303. Memorandum of Conversation1


  • Call by Dominican Attorney General Leo Austin on Deputy Assistant Secretary Bill Stedman


  • ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary, William Stedman
  • ARA/CAR Desk Officer Dave Pierce (notetaker)
  • Attorney General Leo Austin of Dominica

During the course of a 45 minute discussion, Deputy Assistant Secretary Stedman and Attorney General Austin made the following points.

1. Dominican Independence

Austin said Dominica would probably become independent January 31, 1978. He said the date was not final, but he expected it to be no later than the end of January.2 After Stedman offered the Department’s best wishes for independence, Austin said Dominica intended to invite the U.S. Ambassador Frank Ortiz as well as ARA Assistant Secretary Todman to the independence celebrations.

2. U.S./Dominican Relationships

Austin said he would like an understanding of U.S. policies and interests in the Eastern Caribbean. Dominica did not want to create any problems for the U.S., to which Mr. Stedman replied that he did not expect Dominica to cause us problems.

3. Training of Dominican Diplomats

Austin said Under Secretary Habib had told him he would look favorably on a request to train Dominican diplomats.3 Mr. Pierce, recalling that Habib promised to look into the possibilities of training, said the USG was unable to provide direct training for foreign diplomats. He provided a list of U.S. universities offering training in public diplomacy and offered to arrange appointments for Austin with some of [Page 749] the schools while he was in Washington. (Austin called on Dean Wolfe, American University, on August 10)

4. Security

Austin said Dominica had a difficult security problem and that the police were not adequately trained or equipped. He repeated Patrick John’s June 7 request to Under Secretary Habib for a launch and electronic security equipment for the police and the defense force.4 Stedman replied that the executive branch wanted to be helpful to governments needing police assistance, but that Congress has made it impossible for the U.S. to provide equipment or training for police forces. He said that some governments had been able to buy surplus security equipment from local police forces in the U.S., but that the Federal Government could not be involved. He also gave Austin a catalogue listing firms which supply police equipment commercially.

Mr. Pierce added that F.A.A. is willing to offer a two week course to a Dominican in aviation security some time in 1978, and said Austin should be in touch with Embassy Bridgetown about the time of independence. (F.A.A. has reserved a space for one Dominican at a date to be determined in calendar year 1978 under terms similar to 76 State 266432).5

5. Treaty Relationships

Austin said Dominica wanted U.S. views on whether simple succession to the U.K. double taxation treaty under which it is now covered would be appropriate, or whether the U.S. would want any modifications. Stedman said in general we had no problems with present treaties, but we would ask the tax experts and get back to him.

6. Dual Nationals

Austin asked if there would be any problem of dual nationality for Dominican-born naturalized U.S. citizens. Stedman said that naturalization as a U.S. citizen required renunciation of all other allegiances, but it was up to the Dominican government to determine whether such renunciation would lead to loss of Dominican citizenship.

7. Membership in International Organizations

Austin indicated that Dominica would want to join a number of international organizations on independence and asked for U.S. sup[Page 750]port. Stedman said the U.S. would be glad to support Dominican membership applications, and asked that the Dominicans send the U.S. a formal note naming the specific organizations. In response to a question by Austin, Stedman said the U.S. would not be able to help Dominica pay its international organization dues.

8. U.S. Assistance

Austin indicated that a new airport was Dominica’s highest development priority, but they had been unable to raise the funds from international sources. When asked if the U.S. could help, Stedman replied that in recent years A.I.D. has been unable to assist with such infrastructure projects. He said A.I.D. hopes to expand its assistance to the Caribbean and had embarked on a new effort to encourage economic development in the Caribbean.

Stedman said there was new heightened interest in the Caribbean and that a new Deputy Assistant Secretary had been brought on primarily to focus on the Caribbean. Finally, he indicated that most U.S. aid would come through regional and multilateral institutions but that we were looking at all possible ways to assist development efforts in the region, within the limitations imposed by Congress.

9. O.P.I.C.

Austin said that a construction cost overrun from a port expansion project financed by the CDB had led to a problem with O.P.I.C. Austin said that CDB President Demas had refused initially to loan Dominica the $235,000 to cover the cost overrun, but had indicated that he would visit Dominica in September to discuss the matter with Premier John.

10. Meeting with LA/CAR, ARA/CAR and EB/OIA Offices

In a subsequent meeting with Bill Wheeler (LA/CAR), Dave Pierce (ARA/CAR), and Bill Black (EB/OIA), Austin discussed the O.P.I.C. problem in detail. He indicated that the CDB had initiated the port development project and had provided the initial feasibility studies which later proved faulty and led to the cost overrun claim. Austin confirmed that he had personally reached agreement with the contractor, Construction Aggregates, on settlement of the overrun but Dominica did not have the resources to make the payment. Dominica wanted to increase their loan from the CDB to cover the overruns. The CDB was willing to lend additional funds for other port facilities (sheds, lighting, etc.) but to date had been unwilling to finance the overrun.

In response to inquiries from Mr. Austin, Wheeler indicated that AID is prepared to consider additional assistance benefiting Dominica and the other LDCs in the Eastern Caribbean. Under its current legislation, A.I.D. is directed to concentrate on programs benefiting the lower income groups with specific emphasis on agriculture, health and educa[Page 751]tion. A.I.D. no longer financed major infrastructure such as airports but was prepared to consider such things as feeder roads or marketing facilities supporting small farmer agriculture.

A.I.D. had tentatively programmed for FY 1977 and FY 1978 new loans totalling approximately $20 million to the Caribbean Development Bank for relending primarily to the LDCs and Barbados and was prepared to provide certain other technical assistance and training primarily through regional mechanisms. While A.I.D. anticipated continuing to use the CDB as the primary channel for capital assistance, it was prepared to work with other regional institutions and consider alternative approaches, particularly in sectors such as health where the CDB is not active.

Wheeler also reported that A.I.D. is willing to send survey teams in agriculture, education and health to Dominica and other LDCs of the Eastern Caribbean within the next few months to review with local officials what they consider to be priority needs as the initial steps in developing additional assistance programs.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P830077–1919. Confidential. Drafted by Pierce; cleared by Wheeler.
  2. See Document 310.
  3. After accompanying Secretary Vance to the OAS General Assembly session, Habib visited Port of Spain, Georgetown, and Bridgetown. No record of a meeting with Austin was found.
  4. A summary of Premier Patrick John’s June 7 meeting with Habib is in the National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, P830077–1908.
  5. In telegram 266432 to Bridgetown, October 28, 1976, the Department reported that there was enough funding from the FAA to allow foreign nationals to train at the FAA Transportation Safety Institute in Oklahoma City. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D760403–1214)