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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
05NASSAU393
2005-02-25 16:57:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Nassau
Cable title:  

FOREIGN MINISTER POISED TO RAISE PROFILE IN CARICOM

Tags:   PINR  PREL  OFDP  PGOV  XL  BF  CARICOM 
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NASSAU 000393 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/CAR WBENT

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/25/2015
TAGS: PINR PREL OFDP PGOV XL BF CARICOM
SUBJECT: FOREIGN MINISTER POISED TO RAISE PROFILE IN CARICOM


Classified By: Ambassador John D. Rood for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

SUMMARY
- - - -



1. (C) His intelligence, work ethic, and undisguised
ambition have made Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell
one of the three or four most powerful members of the Perry
Christie Government and a person of growing influence in the
Caribbean. Currently the vice-chairman in the Commonwealth
Ministerial Action Group (CMAG), Fred Mitchell represented
CARICOM at the CMAG Conference in London in February 2005.
In April, Mitchell is in line to assume the position of the
rotating Chairman of the "Council for Foreign and Community
Relations" (COFCOR) within CARICOM. Fred Mitchell is a
Bahamian and a black nationalist. The public Fred Mitchell
is polished, sophisticated, and smooth and with a skilled
attorney's ability to make commitments that commit to
nothing. Mitchell's personalistic, close to the vest
operating style frequently leaves his own Ministry in the
dark about his motives, policies, and actions. The Foreign
Minister accepts that the Bahamas is located next to the
world's superpower while constantly seeking, in small ways,
to play a mini-balance of power game to try to expand The
Bahamas' foreign policy options. Mitchell uses international
organizations for added leverage as do all small powers, as
well as working bilaterally. Mitchell has been particularly
unhelpful on issues such as Haiti, Article 98 and a wide
variety of U.N. General Assembly votes.
End Summary.


CARICOM
- - - -



2. (C) In April Bahamian Foreign Minister Fred Mitchell will
assume the position of the rotating Chairman of the Council
for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) in Caricom,
succeeding Barbadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dame Billie
Miller. This body is responsible for determining relations
between the Community and international organizations and
third states. Whether Mitchell will be able to bend and
drive this consensus-driven body in his direction will be one
of the Foreign Minister's first tests on a stage larger than
The Bahamas. COFCOR (and thereby CARICOM) was unable to come
to a consensus following the departure of ex-President
Aristide from Haiti, and the bloc would not support or even
recognize the Interim Government of Haiti (IGOH) in the
ensuing months under the chairmanship of Dame Billie Miller.



3. (C) Mitchell sees CARICOM as a means to an end. The
Bahamas would have little to no influence in the
international sphere if it did not band with "its Caribbean
brothers and sisters". The Bahamas' stance of de facto
recognition of the IGOH since the resignation of ex-President
Jean-Bertrand Aristide allows The Bahamas to continue
repatriating interdicted Haitian migrants while not breaking
with CARICOM's formal policy of de jure non-recognition.




4. (C) Minister Mitchell believes that the only time the
U.S. pays attention to CARICOM countries is when Washington
needs something from the region. Along with other CARICOM
countries, the Bahamian government felt left out of
communications with regards to the quick departure of
ex-President Aristide. He claims to understand the stakes,
but refuses to break with CARICOM despite it being in the
best interests of his own country. The Bahamas feels the
impact of illegal migration each time the stability of Haiti
is in flux.



5. (C) Mitchell has a desire to be seen and heard in the
international arena. He also currently holds the position of
vice-chair in the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group
(CMAG). In January 2005, Mitchell attended a CMAG conference
in London to discuss the Commonwealth's disapproval of
Pakistan's President retaining the seat of Chief of Army.
Mitchell likes playing to make his voice heard in this type
of forum.


