KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent (CMC) — The prime ministers of Barbados and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be among 20 leaders invited by Colombia to discuss the ongoing tensions between the United States and Venezuela, Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves has said.
He said he and his Barbadian counterpart, Mia Mottley will attend the meeting in Bogota on Tuesday next week that will be chaired by President Gustavo Petro.
“In Venezuela I had the opportunity to talk about a meeting to which St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been invited in Columbia next Tuesday under the leadership of the President of Colombia.
“Twenty countries have been invited, two from CARICOM — St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Barbados — to see if we can set the framework for the political process internally and in terms of the relationship between Venezuela and the United States, the sanctions and the like,” said Gonsalves, who earlier this week held talks with Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who was on an official visit to Caracas.
He said that the discussions in Colombia are to “see how broadly, the political process, internal and external, what can reasonably be done to smooth out any challenges or any antagonistic contradictions which may exist”.
Gonsalves said that both the Nicolás Maduro government and the opposition parties in Venezuela have not been invited to the talks in Colombia, saying “this is just governments.
“I know the United States has been invited, countries from across the world and I will take it that this is one of such discussions.”
In November last year, the Biden administration eased some oil sanctions on Venezuela after the Maduro government and the opposition signed a broad “social accord” to create a UN-administered fund to provide humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.
The agreement signed in Mexico City by representatives of President Maduro and the opposition — including the faction backed by the United States and led by Juan Guaido — marked the resumption of long-stalled negotiations meant to find a common path out of the South American country’s complex crisis.
The US Treasury Department said the accord marks “important steps in the right direction to restore democracy” in Venezuela.
International efforts to resolve the Venezuelan crisis have gained strength since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year and the pressure it has placed on global energy supplies.
A joint statement by Canada, the US, the United Kingdom and the European Union pledged “willingness to review sanctions” on Venezuela but demanded that it release political prisoners, respect press freedom and guarantee the independence of the judiciary and electoral bodies.
Gonsalves told reporters on Thursday that St. Vincent and the Grenadines has been adversely affected by the US sanctions against Venezuela.
“The unilateral sanctions, for instance, annually, we used to make EC$10 to15 million in benefits to help us with all sorts of things, including poverty reduction.
“But once there was a sanctions, the sanctions against Venezuela, the ensuing PetroCaribe arrangement was completely undermined. For one thing, you can’t get the ships to bring the fuel. How are you going to pay them? Then where are you going to pay for the oil itself?”
Gonsalves said that even though these are not United Nations sanctions, the United States government, from President Trump and “these sanction have continued, unilateral sanctions under the current administration in the United States, they weaponise the banking system and weaponise the US dollar, which, for all practical purposes, has been, up to now the reserve currency in the world”.
Gonsalves said that Kingstown has also been affected affected in other areas.
“We come like collateral damage to these sections where the Venezuelans get the direct damage. And it is amazing that Venezuela has continued to develop despite these sanctions. They have to find ways to address these matters.
“There is a separate and larger issue that across the world now. You notice many countries are seeking to trade in currencies other than in US dollars because of what happens when you have sanctions and have to go through the SWIFT system with the particular correspondent banks and so forth.
“You see it happen in Saudi Arabia and China, Russia and China. We see the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa talking about organising payment systems globally,” Gonsalves said.
Gonsalves said that he welcomes the initiative by Colombia, ”which is a neighbour to Venezuela and they, themselves, are directly affected too.
“We will see what comes of this. The United States of America has been invited. I don’t know who they are sending,” Gonsalves added.