The government of Antigua and Barbuda has blamed the United States for the recent end of visa-free travel by residents in Antigua and Barbuda to Canada.
During this week’s cabinet session, mention was made of the 2016 International Narcotics Strategy Report (INCSR) of the USA which published wrongful negative findings of the Antigua and Barbuda Citizenship by Investment Program (CIP).
According to Cabinet, it was felt that this US report, filled with inaccuracies, undoubtedly influenced the decision of the Canadians. Mention was also made of the 60 Minutes CBS Televised Report on CIPs in the Caribbean. Although the Antigua and Barbuda CIP was not found wanting, the belief is that the Canadians may have allowed the 30 minute television report, viewed by thousands of their citizens, to influence their decision-making.
It was also accepted that the Canadians must have been planning to eliminate the visa-free access for some time, and that no single event or single action by the government caused the shift.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas, while speaking during the government’s post-cabinet briefing this morning described the move by the Canadian Government as regrettable, particularly in light of Antigua and Barbuda utilizing the same technology and supplier as Canada to improve its new electronic passports.
The Cabinet further blamed the hostile reporting of a particular media house in Antigua and others as a contributing factor which he says encourages other rumours.
The information Minister made mention to a recent development where a senior United States official accused Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent of facilitating bribes from Venezuela in exchange for the countries support.
He said reporting such as these are the main cause of Antigua and Barbuda being included in decisions which will not benefit its residents.
“Up until yesterday, we had a situation where a senior US official made certain nefarious comments in relation to the support that Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent have given to Venezuela to the extent that he described our principle support for Venezuela a dollar diplomacy type of support.”
He continued, “He said as far as he is concerned, there may be suitcases filled with monies being deposited in Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent as a result of our support for Venezuela,” he said.
Minister Nicholas said that the top official was challenged to defend his statement in the diplomatic circles but indicated that the individual then said he regretted making.
“This was a statement that he made and emailed to members of the media, had t not been challenged, the notion and the narrative would have started even within respected media periodicals that Antigua and Barbuda and St. Vincent were recipients of huge sums of monies from the government of Venezuela to buy their support for its position within the OAS…..this is the type of recklessness that we as a Small Island Developing State have had to contend with,” he added.