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VERE BIRD is revered by his compatriots as the father of Antiguan independence and admired in the rest of the Caribbean as a tireless advocate of regional economic integration.
He founded a political dynasty that, sometimes controversially, still runs the twin-island state of Antigua and Barbuda to this day.
As prime minister he remained the dominant figure in Antiguan politics up to his retirement in 1994, when he handed over the job to his son, Lester. But Antiguans have tended to turn a blind eye to allegations of corruption and profiteering, in view of the Birds' historic role.
Vere Bird senior was sometimes accused of running Antigua as a private business, accumulating interests in some of its most profitable activities.
Life expectancy is on a par with the US and Western Europe.
Vere Bird senior worked hard to diversify the economy away from reliance on the sugar industry, which gave him his initial power base but had gone into terminal decline by the early 1970s.
To which Bird replied: "We will eat cockles and the widdy widdy bush.The government has taken steps to tighten controls on the offshore financial sector, under heavy pressure from Britain and the United States, but both countries feel that much more could still be done.