There seems to be a thawing of relations between the United States and Saint Lucia over the thorny issue commonly known as IMPACS, which involves the Royal Saint Lucia Police Force.
The issue, which has its genesis in the 2010/2011 police killings of 12 individuals under a police operation known as Operation Restore Confidence resulted in the United States charging Saint Lucia with human rights abuses, and imposing restrictions on the police force in 2013, citing a piece of legislation called the Leahy Law, which they say gives them the right to do so.
Then in June of this year, after eight years of invoking the Leahy Law, the United States softened its position and resumed its assistance and cooperation with the police, albeit to select units of the force.
The units the United States resumed full cooperation and engagement with were the Marine and Immigration units. These two units are presently enjoying the full benefits of U.S. security assistance. Today it seems, and that is according to Police Commissioner Milton Desir at a press conference Wednesday, that the situation between the police force and the United States is improving.
Desir said that while IMPACS is still a serious matter, the United States has extended assistance to the force to participate in the U.S. sponsored, annually held, Tradewinds exercise that is usually done every year by the U.S. Southern Command, which is a joint exercise conducted with partner nations to enhance the collective ability of defense forces and constabularies across CARICOM, enabling them to counter transnational criminal organizations and conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations, while developing strong relationships and reinforcing human rights awareness.
This exercise dates back to the mid-1980s.
“We have been notified that we can now participate in that training and that would have been the first one since the ban. There’s also some training to be done with some school in the U.S. The SSU will be able to participate, so little by little… we are getting the assistance and I’m very thankful for that especially with the US Embassy in Barbados assisting in that regard,” Desir said.
While optimistic that the police force will get back into the full embrace of the United States, Desir was careful to note that there are certain trainings and assistances provided by the Americans that the police force would not be privy to, further that attendance to some of those trainings would require vetting before approval could be granted.
Desir did not elaborate as to the type of training members of the police force would not be privy to and vetting would be required for.