'Idle Criticisms Won't Silence Me,' Says Envoy Blankenship

Despite public claims of U.S. Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship breaching diplomatic protocol by being too outspoken on certain issues, including crime and drugs, he told The Guardian in an exclusive interview Monday that he is not bothered by such comments and intends to continue to be very straightforward and honest.

"There are those that will complain and say that I am meddling, but this is a free country and we can all speak our minds. I am thick- skinned, and I have learned to ignore those comments that arise from idle chatter," he said.

The U.S. Ambassador, who spoke from his office at the U.S. Embassy, said if he cannot be honest with individuals, then he should not hold his position. He explained that there are certain times when bad news needs to be delivered, and he does not intend to lie or mislead people when it comes to crime and drugs.

The envoy said his number one priority is to play his role in the second largest drug war, probably in the world, remaining vigilant, and not shirking his responsibilities.

"I will keep reminding people of the evils of drugs, and what crime can do to a community, and how it can harm the tourist industry. I am responsible for four million visitors that come here annually, and the more violent crime that creeps up, the less secure they will feel, hence, the less the economy will prosper," he said.

Mr. Blankenship said his responsibility as U.S. ambassador puts him in charge of all U.S. government operations in The Bahamas, and all U.S. government agencies have to report to him.

"Whether it be the FBI, the INS, Customs, the DEA, the IRS or the Coast Guard and Navy. Not only do I have to deal with drugs and crime, but with all other U.S. agencies as well, and it's a pretty broad responsibility," said Mr. Blankenship.

The U.S. ambassador said he intends to work as closely as possible with the Bahamian government, as there is no reason why two countries that are so close in proximity cannot have a perfect relationship.

"We have to work together, as the things that affect the United States affect The Bahamas. If you look at the challenges and problems that face The Bahamas, the same problems face the United States, and we have to face up to them as well," said Mr. Blankenship.

The U.S. presently has an "excellent" relationship with the new PLP government, the same as with the former Free National Movement government, he said.

"Our relationship with both governments has been wonderful. We share a lot of goals of the PLP and the FNM as well. There are positives in both of them," Mr Blankenship said.


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