Chavez ally faces early elections in Dominica

AP News
Posted: Dec 18, 2009 1:14 PM

Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit, who has led his small Caribbean country into an alliance with Hugo Chavez, is betting that Friday's early general elections will keep his Labor Party in power for another five years.

The island of 72,000 people has become one of the staunchest members of Chavez's Bolivarian Alliance while reaping tens of millions of dollars in Venezuelan investment. However the 37-year-old University of Mississippi graduate has also maintained friendly relations with the United States.

Opposition leader Ron Green says ties with Venezuela would remain warm if his United Workers Party wins most of the 21 seats, but he has accused Skerrit of manipulating aid from Chavez for political benefit and recently suggested the Venezuelan leader might have inadvertently interfered in Dominican affairs.

Skerrit also established ties with the People's Republic of China in March 2004, breaking relations with Taiwan _ a blow to the Asian island's battle to maintain international recognition. Green has said that he would keep ties with China.

Skerrit has promoted development by signing a deal with a Colorado company to export water and has proposed selling geothermal power to the region.

Green graduated from Manhattan College in New York and earned a masters degree in education at Columbia University.

Opponents have tried to undermine Skerrit by accusing him of holding dual French and Dominican citizenship, seemingly a constitutional violation.

They also have raised questions about the potential for electoral irregularities because of a voter registry that apparently contains many people who have died or moved away: there are 67,000 registered voters in a population of 72,000.