The Peace Corps Controversy: More questions than answers
September 7, 2018
The Peace Corps Controversy: More questions than answers

The controversial withdrawal of 23 United States Peace Corps volunteers from St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) in the aftermath of the alleged physical assault of a 70-year-old volunteer stationed here has been one of the talking points of the last week. Unfortunately, the incident as reported to the police, the hasty withdrawal of the volunteers, and the dirth of information from official sources leave us all with more questions than answers.

Given ongoing investigations, we are obliged to limit our comment, but what we have heard so far seems rather strange, forcing us to ponder the following:

(1) There did not seem to be a robbery motive based on the recovery of the volunteer’s bag three hours later in the same place where it was allegedly left. Prime Minister Gonsalves at his media conference on Monday in fact said that there is no evidence on CCTV footage of the alleged incident itself.

(2) It seems very strange that at a bus stop at the time of alleged incident, around 7:30 in the morning, no witness of the attack or the attackers (who would stick out like sore thumbs based on their description) has so far come forward.

(3) The alleged attackers were identified by the victim as being of “Middle eastern origin” who did not speak with a Caribbean accent. She said they issued anti-Peace Corps and anti-Trump utterances. Why would such persons choose SVG of all places and take such an understated approach to demonstrate their supposed anti-Americanism?

(4) The type of injuries sustained by the volunteer are strange given two male attackers – scratches on the face, neck, upper arm and chest; and bruises to the left side of her upper body.

Hopefully, a thorough investigation would provide answers and clarity, but in the meantime, the hasty, and some would say, ill considered reaction of the US authorities in withdrawing the entire Peace Corps contingent from SVG has certainly been injurious to our country.

Did the incident as reported justify a reaction on this scale? What is the level of threat to Peace Corps personnel that warranted such a response? US citizens have been killed here, even very recently, without any inkling of frenzied reaction, and indeed in Grenada, 30 years ago, an American diplomat was shot and killed at police headquarters there without such a response.

Is there any connection between the incident and the resulting withdrawal of the volunteers with the reported displeasure of the United States with the votes of SVG at the OAS on Venezuela and at the UN on the relocation of the US Embassy to Jerusalem?

More questions than answers undoubtedly or is there more in the mortar than the pestle?