POLITICAL CAREER
- - - - - - - - -



6. (C) Fred Mitchell decided as a young teenager that he
wanted to be a cabinet minister and admits to having
calculated every step to achieve this goal. He succeeded
just under four decades later. FM Mitchell has been a
life-long supporter of the PLP, from his student days through
his journalistic days at the Broadcasting Corporation of The
Bahamas (ZNS). (Mitchell once admitted to the DCM that he
embarked on a journalist career strictly as a way to gain
access to (and model himself after) influential Bahamians.)
He joined the Office of the Prime Minister in the Pindling
Government in 1980. After a falling out with then-Prime
Minister Lynden Pindling in 1992, Mitchell struck a deal with
the incoming PM Hubert Ingraham; Mitchell would not contest
the Fox Hill constituency if Ingraham would promise him a
seat as an independent senator. Over the next five years,
Mitchell gradually began his return to the PLP and was
eventually forced to resign as an independent in 1997.
Shortly after his resignation, Mitchell officially rejoined
the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP). Four months later, he
was reappointed to the Senate, this time as a member of the
PLP Opposition.



7. (C) On May 10, 2002 Fred Mitchell was sworn in as
Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Public Service. Since
that time, Mitchell has developed a persona of an aloof and
humorless, but highly intellectual and respected politician.
Oftentimes, Mitchell appears to be in agreement with
officials at meetings, and then expresses opposite opinions
to the media or in Cabinet. He has aspirations of being an
international player and future Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, FM Mitchell's further political assent in The
Bahamas will be hampered by widespread rumors and tabloid
accusations that he is a homosexual. In an outwardly
Christian country, Bahamians are extremely homophobic. The
fact that Mitchell remains single at the age of 51 appears to
support this rumor to the average Bahamian.



8. (C) Mitchell is respected for his intellect, but not
particularly well-liked -- even by the current Prime
Minister. PM Christie has made snide remarks with reference
to the dress and manner of the foreign minister in front of
Embassy personnel. Nevertheless, Christie trusts Mitchell,
defers to him on all foreign policy matters, and often
chooses him to represent The Bahamas at CARICOM Heads of
Government Meetings.


VIEWS TOWARDS U.S. POLICY
- - - - - - - - - - - - -



9. (C) Fred Mitchell is extremely knowledgeable about the
United States, at ease in the United States, a frequent
visitor to the United States, and accepts the reality of the
United States. But he probably doesn't "love" the United
States. Bahamians inevitably have close ties to the U.S.
Like many, FM Mitchell was educated in the U.S., receiving
his undergraduate education at Antioch University in Ohio and
a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy
School of Government at Harvard University. Like many
colleagues in the PLP, he is most comfortable with, and has
the most contact with, liberals. He seeks to differentiate
The Bahamas from what he believes is a neo-conservative,
militaristic tilt in U.S. foreign policy. China, Cuba,
Caricom, even the British Commonwealth are all, in Mitchell's
eyes, vehicles that could serve to somehow increase Bahamian
freedom of action otherwise constrained by the geological
reality of being located less than 50 miles from the United
States. During his tenure, FM Mitchell has gained approval
to open embassies in both Beijing and Havana. Mitchell
thinks of himself as a policy intellectual and strategist on
par with players of larger countries in the global arena. In
his role as Foreign Minister, Fred Mitchell has been
criticized for his excessive travel by the Bahamian public.



10. (C) Mitchell has not been supportive in the promotion of
several key U.S. foreign policy goals: the formal recognition
and support of the Interim Government of Haiti, the signing
of an Article 98 Agreement or a Status of Forces Agreement
(SOFA), and on a litany of U.N. General Assembly votes
including the Anti-Israeli Bias and on Human Rights in the
Sudan. The Bahamas voted "no action" on several country
specific votes, taking the CARICOM stance of "preferring not
to name and shame" others. The visiting Israeli Ambassador
complained recently that Mitchell equated Israeli policies
toward Palestinians with white South African before majority
rule.


COMMENT
- - - -



11. (C) In public, FM Mitchell studiously avoids commenting
on scandals and making overly-provocative speeches. A
pretentious and intellectual man, he prefers to remain above
the fray in these situations. The private Fred Mitchell is on
display in a website previously titled "Fred Mitchell
Uncensored" and now nominally edited by a third-party and
named "Bahamas Uncensored." In Bahamian political circles,
it is assumed that the Foreign Minister retains editorial
control over the website. Mitchell hides behind the website
to make more petulant and more candid commentary than he
normally would in public.

ROOD