Caribbean countries remain divided on Venezuela crisis at OAS

Several Caribbean countries have again voted in favour of an Organisation of American States (OAS) resolution critical of the leadership of President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas.

This is the second time within three months that the division among CARICOM contries on the issue is showing and it comes one month after the CARICOM Intersessional Summit in St. Kitts/Nevis where leaders issued a joint statement advocating non-interference except in an effort to aid dialogue between the government and the opposition.

“The people of Venezuela must be allowed to decide their own future in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter – non-intervention, non-interference, prohibition of the threat or use of force, respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy”, the statement said.

However on Wednesday, The Bahamas, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica and St. Lucia voted in favour of the OAS resolution that said Venezuela’s closure of its borders with Brazil and Colombia has, “in fact, prevented the population, especially the most vulnerable, from obtaining food, medicines, medical treatment, and educational opportunities”.

Antigua and Barbuda, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines voted against the resolution adopted by the Permanent Council of the OAS on Wednesday, while Barbados, Belize, St. Kitts-Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Dominica and Grenada were absent at the time of the vote.

The leaders of four of the CARICOM countries who voted in favour of the resolution (Jamaica, Haiti, St. Lucia and the Bahamas) met with US President Donald Trump on Friday, amid criticism from many of their counterparts including Trinidad and TObago’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley who told a press conference that his country stands by the UN charter which forbids intereference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

The OAS said that 19 countries voted in favour of the resolution, five against it, eight abstained, and two were absent.

The other countries that voted in favour of the resolution titled “Humanitarian Assistance to Venezuela” included Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, United States, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Peru and Dominican Republic.

Nicaragua and Venezuela also voted against the resolution, and Bolivia, El Salvador and Mexico abstained.

This is the second time the CARICOM countries have remained divided at the OAS on the issue of Venezuela where the United States and its allies are pushing to remove President Maduro out of office in favour of the Opposition Leader Juan Guaido, who has since declared himself as the interim president of Venezuela.

In January,  the OAS passed a resolution to not recognize Maduro with 19 votes in favor, six against, eight abstentions and one absent. Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas, Guyana, and St. Lucia supported the resolution, while Dominica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname voted against it.

St. Kitts -Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained during the vote, while Grenada was not present.

CARICOM foreign ministers have since met with Guaido in furtherance of their position.

According to the new OAS resolution, countries were being urged to support “competent international organizations to continue providing support and implementing measures to address the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.”

It also calls on the Venezuelan public institutions, especially the military and police establishments, “to refrain from blocking the entry of humanitarian aid into Venezuela, duly respecting the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and operational independence of humanitarian assistance, as well as respect for human rights”.

The resolution notes “that Venezuela’s closure of its borders with Brazil and Colombia has, in fact, prevented the population, especially the most vulnerable, from obtaining food, medicines, medical treatment, and educational opportunities.”

In addition, the resolution expresses concern over the collapse of Venezuela’s health care system, “which has led to the reappearance of infectious diseases previously eradicated in Venezuela, as well as in bordering countries and in the region.”

Political analysts here say Trump is using the division within the regional integration grouping to further drive a wedge among them on the issue, and used last Friday’s meeting as a subterfuge to further intervene in Venezuela’s internal affairs.

Meantime, the OAS’s general secretariat has rejected what it described as “the uninformed comments of government spokespeople of the Russian Federation, who maliciously disqualify this organization in order to justify the recent and illegal Russian military incursion into Venezuelan territory.

“The general secretariat wishes to recall that the OAS is a regional organization whose core competency is to ensure peace and security in the region,” the OAS statement said.

“The general secretariat, therefore, reiterates its unequivocal rejection of the presence of Russian military personnel and military transport in Venezuelan territory for lacking the constitutionally required authorization of the National Assembly,” it added.