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Improving Jamaica's Relationship With the U.S.

Question: Has President Obama been better for Jamaica than President Bush was?

Bruce Golding: I think in terms of President Obama, he came in at a time when the United States was faced with so many challenges; the global crisis. And then he inherited so many external challenges, Iraq, Afghanistan, and so on.  I don’t think that... we would love to see more attention paid to the Caribbean, but I don’t hold that against him because he has to order his priorities. 

When we did meet with him at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad a year ago, we urged on him the need to increase the focus on the Caribbean. He sent us a clear signal to us at that time that the United States would be adopting a different policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean, a more enlightened policy, a more engaging policy, and we welcome that.  We in the Caribbean, of course, seek some special attention because of our particular vulnerabilities.  We are small, we are open, we are subject to so many external shots.  And he did give a commitment that he would meet with us as heads of government in the Caribbean.  That meeting has not yet taken place.  We’re going to be in touch with the State Department to see how quickly we can arrange for that meeting.  We’d love if he would visit us in the Caribbean, but we are quite prepared to meet with him here in Washington... here in the United States.  And we are hopeful.  We believe that he has an understanding of our particular circumstances and our needs and we believe that he will be empathetic. But we understand that we have to find our place on his order of priorities.Question: What outstanding issues with the U.S. have been particularly troublesome?

Bruce Golding: We do have an issue that we are working together to resolve and that has to do with the procedures that are used in extraditing Jamaicans.  We had an issue, as you know, with Christopher Coke. The perception was, was... had developed and has been concretized in the minds of some people that this was some clever attempt on the part of Jamaican government to prevent the extradition.  Absolutely not.  We simply insist that the extradition must proceed in the manner that is prescribed by both the extradition treaty we have with the United States and the laws of Jamaica to which that extradition treaty has to be subservient. 

Now, the application that was made in the case of Coke represented a violation of Jamaican law in terms of the evidence that was used and how that evidence was gathered.  Not that the evidence ought not have been used, but that it required the approval of a judge of our Supreme Court—and that process was ignored.  And we have to be very careful that we don’t allow these precedents to be set and to go unnoticed because then they become the norm, and then they undermine the value of Jamaican law.  We raised that matter with the United States; the response was not as understanding as we would have wanted. 

My own party, very concerned that the implication that this would have to a continuing dispute with the United States, sought to engage a legal firm in the United States to see to what extent they could assist in getting a dialogue going at a higher level.  That went awry. That went completely off track and things were done which ought not to have been done.  I’ve had to take responsibility for that.  But Coke was eventually extradited.  He is on trial here. We are working with the United States to see how we can fix what went wrong to ensure that in future instances we don’t have that problem.  And I’m hopeful that in the discussions that are taking place, both at the level of the Department of State and the Department of Justice... I hope that we will be able to resolve those issues.

Question: Is there more work to be done to improve relations between the U.S. and Jamaica?

Bruce Golding: There’s always further work to do because there are always so many issues that arise from time to time.  I think it’s unfortunate that Jamaica has been without a U.S. ambassador since the beginning of last year.  That is to be corrected shortly and an ambassador has been chosen.  We are anxious to welcome her to Jamaica and we believe that her presence will provide a basis for improving the conversation on so many issues; issues that have to do with the region, and matters that are of common concern to the United States and Jamaica. But particularly matters having to do with Jamaica itself, its own challenges, its own development deficit, the kind of partnership with the United States that we have been accustomed to in the past.

Recorded on September 25, 2010
Interviewed by David Hirschman

A recent dispute over the extradition of drug kingpin Christopher Coke strained the country's relations with the Obama Administration. Prime Minister Golding says they're on the mend.

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