CASTRIES — Outgoing CARICOM chairman, Timothy Harris, Wednesday praised the regional integration grouping for its stance on the economic and political situation in Venezuela, saying it must remain an honest broker in the South American country.
Harris, who is also the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis said the attempt at resolving the situation, where opposition parties backed by the United States and some western countries are seeking to remove President Nicolas Maduro from office.
“… our engagement in the attempts at resolving the situation in Venezuela has clearly demonstrated that there is a role for us to play, said Harris, who is leading a three-member CARICOM team tasked with pushing the region’s position on Venezuela.
“It also is now quite clear that our principled stance enunciated from the outset and our approach are now being accepted by other parties,” he further told the opening ceremony of the CARICOM summit here
He said that CARICOM has held talks with various stakeholders on the issue and have consistently argued that the cardinal principles to undergird a resolution of the political crisis in Venezuela include: non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela, inviolability of the sovereign state; respect for democracy; rule of law and the constitution of Venezuela; peace and resolution of conflict.
Harris said that the Montevideo Mechanism provides a guide to achieve peaceful resolution. Its core imperatives are dialogue, negotiation, commitment and implementation.
“Speaking to dialogue between both sides, I must commend the efforts of the Norwegian government to bring the two sides together in an attempt to end the impasse and allow the country to return to stability.
“Venezuela is our neighbour, and our member states are being affected by the crisis. For us, this is not a geo-political game of chess. It is a situation creating hardships for millions of people right on our doorstep, fostering instability in our already fragile economies and exacerbating criminal activity.
“We must make clear that CARICOM plays a role of honest broker. All stakes are high. The undermining of the Caribbean as a zone of peace; disruption of tourism and trade; uncontrolled migration with risks to health, and socio-economic problems in member states, compounded by illegal trade in arms, cannot be whisked away,” Harris told the ceremony.
He reiterated that for CARICOM, non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of states, prohibition of the threat and use of force, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, respect for the constitutional framework and democracy, and the right of people to self-determination are core principles, which should not be violated.
“These are what we have to cling to in a world where international law and multilateralism are being undermined and small states are being increasingly marginalised. And despite whatever apparent differences appear in the ranks of CARICOM, I can assert that we all subscribe to these principles.”
He said multilateralism is the medium that ensures that we as small states have a voice in the global arena, noting St. Vincent and the Grenadines election to the United Nations Security Council.
Harris spoke of the ongoing political situation in Haiti, CARICOM’s only French-speaking country where opposition political parties are seeking the removal of President Jovenel Moise over allegations of embezzlement rising from the PetroCaribe oil initiative.
“Colleagues, the deteriorating situation in our member state, Haiti, is of great concern. The continuing violence causing loss of life and property must cease, and dialogue must begin to arrive at a solution to this cycle of instability.
“The Haitian people deserve to go about their daily lives in a calm and peaceful environment. I reiterate the community’s call for all parties to act responsibly and in the interest of the country. We stand ready to offer the good offices of the Community to bring a resolution to this crisis,” he told the ceremony, which is also being attended by Moise.