Freedom in the World
St. Vincent and Grenadines
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
The government filed new charges against opposition senator Vynnette Frederick and arrested her for alleged false statements related to a complaint she lodged against Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves following the 2010 general elections. Government officials also threatened and used libel lawsuits against the media and each other throughout the year. Meanwhile, the government passed important witness protection legislation.
The economy continued to show slow signs of recovery after the effects of torrential rains that wiped out the country’s banana industry in 2011, destruction caused by Hurricane Tomas in 2010, and the global financial crisis. The annual percentage growth rate of GDP was 2.1 percent. However, the public debt remained over 70 percent of GDP, with close to one-third of all revenue servicing the debt.
Political Rights: 36 / 40 [Key]
A. Electoral Process: 11 / 12
A governor general represents the British monarch as head of state. The constitution provides for the election of 15 representatives to the unicameral House of Assembly. In addition, the governor general appoints 6 senators to the chamber: 4 selected on the advice of the prime minister and 2 on the advice of the opposition leader. All serve five-year terms. The prime minister is the leader of the majority party.
In the most recent general elections, in 2010, the incumbent social-democratic Unity Labour Party (ULP) won a slim majority of 8 of the 15 contested legislative seats, and Gonsalves retained his post as prime minister for a third term. Meanwhile, the conservative New Democratic Party (NDP) more than doubled its representation, taking 7 seats. Despite threats of legal challenges from NDP leaders, observers from the Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States, and the National Monitoring and Consultative Mechanism deemed the elections free and fair.
Prime Minister Gonsalves appointed three new senators to the cabinet in September 2013, including his son as minister of foreign affairs, foreign trade, and consumer affairs. Gonsalves’s first cousin is also a minister.
Opposition senator Vynnette Frederick was accused of swearing falsely and lying under oath in relation to a private criminal complaint she had filed against the prime minister following the 2010 general elections. On February 15, police brought three charges against Frederick, in addition to three previous charges. All were dropped on July 11, but Frederick was arrested the same day on nine new but related charges. Her trial was pending at the end of the year.
Efforts to clean up the voters list, initiated by the supervisor of elections in early 2013, were ongoing at year’s end.
B. Political Pluralism and Participation: 16 / 16
The political landscape is dominated by the NDP and the ULP, although the Green Party also contested the 2010 elections. The new Democratic Republican Party was formed in 2012, led by a former NDP senator.
C. Functioning of Government: 9 / 12
In recent years, there have been allegations of money laundering through Saint Vincent banks and drug-related corruption within the government and the police force. The government has taken some measures to prevent and prosecute such crimes, including the Amendment to the Proceeds of Crime and Money Laundering (Prevention) Act 2012. No independent body investigates government corruption, and the government has yet to pass legislation requiring government officials to disclose assets, incomes, and gifts. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines ranked 33 out of 177 countries and territories surveyed in the 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index.
Civil Liberties: 53 / 60
D. Freedom of Expression and Belief: 15 / 16
The press is independent, and the constitution guarantees freedoms of speech and the press. While freedom of information legislation was enacted in 2003, it has yet to be fully implemented. There are several privately owned, independent weeklies and one daily newspaper. The national newspapers publish opinions critical of the government. The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Broadcasting Corporation operates one television station, and satellite dishes and cable television are available. The main news radio station is partly government owned; radio talk shows are increasing. Internet access is not restricted.
Libel lawsuits continued in 2013. In one of numerous lawsuits against it, Nice Radio—which is considered to be aligned with the opposition NDP—paid the prime minister EC$206,000 (US$76,000) in February for a defamation judgment related to a statement radio host Eduardo Lynch had made close to a decade earlier questioning the financing of a trip Gonsalves had taken with his family. The same month, opposition leader Arnhim Eustace demanded an apology and compensation from the prime minister for alleged defamatory comments Gonsalves made on the radio on February 17, and in March, Gonsalves said he would open a second suit against Eustace for comments the latter had made during a town hall meeting in the United States. In August, the newspapers The Vincentian and The News issued apologies in response to separate threats of lawsuits by Gonsalves; in the News case, another newspaper considered to be aligned with the ULP had printed the same article yet was not asked to apologize.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally protected and respected in practice, and academic freedom is generally honored.
E. Associational and Organizational Rights: 12 / 12 (+1)
Freedoms of assembly and association are constitutionally protected, and nongovernmental organizations are free from government interference. Labor unions are active and permitted to strike and engage in collective bargaining.
F. Rule of Law: 12 / 16 (-1)
The government generally respects judicial independence. The highest court is the Eastern Caribbean Supreme Court, which includes a court of appeals and a high court. The country recognizes the original jurisdiction of the Caribbean Court of Justice, but the final court of appeal is still the Privy Council in London. There are often long judicial delays and a large backlog of cases caused by personnel shortages in the local judiciary. In December, parliament passed important witness protection legislation. Police occasionally use excessive force in arrest proceedings and in custody; in May, the police shot four people in ten days, including the shooting and killing of a man in police custody. Crowded prison conditions improved in 2012 after the long-awaited transfer of prisoners to a new correctional facility.
Same-sex sexual relations remain a criminal offense for both men and women, carrying sentences of up to 10 years in prison.
G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights: 14 / 16
Women are underrepresented in political decision-making positions, and hold only 3 of the 23 seats in parliament. Violence against women, particularly domestic violence, remains a problem. The Domestic Violence Summary Proceedings Act, which provides for protective orders, offers some tools that benefit victims.
The Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act (2011) criminalizes forced labor and prostitution. On May 21, the government appointed a 12-member Reparations Committee to investigate genocide and forced deportation of the indigenous Garifuna and Callinago people, stealing of their land, and enslavement of African people in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. In September, Prime Minister Gonsalves announced a CARICOM joint legal action against the United Kingdom, France, and the Netherlands for the legacy of the slave trade.
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year