Established in 1993, Strategic Communications Laboratories (SCL), the parent company of Cambridge Analytica (CA), has been in the Caribbean for a long time – as much as 20 years, according to Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, whose Unity Labour Party (ULP) is this year observing its 17th anniversary in office, making him the longest continuously serving CARICOM Prime Minister today.
In a candid interview with a local radio station in March 2018, Gonsalves was quoted as having said he and the ULP have been victims of two decades of efforts by SCL to influence regime change in his country.
He said: “SCL has been here since 1998, seeking to undermine the ULP; and from 2001 onwards, they have been very nasty towards the ULP on behalf of the NDP (New Democratic Party).”
Pointing out that he too is also consistently targeted, Gonsalves -- who is of Portuguese descent -- said SCL also used “race” against him during the 2001 elections; and also advised then Prime Minister Sir James Mitchell’s campaign against the ULP.
PM Gonsalves said SCL also assisted the opposition’s campaign in the 2009 referendum on Constitutional Reform -- which the ruling ULP lost, thanks in great part to the role of former Prime Minister Mitchell, who was also a member (at the time) on SCL’s Board of Trustees.
“They used every species of nastiness in that referendum,” Dr Gonsalves recalled.
The Prime Minister and ULP Leader noted that CA, as a product of SCL, “had undertaken a lot of nasty work for Donald Trump against Hillary Clinton in the US 2016 presidential election.”
Investigations are well underway by both US Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and the British parliament, for into what roles were played by the likes of SCL and CA – and not only Russia -- in efforts to influence elections on both sides of the Atlantic.
“The evidence has also emerged of SCL doing the nasty work to undermine democracy in several Caribbean countries,” said Gonsalves, pointing to Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago, as confirmed examples.
He said that from the time of its establishment 25 years ago, SCL had “proudly boasted on their website and promoted themselves as ‘mind-benders’, as they were in the business of bending minds of unsuspecting people…” SCL and CA, he added, “traffic in lies and distortions.”
The veteran Caribbean prime minister recalled that SCL “also once boasted on their website that they have learned from and apply tactics used by Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda.”
“They said they can use behavioral analysis to twist people for them to vote [in] particular ways if they didn’t want to vote that way.”
The ULP leader recalled the SCL was also very present in the 2015 General Elections in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, which the ULP again won.
SCL’s science was indeed fuzzy in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as its only victory was in the referendum, during which ex-PM Mitchell, on the last day of campaigning, accused Gonsalves of “wanting to take away our Constitution, which is the last this the Queen (of England) gave us when we became independent.”
Referendums are usually hard to win in the Caribbean, as the same constitutions bequeathed by Britain to its ex-colonies prescribe that matters in a referendum need a majority vote of two-thirds (66%), whereas General Elections are contested by a simple majority vote.
But while SCL and CA were unable to bend enough minds in SVG to influence or effect regime change, they also left deep footprints in the sands of other Caribbean island nations.