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Gaston Browne thinks 'it's easier to fool Caricom than the Americans'

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

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ST JOHN'S, Antigua — Prime Minister Gaston Browne, though saying a reluctant 'yes', found it easier to accept observers from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) than to the United States, for Wednesday's general elections in this eastern Caribbean island.

Critics immediately interpreted it as sign that he believes “it is easier to fool Caricom than the Americans”, after Browne bellyached about an earlier request from the US Embassy in Barbados to send observers to the polls which he called a year head of constitutional schedule.

Browne, through a spokesman, suggested that the American request was an attempt to interfere in the internal affairs of Antigua and Barbuda, and not even a reassurance that these were routine requests could assuage him.

“Most of us feel the prime minister has something to hide, or he would not be so shy about allowing the Americans to observe the elections,” said a civil servant who asked not be named because of fear of reprisal.

The election campaign which comes to a close tonight, has been one of Antigua's dirtiest, with Browne's Antigua Barbuda Labour Party (ABLP) alleged to have openly intimidated opposition supporters, engaging in widespread vote-buying, attempting to prevent Barbudans from voting in the main island of Antigua for fear they are opposed to the Government, and viciously attacking hotel investors, including Sandals resorts.

Browne was dogged throughout the campaign by criticisms that he had not cleared the air about bribery allegations that he received three million euros from scandalised Brazilian construction firm, Odebrecht which is under international investigation for alleged money-laundering activities. The Antiguan leader has denied the allegations and said he was exonerated in a private deal with the Spanish newspaper El Pais which carried the original story, quoting a former odebrecht lawyer. But Browne has ignored persistent calls to provide proof of that exoneration.

Seventeen seats are up for grabs in a largely two-way race between the ruling ABLP and the United Progressive Party (UPP) led by Senator Harold Lovell.

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