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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
06BRIDGETOWN1933
2006-11-02 19:05:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Bridgetown
Cable title:  

BARBADOS LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE: PROMISING

Tags:   PGOV  PREL  PINR  ECON  BB  XL 
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INFO RUCNCOM/EC CARICOM COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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						C O N F I D E N T I A L BRIDGETOWN 001933 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR
SOUTHCOM ALSO FOR POLAD

E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/30/2016
TAGS: PGOV PREL PINR ECON BB XL
SUBJECT: BARBADOS LABOUR PARTY CONFERENCE: PROMISING
FOUR-LOVE RESULT IN NEXT ELECTION

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



1. (U) Summary: The ruling Barbados Labour Party (BLP) met
over the weekend for their annual conference. Prime Minister
Owen Arthur did not announce the date for the next general
election, as some had expected. He did, however, promise to
run again and to deliver another big BLP victory. The BLP's
68th conference was also a jubilant celebration of the BLP's
12 years in power, an emotional tribute to several retiring
BLP luminaries, including Foreign Minister Dame Billie
Miller, and a spirited attack on the opposition Democratic
Labour Party (DLP). End Summary.

"FOUR-LOVE"


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





2. (U) At the height of his popularity, Prime Minister
Arthur was clearly enjoying what was essentially a
celebration of his leadership and his party's unprecedented
12 years in power. Prior to the BLP conference, speculations
were swirling in the media that the Prime Minister would
announce the next election over the weekend. Instead, he
said jokingly to his audience: "I must remind you that the
next general elections are constitutionally due by August
2008." While he admitted that after three terms in office it
would be easy for him "just to ride off into the sunset," he
assured his audience that he would run again because he still
had much to contribute. As a true cricket fan, he predicted
that the election results, whether they come in 2006, 2007,
or 2008, would be "four-love" for the BLP.

"CONTINUING TO MAKE LIFE BETTER IN BARBADOS"


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





3. (U) The theme of the BLP conference, "Continuing to Make
Life Better in Barbados," encapsulates the BLP's approach to
the next general election. The BLP will continue its drive
to highlight the government's achievements over the past 12
years, and promise more of the same to the voters. During
his keynote address, Prime Minister Arthur was not shy about
recounting the successes of his government. He spoke at
length about Barbados' growing economy, tax reform and
relief, innovative social programs to assist the youth and
small businesses, housing for the poor, and many other
initiatives, all of which he described as ways the BLP has
sought to help the "small black man." He also included
Barbados' preparations for the 2007 Cricket World Cup (CWC)
among the government's achievements, and predicted that the
CWC will be a great success.



4. (U) Turning to his government's challenges, the Prime
Minister spoke of the unsettled nature of the world beset by
conflicts, violence, cynicism, hatred, and exercise of
"brutal power by the powerful." He told his audience that
Barbados must not lose hope or succumb to doubt when faced

with such challenges, and others, including rising energy
prices, declining sugar industry, growing competition for
foreign markets and capital, and decreasing foreign
assistance. To meet the last two challenges, he called on
Barbadians to become "financiers of our own development."



5. (U) Alluding to Barbados' upcoming 40th independence day
anniversary, Prime Minister Arthur promised his party
comrades that Barbados will show the world that "life begins
at 40." He recounted a long list of economic reforms his
government would implement both before and after the general
election. Most of these measures were designed to tackle the
rising inflation, government's debt, current account deficit,
and real estate prices. He also returned to a theme he had
raised a few weeks earlier of the need to reaffirm Barbados'
traditional values in face of the "bombardment" of negative
social and cultural influences. To that end, he announced a
November 27 meeting of government, church, and civil society
leaders to consult and agree on a course of "national
renewal, recommitment, and refreshment."

"30 YEARS IS A LONG TIME, COMRADES"


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





6. (U) With those words, Dame Billie Miller, Barbados'
Foreign Minister and a BLP stalwart, bid her party good-bye.
Dame Billie, along with two other BLP legends, former
minister and current Member of Parliament Louis Tull and
Speaker of the House Ishmael Roett, looked back at their
storied careers and sought to inspire the next generation of

BLP leaders to "give (themselves) lock, stock, and barrel to
the political process," in the words of Dame Billie. Their
departure from electoral politics represents an end of an
era, since both Dame Billie and Tull were the last BLP
leaders to have sat in Tom Adams' cabinet in the 1970s.

A WMD AND A DEVIOUS MIND


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





7. (U) Prime Minister Arthur brought the house down with a
stinging attack on the DLP and its leaders. Likening the
DLP's shadow finance minister, Dr. David Estwick, to a
"weapon of mass destruction," Prime Minister Arthur sought to
discredit Estwick's criticism of his government's economic
policies and to cast doubt on the DLP's plans for the
country. He charged the DLP's leader, David Thompson, with
creating a "climate of fear" and called his attacks the
"duplicitous work of a devious mind." Turning personal, he
noted that even though Thompson has been attacking the
BLP-led government for land sales to foreigners, he has made
a fortune in his private law practice from those same land
sales. He dispatched in a similar fashion with Thompson's
criticisms related to immigrant labor by noting that
Thompson's grandfather came to Barbados from Guyana.

COMMENT


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





8. (C) While the BLP conference did not bring the much
anticipated elections announcement, the BLP's leaders clearly
sought to prepare the party's rank and file for the upcoming
fight. The fiery rhetoric played well with the audience, and
certainly matches the sharp tone adopted by the DLP. Neither
party is likely to let up. With the DLP struggling to gain
traction with the voters, its leaders must continue to look
for chinks in the BLP armored political machine. As the
Barbadian public has seen in the past few weeks, those chinks
can take either policy or personal form. The BLP is also
unlikely to sit back. It must convince the voters that even
after 12 years in power, it retains the energy and vision to
continue leading the country and to address the concerns of
the Barbadians.



9. (C) While the two parties' campaigns will probably remain
focused on domestic issues, references such as those of Prime
Minister Arthur to the "brutal power" exercised by the
powerful may continue to creep into both parties' campaign
rhetoric. They betray an undercurrent of anti-U.S.
resentment in the Caribbean, and unfortunately, they are
popular with the public. We have made great strides toward
mending our relations with the region, which had been frayed
by disagreements over Haiti and Iraq and by the perception
that the United States lost interest in the region.
Secretary Rice's meetings with the CARICOM foreign ministers,

SIPDIS
the revived trade discussions, and preparations for the 2007
Caribbean Heritage Month celebrations have given our efforts
to establish a more reliable and enduring partnership with
the region a new momentum.

OURISMAN