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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN1623
2006-09-14 20:20:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

PROFILE OF BARBADOS OPPOSITION LEADER DAVID

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PINR  ECON  ELAB  SMIG  BB  XL 
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FM AMEMBASSY BRIDGETOWN
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INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS 1492
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 001623 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/14/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR ECON ELAB SMIG BB XL
SUBJECT: PROFILE OF BARBADOS OPPOSITION LEADER DAVID
THOMPSON

Classified By: DCM Mary Ellen T. Gilroy for reasons 1.4(b) and (d).



1. (C) Summary: In a September 11 meeting with PolOff,
leader of the opposition Democratic Labour Party (DLP) David
Thompson sought to portray his party as the party of the
"common man," who will rise up in the next election to defeat
the Barbados Labour Party (BLP), which has ignored his
interests for too long. Since the DLP's annual conference in
late August, Thompson has stepped up his public attacks on
the BLP. He is calculating that issues such as land sales,
immigration, and public finance will bring to the polls at
the next election all those who have felt marginalized and
threatened by the changes implemented by the BLP. If he is
right, the DLP's "comeback kid" could become Barbados'
comeback kid, but it remains to be seen whether he can
sustain his current momentum and whether the voters will
consider the DLP ready and able to govern effectively. End
Summary.



2. (C) David Thompson, a former Minister of Finance in the
1990's and a long-time DLP stalwart, met with PolOff on
September 11 to discuss the current political situation in
Barbados and his party's prospects in the next election,
which must be called no later than 2008. Thompson was candid
about the rifts that had threatened his party in 2005 and
early 2006, when his key political rival within the DLP,
Clyde Mascoll, crossed party lines and joined the BLP-led
government of Prime Minister Arthur. Thompson admitted that
he had to work hard to unify the party and consolidate his
authority, but noted that the DLP is now better prepared to
contest the next elections. With regard to the campaign and
electoral system in Barbados, Thompson gave it a qualified
passing grade, noting that campaign finance reform and media
reform were still needed. He complained that the
government-owned Caribbean Broadcast Corporation is far from
neutral to the disadvantage of the DLP. He was also
concerned about what he perceives as a lack of access to
media outlets outside the campaign season.



3. (C) Turning to the next elections, Thompson thought that
they would be more issue- and personality-driven than before.
He noted that the strong party loyalty of his parents'
generation has weakened and voters are now more interested in
the issues that affect their daily lives. They are also more
aware of the candidates as people, whose private lives, as a
result, may receive more scrutiny than was the case in prior
elections. Thompson thought that the latter trend might be
due to influences of the United States and its political
process. On the issues that matter to the voters, Thompson
clearly thinks that the DLP has the upper hand. He views the
drive of the BLP-led government to open Barbados to foreign

investment and to liberalize its labor market as policies
that will backfire on the government. With regard to public
debt, Thompson expressed concern that the government in not
being honest about the full extent of the problem.

Land


--------------------------




4. (SBU) In his address to the DLP annual conference on
August 23, Thompson seized on an issue which has been
garnering more and more public attention in recent weeks:
the sale of land to foreign investors. He suggested that the
BLP's support for foreign investment has been motivated by
more than creating an investment-friendly climate: "As long
as the big bucks roll into the coffers of the BLP because of
certain decisions in relation to water zones, planning
permissions and the like, the government cares not how many
Barbadians can afford land and homes." Since his August
address, Thompson has returned to this issue again and again
in public appearances and interviews, having calculated that
public concerns about the skyrocketing real estate prices
make this issue a political winner for the DLP.



5. (SBU) Thompson is by no means waging a lone crusade.
Other prominent Barbadians have registered their concerns
about foreign land ownership. For example, in an impassioned
speech at the August 26 opening of the annual congress of the
Barbados Workers Union, its general secretary, Sir Roy
Trotman, appealed to political leaders to protect the
heritage of Barbados and ensure that public access to places
like Bathsheba and Miami Beach is preserved. It is clear
that Thompson thinks that the more attention that is paid to
this issue the better, since the DLP would likely reap the

resulting benefits at the ballot box. How Thompson would
square any policies limiting foreign investment with
Barbados' obligations under the CARICOM Single Market and
Economy (CSME) remains unclear, but in his August 23 address
he did note admiration for Prime Minister Gonsalves of St.
Vincent and the Grenadines for managing to "protect the
interests of his people in relation to the sale of land to
non-Vincentians under the existing CARICOM treaty
obligations."

Immigration


--------------------------




6. (SBU) In adopting the issue of immigration as another
plank in the DLP platform, Thompson again seeks to seize an
issue that has received public attention and reflects the
Barbadians' unease about some aspects of regional integration
and globalization. In his August 23 address to the DLP
conference, Thompson called for "properly managed immigration
policy, which respects the need for freedom of movement but
will carefully ensure that our country's capacity to carry
any influx of labor is not detrimental to those we have
invited to our shores or to us as Barbadians." The
discussion with PolOff revealed that Thompson would make a
distinction between professionals and laborers, when it comes
to immigration policy. Professionals, who are already free
to move across the Caribbean, do not pose a problem for
Thompson, since the professionals' pay and standards of
living are roughly equivalent in the region, so no one
country would likely see an overwhelming influx or loss of
professionals. It is the lower-wage workers, whose flow must
be controlled, said Thompson. Thompson alluded to the "U.S.
problem with Mexicans," and although he did not elaborate,
press has reported on Barbadian workers' fears of racial
tensions and of pay being depressed by cheaper immigrant
labor.

Public Finance


--------------------------




7. (C) Returning to his old Minister of Finance portfolio,
Thompson expressed concerns about the true extent of
Barbados' public debt. The press has been steadily reporting
on the cross-party skirmishes over the public debt, and so
far, no party has gained the upper hand. Thompson noted
confusion over statistics provided by the government and
worried that even if the government were to concede that the
debt is closer to 98 percent of GDP, rather than the lower
figures being cited, even the 98 percent may not be high
enough if all "other government activities" were factored in.
According to Thompson, Barbados has much less "elbow room"
now than in the 1990's, with much higher interest payments on
the debt and decreasing foreign exchange reserves over the
past 15 months. While this issue may not resonate as well
with the electorate, Thompson has used it not only to focus
the public's attention on what he portrays as mismanagement
of public finances by the government, but also to settle some
personal scores with Clyde Mascoll, who upon leaving the DLP
became a junior Minister of State in the Finance Ministry.

Biographic Note


--------------------------




8. (U) At 44, Thompson already has more than 25 years of
active political life behind him. His mother was an
energetic DLP supporter and encouraged Thompson's interest in
politics. He has been a member of the DLP since 1978, having
headed the DLP's youth arm, the Young Democrats, and
eventually progressing to more senior positions of assistant
general secretary, general secretary, and president. He was
first elected to the Parliament in 1987, having won the St.
John constituency in a by-election, following the death of
the legendary DLP leader and Prime Minister Errol Barrow. He
became Barbados' youngest Finance Minister at 31.



9. (U) His political fortunes turned, however, with the
DLP's general election defeats in 1994 and 1999. He resigned
his DLP leadership position after the 1999 defeat, but came
back and remained DLP president until September 2001, when he
resigned again, following another DLP defeat in a
by-election.



10. (U) Although he retained his seat in the Parliament,
Thompson temporarily retired from the political limelight and
focused on his private law practice. He studied law in the
1980's at the University of the West Indies, where he

graduated with honors, and at the Hugh Wooding Law School in
Trinidad and Tobago. He was admitted to practice law in
Barbados in 1986. Since 1994, he has been a partner in the
law firm Thompson and Patterson. He has also developed an
active consultancy, having worked in Africa and the
Caribbean, including a current project of advising the
government of St. Kitts and Nevis on constitutional reforms.



11. (U) In August 2005, Thompson was again elected as DLP
president, and eventually gained control over the DLP as the
leader of the opposition, following the January 2006
departure from the party of his chief rival, Clyde Mascoll.
Since January, Thompson has worked diligently to consolidate
his control over the DLP and reestablish himself as a leading
political figure in Barbados, in preparation for the next
elections.



12. (U) Thompson is married and has three children.

Comment


--------------------------




13. (C) Last year, when Thompson returned to DLP leadership,
one political commentator called him the "comeback kid."
Since then, Thompson has sought to solidify his party's
support, put his stamp on the DLP's direction, and now to
energize the electorate in anticipation of the next election.
Although the next election is not expected to be called for
at least another year, Thompson is seeking early gains by
capitalizing on the current disaffection in some parts of the
electorate with Prime Minister Arthur's government. While it
is difficult to predict the policies that Thompson would seek
to implement if the DLP were to win the election, his focus
on foreign ownership of land and immigration could mean
tighter government regulations in both areas.
KRAMER