In the past week, the State Department decided to reinstate the American entry visa of a senior Jamaican government minister but did so with a proviso that indicates he remains under the watch of officials and is part of some kind of probationary scheme involving federal authorities.
Two years ago, the embassy in Kingston, the Jamaican capital, pulled the visa of Science, Technology and Energy Minister Daryl Vaz and that of his wife. Explaining that reasons for visa revocation are confidential, the U.S. mission refrained from giving the Jamaican public a reason for the cancellation saying such was personal information granted only to the visa applicant.
Vaz was grounded for the period but the fact that his new B-1 B-2 visa now contains a waiver means that he was or is still suspected of some form of wrongdoing related to illicit drugs or had links to traffickers, charges the minister has vehemently and persistently denied.
The waiver reads “212 (Small D) (3) waiver of 212 (A) 92C) (1)” meaning that federal officials have cause to believe that the applicant or visa holder has in the past been linked to the drug trade as an aider, abettor, conspirator and related activities the Jamaican Gleaner reported at the weekend.
Vaz has not been locally known to be involved in the drug trade so the visa cancellation sparked national debate about whether the embassy and State were acting on credible information or had been the victim of inaccurate information fed to them.
Doubts about the entire episode begun to emerge in recent months when former American Ambassador Donald Tapia made it clear that the U.S. was wrong to pull Vaz’s visa as there was no evidence linking him to the drug trade or the local underworld.
Local media have in recent days published a statement by Tapia exonerating the minister. Tapia even argued that the mission had acted on unreliable information fed to officials.
Tapia said Prime Minister Andrew Holness had approached him after the late 2020 general election, asking for a review of the case as many thought the cancellation was a strange development. The two agreed that both sides would review the case and both came to the conclusion that the revocation was based on inaccurate information.
“After the agencies provided their findings to the PM, it was found that the allegations were not factual,” Tapia said noting that the probe conducted by American officials “found that all reports were hearsay allegations with no substance or evidence.”
Humiliated and embarrassed, Vaz toughed it out during the period but was gracious at the weekend to indicate that “I can confirm and I am highly appreciative of the courtesy that has been extended by the U.S. embassy in Kingston,” Vaz told local media. Vaz was forced to renounce his American citizenship more than a decade ago to comply with electoral laws regarding dual citizens and eligibility for parliament. The former diplomat deemed the entire issue as unjust and a diplomatic blunder as he demanded that officials admit their role in what was clearly a mistake.
But even now that he can travel again with the waiver in his passport, pressure is being applied on PM Holness to fire the minister as the waiver indicated to his political opponents that he has not been fully cleared. The issue was expected to be debated at Monday’s cabinet meeting.
Tapia had taken Vaz’s case to nearly 50 American senators as he complained about the wrong on the part of the mission in Kingston.
Vaz is slated to make his first trip to the U.S. later this year to attend an international technology conference. The embassy had also pulled the visa of former opposition lawmaker Phillip Paulwell for unknown reasons. It is not clear if he and Vaz’s wife have reapplied for new visas.