US top diplomat skirts question on the yanking of Vaz, Paulwell visas

US top diplomat skirts question on the yanking of Vaz, Paulwell visas

BY ARTHUR HALL
Editor-at-Large
halla@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, January 23, 2020

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THE top diplomat in the United States Government, Mike Pompeo, has hinted at a possible review of the decision to revoke the visitor's visas of Cabinet member Daryl Vaz, and former Cabinet member Phillip Paulwell.

But Pompeo has maintained the stance of the State Department of refusing to say why the visas were revoked as Transparency International prepares to release the latest data on the perceived level of corruption in Jamaica.

Late last year the two senior members of Jamaica's political directorate confirmed that their US visitor's visas, which they both held for several years, had been revoked without any explanation.

Since then efforts by the Jamaican media to get US officials to comment on the reasons for the action have been met with little more than a pointer to the State Department's website which lists the reasons a visa might be revoked.

This has sparked speculations and allegations about the reasons for the US decision with further reputational damage for Jamaica, which was already battling a perception of widespread corruption across the island.

During a joint media briefing with Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Kingston yesterday, Pompeo, the US secretary of state, also refused to speak to the individual cases but declared that the US is willing to return visas in cases that it acted it error.

“I can't respond in the specific because we don't talk about decisions we make on granting visas, but the Jamaica people should know, we grant hundreds, thousands of permits for Jamaicans to come travel to America [and] you return the favour,” said Pompeo.

“We have a process by which we evaluate each and every person who seeks entry into the United States. It is an even process, a fair- handed process and we do our best to make sure that if we get such a decision wrong we continue to review it, so that we can make sure that we are doing the right thing.

“We, just like Jamaica, have security interest when we think about how we approach these problems that is almost foremost in our minds,” added Pompeo.

The decision by the US to withdraw the US visas of the two politicians and the allegations of corruption at a number of State agencies, including the Caribbean Maritime Institution, over the past year, are expected to hurt Jamaica when Transparency International releases the 2019 Corruption Perception Index (CPI) today.

Last year Jamaica was ranked 70 out of 180 countries listed on the 2018 CPI. This represented a drop of two places as Jamaica previously recorded a CPI score of 44 in 2017. Jamaica also scored a CPI of 39 in 2016.

Transparency International, which released the rankings, noted that the index ranks countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people, uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

A CPI score of below 50 means that a country has a corruption problem.


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