Foreign Relations

Caribbean Islands Table of Contents

Strong economic and political bonds largely determined the country's foreign relations in the late 1980s. Antigua and Barbuda's primary diplomatic relations were with other Caribbean countries, the United States, Britain, and Canada; embassies were maintained in each of these countries. In other countries with which Antigua and Barbuda had diplomatic relations, no Antiguan and Barbudan ambassador was in residence, but ambassadors residing in the aforementioned countries were accredited to them as well. Firmly anticommunist, Antigua and Barbuda in 1987 was considered to be one of the most ardent supporters of the United States in the Caribbean area. Various forms of United States aid were important to Antigua and Barbuda, as was North American tourism. Of importance to the United States was the fact that Antigua occupied a strategic position and hosted a United States military presence, including air force and naval facilities. After Antigua and Barbuda gained independence, the United States consulate that had been established in 1980 was upgraded to an embassy in 1982, with a staff of eighteen.

Despite Antigua and Barbuda's bonds with both the United States and Britain, relations were tense in late 1986 as the ALP government formed the impression that the United States and Britain might favor the UNDP in the upcoming 1989 election. Realizing that the Western powers might regard Deputy Prime Minister Lester Bird, the presumed successor to his father, as too leftist, the ALP leadership accused the United States and Britain of courting Heath and promoting his party in the next elections in the hope that the UNDP would institute a more conservative government. When Heath received an official invitation to visit London, the Herald, the newspaper generally regarded as affiliated with Deputy Prime Minister Bird and his supporters, cited this as evidence of Britain's support of the UNDP candidate and described as inappropriate a diplomatic meeting with the leader of a party with no elected seats in the Antiguan Parliament. The Workers' Voice, the ATLU-supported newspaper, joined in accusing the United States of interfering in Antigua and Barbuda's internal affairs.

For his part, Deputy Prime Minister Bird criticized United States policy in the region as not sharing the national priorities held by governments in the Caribbean region. Bird also expressed reservations about the pervasive presence of United States advisers in the region, increased arms shipments from the United States to the Caribbean, and the establishment of paramilitary Special Service Units (SSUs). Although some in his party feared a leftward turn should he gain power, Lester Bird and those with similar nationalistic views remained strongly anticommunist.

Antigua and Barbuda was a member of, among other international organizations, the Commonwealth of Nations (see Appendix B), the International Monetary Fund (IMF--see Glossary), the World Bank (see Glossary), the United Nations (UN) and several UN agencies (including the United Nations Education, Science, and Culture Organization), the OECS, the Regional Security System (RSS), Caricom, and the Organization of American States. As a member of Caricom and the Commonwealth of Nations, Antigua and Barbuda supported Eastern Caribbean integration efforts.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress