310. Telegram From the Embassy in Barbados to the Department of State1

3225. Subj: Dominican Independence.

1. The wild, lush island of Dominica became an independent nation on the stroke of midnight, November 3. Its impoverished inhabitants estimated to number 80,000 clearly expect their new estate will greatly improve the chances of finding new external sources of assistance. Such assistance will be required indefinitely if not permanently.

2. On hand were reps of some thirty countries and scores of international organizations; some came thousands of miles. Most foreign and many Dominicans expressed private misgivings but independence was the occasion for many days of the festivities which gladden West Indian hearts. The British reps also appeared pleased. Leaders of St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Antigua were close observers as they finalize plans for their own independence celebrations.

3. Dominica’s independence starts a chain reaction having far-reaching consequences not confined to the trustful, decent folk living on the Windward and Leeward Islands. An early and spiney problem will arise in the Organization of American States. Should all the new [Page 768]Caribbean states be admitted as full members, the English-speaking Caribbean bloc will have sufficient votes to assure that the OAS will never again be the organization it was until now.2 OAS Secretary General Orfila, present in Roseau foresees a particularly difficult if not fateful time for the OAS just ahead. In the UN which was represented by Under Secretary General Tang Ming Chao the new states may have less impact. While friendly to the West they will identify with the “Third World”.

4. For the U.S. an independent Dominica presents new challenges. Dominicans generally are well disposed towards us. PriMin John’s inaugural address quoted from our Declaration of Independence and from Franklin Roosevelt. Dominican leaders appeared genuinely pleased with the President’s message and gift. The public members of our delegation were outstanding and made an excellent impression. Our delegation was shown special deference and a warm welcome. PriMin John told me he seeks close and friendly ties. We are off to a good start and expectations appear realistic on both sides.

5. In a sharp departure from previous neo-Marxist rhetoric, John defined Dominica’s economic system as that of a “mixed economy consisting of the private sector, cooperative sector and the public sector,” with incentives for foreign investment. State ownership, capitalist monopoly and a welfare state are equally eschewed. Progress, John affirms will come by evolution rather than revolution. Both reactionary and revolutionary groups are to be “seriously monitered.” Politically Dominica is to be a constitutional, parliamentary democracy with respect for the rights to life, liberty and property. The new nation is also committed to the observance of human rights. Rigid and dogmatic political philosophies John said, will be avoided.

6. John placed special stress on relations with the UK and France, the historical rivals in Dominica. The UK, John said, has given public assurances that it will not abandon Dominica and has provided an economic cushion for the first years. France which was well represented by high officials from Paris and the leaders of the neighboring French Department of Martinique and Guadeloupe as well as naval vessels and jet warplanes, clearly will loom large in Dominica’s future.

7. Our major policy goal of fomenting effective regionalism faces new obstacles. It will take much patient and long term effort to help assure the political and economic stability of this region.3

Ortiz
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780458–0391. Limited Official Use; Immediate. Repeated for information to Georgetown, Kingston, London, Martinique, Paris, Port of Spain, and USUN.
  2. Dominica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines all joined the OAS as member states.
  3. In telegram 3261 from Bridgetown, November 8, the Embassy reported on economic problems in Dominica, focusing on “real or threatened strike actions” from both public and private unions. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780463–1045)