CARICOM remains divided at OAS on Venezuela issue

Countries in the Caribbean remain divided on the way forward in dealing with the protracted political crisis in Venezuela.

At a meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) on Tuesday, four Caribbean countries voted to “accept’ the nomination of a candidate supported by Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who is seeking to replace President Nicolas Maduro as head of state in the South American country.

St. Lucia, Jamaica, Haiti and the Bahamas voted in favour of accepting Gustavo Tarre “as the National Assembly’s designated permanent representative, pending new elections and the appointment of a democratically elected government,” in Venezuela.

But Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, joined Venezuela in voting against the measure, while Barbados, Guyana, St. Kitts- Nevis, and Trinidad and Tobago abstained. Belize was the only CARICOM country absent when the vote was taken on Tuesday.

The OAS Permanent Council is chaired by the United States, which is at the forefront of efforts to remove Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year, from power.

The four CARICOM countries that voted in favour of the resolution have supported the so-called Lima Group that is seeking Maduro’s removal and last month met with United States President Donald Trump on Venezuela.

CARICOM has adopted a united position on the Venezuelan matter and in February, the regional leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The vote at the OAS came on the same day that the St. Lucia government said that it was re-affirming its position that the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace and that there should be “no third state intervention” in Caracas.

Sir Neville Cenac, Governor General St. Lucia

Governor General, Sir Neville Cenac, delivering the traditional Throne speech at the start of a new parliamentary session in St. Lucia, in which he outlined the government’s priorities, said that in the case of Venezuela, “we have reaffirmed that the Caribbean must remain a zone of peace, consistent with the provisions of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean (Treaty of Tlatelolco) and the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, endorsed by all 33 Member States of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC).  “We are unequivocal in our view that there should be no third state intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela and will continue to resist any action that could jeopardize the peace, safety or security of the Caribbean region,” Sir Neville told legislators.

The Governor General also said that in July, St. Lucia will assume the chairmanship of the 15-member CARICOM grouping, adding “notwithstanding the matters that divide us, we must continue to deepen the integration movement to the benefit of all member states.

“We must take concerted action to combat climate change, we must find common creative ways to resist efforts to undermine our economic bases.  Above all, we must identify the means of pursuing individual developmental interests without rending asunder the ties that bind us as a region,” the Head of State told legislators.

GFA threatens to take Lebanese Football Club to FIFA

Saydrel Lewis in practice with Nejmeh FC in Lebanon

The Grenada Football Association (GFA) is investigating allegations of racially motivated mistreatment and the premature termination of the contract of one of its international players in Lebanon, and is threatening to take the matter to football’s governing body FIFA.

The Nejmeh SC in Lebanon reportedly sacked Saydrel Lewis, a former member of the Paradise FCI in Grenada and the Caledonia FCI in Trinidad and Tobago, less than three months after signing a one-year contract and playing three games for the team.

Lewis in Lebanon, wearing the sweatshirt of Nejmeh SC with the star – the symbol of the Club’s name

In his three outings with Nejmeh SC, the 21-year old forward scored the lone goal in the game against Safa SC, in which his team won 1-0.

In a statement on Thursday, the GFA reported that Lewis had not been paid for two and a half months and had been forced to sign a termination letter in the absence of his agent David Nahkid, citing non-performance as the reason for the termination.

The GFA president Cheney Joseph wrote to the Lebanese Football Association, seeking clarification on the matter, describing the alleged actions as “unprofessional, unsavory, and against the expressed desires of established football organizational practices including FIFA [Federation of International Football Associations] and AFC [Asian Football Cup]”.

Lewis in one of his outings for Grenada

Joseph said the association stands behind Lewis and will support him in seeking redress, through FIFA, and where possible sanctions against the club and some of its officials.

The GFA is in direct contact with Lewis while arrangements are being made for his safe departure from the west Asian country, as there are reports that threats have been made on his life.

Before being drafted for Nejmeh FC, Lewis represented Grenada in 14 outings and scored 5 goals.

Grenada to begin contributing to LIAT

In keeping with the commitment made by regional countries in a recent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting, Grenada has announced that it will soon begin contributing to regional airline LIAT.

Minister responsible for CARICOM Affairs, Oliver Joseph told a media brief on Tuesday that Cabinet had agreed to begin financial contributions to the ailing airline at the end of March.

Oliver Joseph, Grenada’s Minister responsible for CARAICOM Affairs

“We have always maintained that we would like to see LIAT continue to serve the people of the region, but in order for us to contribute state resources to LIAT, the airline must be restructured and operated in a manner that ensures sustainability,” Minister Joseph said.

He said the government is awaiting information from the airline to determine how much it will give, adding “the amount of money that we will contribute will be based on the information submitted to us by the LIAT Board”.

Joseph said the government is also willing to pay the airline additional funds based on the load factor which is an important parameter for assessing the performance of the airline.

“If for example LIAT is operating a flight between Trinidad and Grenada that is unprofitable, Government will pay to ensure that the airline breaks even on that particular route,” Joseph explained.

He said government is hopeful that going forward there will be a financial turnaround for LIAT with sound financial management adding that there should be no political interference in the management of the regional airline.

LIAT is majority-owned by 11 Caribbean governments, the largest shareholders being the Governments of Barbados (49.5%), Antigua & Barbuda (13%), St. Vincent & the Grenadines (12%) and Dominica (10%).