphael Corea came to office in 2007.

He said that before then, what SVG knew of Ecuador was that Quito and Washington were trying to subvert the region’s banana regime.

He, however, said that the nation cannot say that it will not have relations with Ecuador because Washington fought the region on the banana matter.

15 replies on “Opposition objects to uniformed Ecuadorian soldiers in SVG”

  1. First it were their Teachers to learn English something that Vincentian can hardly speak now their soldiers building bridge wow. As old people say something in the marta besize e pissle, funny thing the people cant even see it.

  2. What’s new? Just the usual nonesense comming from the NDP. How could it be ok for us to embrace the USA but not Equador depite both countries opposition to preferential treatment for our bananas? Watch a bunch of jokers.

  3. A question to Mr. Eustace ,were there concerns about the US soldiers in union island when the US base was being built?
    The work of the Ecuadorian soldiers will have much more direct benefits for the people of SVG compared to the work of the US soldiers.
    Its time we rid ourselves of these colonial and imperialist biases.

    1. Smacks of a deep rooted colonial mentality. Would a similar objection be made if the soldiers were from the USA? Incidentally the USA were the chief proponents in getting preferential treatment for Windward Island bananas removed. This is 2014 and not 1975 – Emancipate yourself

  4. Have you ever heard o f the creeping compromise . We should never allow soldiers to work or parade in St. Vincent. Mr.Gonsalves has plans for you. Remember ,he knows that his regime days bare numbered ,and when trouble ,these soldiers are his back-up plan..When there is no vision the people perish. We have a weak opposition leader that has no back bone. He should be rallying the populace . We must get […] out of St. Vincent. Asante it seems that you are willing to sell your soul for a few pieces of silver.

  5. Robertson S Henry says:

    Can Mr. Eustace tell me as an OECS national what is his position on the United States of America when they led a campaign many years ago to destroy the islands’ coconut oil industry saying that coconut oil is extremely high in cholesterol.

    Yet the islands still have diplomatic relations with the United States of America and was not American companies like Dole and Chiquita that led the war against our bananas?

  6. Robertson S Henry says:

    Opposition objects to uniformed Ecuadorian soldiers in SVG … baseless thinking
    Is the NDP telling me that because it is SVG the military engineers should wear civilian clothing? In no other country will that happen so the NDP has just made an ass out of themselves.

    Ask anyone familiar with military protocols and whether you have long standing relationships with them or not … military engineers will continue to wear their uniforms.

    If they were carrying weapons openly or otherwise … then i would have supported a call for them not to be carrying weapons. However the Ecuadorian soldiers are military engineers and it is time we stop this foolish nitpicking

    Another point Mr. Eustace … for as an OECS national I am appalled at such baseless thinking. Can you Mr. Eustace tell me as an OECS national what is his position on the United States of America having diplomatic relations with the whole Caribbean when they led a campaign many years ago to destroy the islands’ coconut oil industry saying that coconut oil is extremely high in cholesterol.

    Yet all the islands still have diplomatic relations with the United States of America and were not American companies like Dole and Chiquita that led the war against our bananas?

  7. james the lion monroe says:

    vinciy cares, people are seeing it and it’s call a contingency plan.
    these soldiers are no different than russian soldiers in ucraine to give humanitarian aid …..b s.
    if and when this govt loses the next general election, their plan is called crowd control. this is saying it mildly.

  8. I have to say, politics is the biggest problem in SVG. Whenever I expect better from the NDP I am disappointed. it is time someone educate the opposition that their job is not to oppose everything and stir up things where there is none to gain political favor. Educate the people, provide alternatives, sow seeds of hope. There has got to be Vincentians somewhere who has leadership qualities, who are visionaries and can step up to fill the void and repair the national spirit. SMH

  9. Dexter E.M. Rose says:

    I am saddened by this reaction from the Opposition leaders. This is rank political opportunism and my friend StClair Leacock knows much better. The USA, Britain, France have been sending their corps of engineers all over the world to assist with reconstruction projects for years. They have been and continue to be our traditional friends.
    SVG and all of CARICOM are part of CELAC, the community of Caribbean and Latin American States, our natural neighbours with whom during their years of military and undemocratic dictatorships we in the CARICOM bloc did not have close relations. That has changed. All of Latin America now has democratically elected governments, including that of President Rafael Correa in Ecuador. Are we not to forge new relationships with our neighbours? This attitude is at best, sad and shameful.
    Leacocks red herring about Ecuador completing with the Caribbean during the banana struggle for the European market forgets that the Ecuadorean small farmers were exploited by big money interest that had neither the wellbeing of the Ecuadorean farmers our ours at heart. It was against this sort of exploitation that President Correa was elected repeatedly.
    So is it that we can only have the Army corps of the USA or England assist us? We must maintain our traditional allies but certainly make new friends. This is an enlightened world 2014.
    Makes me wonder whether if the NDP assumes office it will break relations with out Latin American neighbours. This saddens me.

  10. I am really saddened by this. The opposition’s job is not to hinder progress. The way to get people believing in you is not opposing everything. People see right through it. I am sure there are issues that can be raised for the good of the country. Is this all the NDP has?

    I expect better from any opposition seeking to form government in any country. If this is what is displayed, what can the country expect IF they ever form the government.

    I recalled US soldiers in Union Island. where was the objection?

  11. Gersham Alexander says:

    Like Mr. Robertson, I am also appalled by leader of the opposition baseless thinking. When Mr. Eustace took over the leadership of the N.D.P we thought that he would have lifted the policical debate to the next level. He has done the opposite.He has been a disappointment to Sir James who thought he had substance when he passed on the mantle to him. His kind of politcis is no different from the way politicians behaved sixty years ago. He is angry, spiteful and clearly has malice. He is full of politcal venom.These attributes are not good for political leadership.

    As an economist he needs to put forward good solutions to help solve to the nation’s economics problems. what are his plans and programmes for the nation’s development. He is a trustee of the people of St. Vncent and the Grenadines. How could he haved used this platform to propgate scaremongering tactics to create fear and doubts in the minds of the community college students and their parents

    How could a soldier be in civilian clothes when he is on an official assignment. Come on gentlemen, you could do much better.

    I need to ask why Mr. Eustace did not use his offfice to mobilize support for the national day of prayer. Prayer for the nation should be high on his agenda. Maybe is not that important to him. How many of the opposition M.P.s attended. Did he mobolize his supporters to come out to prayer?
    Clearly any efforts made by the government or oppositon should be done to enhance our country’s development. They should also use caution when dealing with sensitive issues.

  12. The biggest problem the NDP has is their mouth. Do not expect any better from Mr Eustace cause the man lack leadership qualities.

  13. Vinciy care,????? What that nonsense you subscribe to about Vincentian can hardly speak English , you continued the backward ,gutter rubbish that these people in opposition keep spewing, with no regards of adding anything of uplifting our country.

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