Politics

Gonsalves denies conflict of interest in dealings with Venezuela

A Canada-based Vincentian activist has accused Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of having a personal conflict of interest in his government’s dealing with the government of Venezuela.

Marlon Bute, a former Unity Labour Party (ULP) member who broke ranks with the party a decade ago after he migrated to Canada, levelled the accusation in a call to Boom FM last Thursday when Gonsalves was the in-studio guest. 

Last Thursday, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and two other CARICOM nations — Dominica, and Suriname — voted against a U.S.-sponsored resolution challenging the legitimacy of Nicolas Maduro’s second term in office.

Jamaica, St Lucia, Haiti, Bahamas, and Guyana, along with 14 other OAS members, voted for the resolution. 

Trinidad and Tobago, St Kitts and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained from the vote, which saw the resolution defeated after 16 of the 34 members of the OAS voted against the resolution and 18 rejected it.

Kingstown said on Thursday it has “a deep sense of unease and apprehension” about recent developments in Venezuela, including the marches sponsored by opposing political forces the previous day in Caracas, which “can promote civil unrest within the country”.

Gonsalves has said his government is taking a principled stance, including consideration of international law, against interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

But Bute, in his conversation with Gonsalves, questioned his government’s motivation.

“The fact is that your interests are aligned to Maduro and Venezuela and that’s why, in my estimation, that you cannot vote otherwise because to vote for a resolution that would hasten the departure of Maduro will also hasten your departure,” Bute told the prime minister.

“I have articulated on a number of occasions that there is a three-tiered relationship with you and the Venezuela regime: one, the Gonsalves family allegedly has a property in Cane Garden that is leased to the Venezuelan government; two, party-to-party relationship where there is a resource and other support for your party from Maduro’s party; and, three hundreds of millions of dollars in PetroCaribe funds that we have not received any audits of.”

Gonsalves, however, said that Bute was “talking foolishness”.

Bute, however, maintained that Gonsalves was acting in his own interest and not the interest of the Vincentians in SVG and those who live outside of the country.

The prime minister accused Bute of being absolutely dishonest, saying that the account has been given on the PetroCaribe funds.

“Go and look at the companies’ registry and you will see the account there for — the last account I think is for 2016 or 2017, audited, and the Director of Audit is supervising the last audit.”

Regarding the lease allegation, Gonsalves said:

“It is true that a property owned by my wife is rented by the [Venezuelan ambassador]. That is a public thing. There is a property where the embassy is – is owned by a prominent person in the NDP.”

The prime minister said that when a country abstains from voting on a resolution, this means that the country does not agree with it.

But the host of the programme, Dwight “Bing” Joseph, told the prime minister that that is not necessarily the case.

Gonsalves, however, said that abstaining means that a country does not agree and had a country agreed, it would have voted no.

The host said if the country disagreed they would have voted no.

“No, there might be reasons why you may not vote no. So I am saying that only five of the 14 CARICOM countries voted with the United States of America and that’s a fact,” the prime minister said.

Comments (7)

  1. Bute doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of the term “conflict of interest.”

    A fall in the Venezulan government would not necessarily affect the first and third part of the three-tier relationship.

    Though party-to-party relations might well be underrmined by a change in government in Venezuela, the role of the Prime Minister as head of the government and his role as head of the ULP occupy two different spheres of politics. This especially true of the Petro Caribe funds that appear to have received an early funeral.

    More important, the notion that there is a conflict of interest between inter-state party-to-party relations also applies to being head of government vs. being head of a political party. For example, many political decisions, in SVG, as around the world, are made simply because they further the chances of the ruling political party being re-elected. No rationale person would call this a conflict of interest but Mr. Bute does not appear to be a rationale person.

  2. i attended Grammar School with Marlon Bute . Marlon and I were in class together. I do not believe we agreed on a lot in those days. I cannot comment on his positions on other issues, at this time, but I am in agreement with him on this issue.

    Ralph Gonsalves applies vindictive and heavy/highhanded tactics to anyone who disagrees with him and or gets in his way. Ralph and I have always had disagreements, over the years. Ralph once told me in Park Hill, in the 1990s when he was in opposition that when he becomes prime minister, I will feel the weight of his political power. I have felt his weight and I have situations that can justify the weight. Ralph told me in 2017 that he will never sign a student loan for me to study law for the following reasons, in his own words: “You get a Law Degree and set-up a political party and want my job. I can’t have that. If they tell me to sign, I still will not sign it. I have my political knives waiting for you.” Ralph has also indicated to me, in no uncertain terms, that he keeps TABS on me.

    Ralph Gonsalves, in my view, has a target LIST with names of those who opposes him and he considers to be a threat. I have reasons to believe that I am on the same list as Marlon. I have never been a support of Ralph Gonsalves’ politics.

    Marlon was, at one time, a strong supporter of Ralph and the ULP. I will not comment, on the specifics, of the divisions and or disputes between Ralph and Marlon. There is a history.

    Ricardo Francis. Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making

  3. Is this the end game for Maduro, the ideological prop for the St Vincent and the Grenadines strong man and his family? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-47036491 But while Venezuela is in economic crisis – as hyperinflation and shortages of basic essentials have hit its population hard and caused millions to flee, SVG’s support for Maduro is still very solid.

    “As Mr Bolton was announcing the sanctions at a Washington news conference, observers spotted a handwritten message on his notepad. It read “5,000 troops to Colombia”, though it is unclear what this means”. We may therefore ask when will the shooting start?

  4. Gonsalves and deceased Hugo Chavez used to get along good but now Chavez successor is a very different man. Cruel irony. A lot of civil unrest in his country off the cliff. 1/6th of the population has fled the country. So the smart thing that you should have done was to ask “hey Nicolas what are you doing?” But no, you turn around and act on your own. Consider, It might be time to renegotiate our debt to Venezuela. What can you do to help them solve their problem? We have enough of our own to take care of, as Mr Joseph was saying. To you, you are playing the role of “Maduro whisperer”. I think that you are lying, as always. Just make sure you remember which side you on. Mr Bute seems totally rational and objective and rightfully concerned. Questions that were not at all foolishness. Mr Bute probably doesn’t have friends in the Venezuelan government and, probably doesn’t attend ALBA meetings. I agree with him. Mr. Gonsalves you are the PM but you are backing the donkey in this horse race.

    I got a song for you: Rat Race by Bob Marley and the Wailers. go listen to it.

  5. Mr .Bute it is clear that you have a personal axe to grind after you have left the ULP. You are now sitting in comfort in Canada. You were once birds of a feather, why didn’t you speak out long before . Your disagreement may have stemmed from a promised promotion that you have never received. You appear to be disengeneous. Are you now in exile?

  6. I am very curious: why have you not published my comment with respect to the above article?

    Ricardo Francis, Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines in Waiting and in the Making

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