By Peter Richards
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves has praised Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries for acting “with independence, courage and concerted action” during the Permanent Council meeting of the Organisation of American States (OAS) called to discuss the situation in Venezuela earlier this week.
In a two-page letter sent to the Irwin La Rocque, secretary general of CARICOM, Gonsalves said that the “CARICOM stance is a tribute to our region’s commitment to the highest ideals of our Caribbean civilisation and of its institutional expression, politically, the independent and sovereign nation-state”.
He said that through its position at the OAS, CARICOM countries have honoured the names of “our revered leaders of yesteryear” including Errol Barrow of Barbados, Forbes Burnham of Guyana, Michael Manley of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago’s Dr. Eric Williams “whose respective countries defied the edict of a hegemonic neighbour in their formal diplomatic recognition of revolutionary Cuba in 1972”.
In his letter, which was copied to heads of state and governments in CARICOM and obtained by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC), Gonsalves said he was “humbled and proud of the majesty of CARICOM’s united stance in defence of the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of states; the bedrock ideas of sovereignty and independence (and) the nobility of the fundamental precepts of representative democracy”.
During the OAS meeting, Jamaica, for example, called for dialogue among all parties in Venezuela, where opposition-led street demonstrations to force the Nicolas Maduro government out of office have resulted in more than 40 deaths and a split among members of the OAS.
Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Kamina Johnson-Smith, addressing the 29th Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs at the OAS in Washington earlier this week, said the Andrew Holness government is “gravely concerned by the continued deterioration of the situation in Venezuela”.
She cited increased violence, loss of life, damage to infrastructure, severe economic hardships for the people, and “a hardening of deeply entrenched positions by both Government and opposition groups…
“Jamaica continues to highly favour meaningful dialogue and discourages the isolation of Venezuela. We, therefore, invite the Government of Venezuela to reconsider that decision,” Johnson Smith added.
On Wednesday, Trinidad and Tobago called for the removal of the OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro, over his non-neutral position on the political situation in Venezuela and warned the 15-member CARICOM grouping of the possibility of destroying “itself as an honest broker with respect to any involvement in assistance to Venezuela and its internal problems…
“Trinidad and Tobago registered a strong objection to the behaviour of the OAS leadership. The public servants from the OAS took it upon themselves to engage the Government of Venezuela, the president in fact, in a very derogatory manner,” Prime Minister Keith Rowley told a news conference on his return from an official two-day visit to Chile.
Last month, CARICOM foreign ministers called for non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.
Gonsalves, who had last month had cautioned CARICOM to refrain from allowing a small group of powerful nations to dilute the “collective strength” of the 15 member regional grouping on the Venezuela issue, said in his letter to La Rocque that he was “heartened that CARICOM member-states are alive to the manoeuvrings of those who would wish to deliver Venezuela and its oil on a platter to a handful of global enterprises, who are focused on their own greed, duplicity, and narrow self interest….
“We know the road very well. But CARICOM has taken the road less travelled by, and that has made all the difference,” Gonsalves wrote, adding, “I do not underestimate the current travails of Venezuela and I am pleased that CARICOM is prepared to play a facilitating role, along with other countries and leading personalities in fostering peace, dialogue and constitutionalism in Venezuela”.
But he acknowledged that “at the end of the day, this is a matter for Venezuelans themselves”.
Gonsalves said that he is “sure that the overwhelming majority of nation-states, globally, are pleased with CARICOM’s stance at the OAS.
“We must now allow our unity and good sense to be put asunder. Now more than ever we must remain firm. The enemies at the gates of non-interference, sovereignty, and independence will not rest; indeed, they will redouble their efforts. They will raise aloft, hypocritically, any number of high-sounding phrases but beneath them are base motives. History has taught us all this, and more.
“I am confident of CARICOM’s continuing embrace of independence, courage, and concerted action, remembering always that, of all time, only the future is ours to desecrate. Our Caribbean civilisation must never be engaged in the desecration of our future,” the St. Vincent and the Grenadines prime minister wrote.