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.

T&T Prime Minister not perturbed by lack of invitation to US President’s residence

Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Keith Rowley
Dr. Keith Rowley, Trinidad & Tobago Prime Minister

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has brushed aside suggestions that Port of Spain had been snubbed by United States President Donald Trump who is expected to meet with selective CARICOM leaders on the Venezuela issue in Miami on Friday.

At a post cabinet brief on Thursday, Rowley told the media that he does not feel diminshed in anyway, having not been invited to the private residence of US President Trump.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have never stood taller, we have never stood prouder and as I speak to you now CARICOM’s position as reaffirmed in the last meeting of heads in St. Kitts-Nevis is that there are three people representing and authorised to represent CARICOM outside of its heads and caucus and that’s the Chairman of CARICOM, who is the Prime Minister of St. Kitts-Nevis (Dr. Timothy Harris) Trinidad and Tobago its prime minister or designate and Barbados through its prime minister or designate.”

Prime Ministers Allen Chastanet (St. Lucia), Hubert Minnis ( the Bahamas), Andrew Holness (Jamaica) and Jovenel Moise (Haiti) are scheduled to meet with Trump at his private residence in Miami on Friday.

This private meeting comes after their countries, in January, supported a resolution at the Organization of American States (OAS) in not recognizing President Nicolas Maduro’s second five-year term.

But CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St. Kitts-Nevis last month 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 where Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó with the support of Washington and its allies, is seeking to replace Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term in January.

In late January, regional leaders, led by Harris and including Mottley and Rowley met with the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.

The delegation also participated in a meeting in an international meeting in Uruguay where the Montevideo Mechanism was adopted saying it presents “the only objective mechanism” to address the complex political situation in Venezuela”.

Rowley reiterated the CARICOM position on wanting a peaceful solution in Venezuela, and described the meeting taking place with Trump on Friday as a “meeting of the Lima Group” to which the Caribbean islands invited are members.

“We from early, St. Kitts-Nevis, Dominica, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, we did not sign on to the Lima Group. So we are not reacting to an invitation to a man’s house.

“Our foreign policy has always given us an insight of the road ahead. So what you seeing there is a meeting of the Lima Group people at the private residence of the president.”

“We can’t stay outside and say we should have been invited. Since when we measuring our stature and our station by who invite us to their house. We are not about that,” he said, noting that Trinidad and Tobago is about the principles as outlined in the United Nations Charter of non-interference in the internal affairs of countries and ensuring a peaceful global environment.

Dr. Keith Rowley at Thursday post-Cabinet media brief

Rowley pointed out that the leaders who will be meeting Trump on Friday are “the ones who have agreed to be a part of the Lima Group” whose sole objective he says “is regime change in Venezuela”.

Rowley said the four CARICOM leaders will decide for themselves how they will achieve the change they are looking for in Venezuela, but remained adamant that Trinidad and Tobago will “stand with the principles of the United Nations where we all have signed on and accept as the best way for peace and security, not only in our region, but the world”.

Rowley, who read a lengthy statement highlighting the Charter of the United Nations, said that he could not say whether the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat had been informed of the meeting with the selective regional leaders, telling reporters, however that the Secretariat “is constantly in communication with us.

“The last and the standing decision of CARICOM was that the team as put by the caucus to deal with the Venezuelan matter from a diplomatic standpoint …was the chairman, St. Kitts-Nevis, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. That is the standing CARICOM position”.

“So any action of and member of CARICOM acting in their own sovereignty that’s what it is”.

Haiti opposition plans month-end protests

Embattled Haitian President Jovenel Moise

Opposition political parties in Haiti are planning a major street protest in the capital Port au Prince for next week Friday March 29, in an attempt to force President Jovenel Moise out of office.

Moise sworn into office in February 2017, is facing intense criticism from opposition over his handling of domestic affairs and his alleged mismanagement of funds under the PetroCaribe oil agreement with Venezuela.

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Taiwan government says it cannot intervene in Grenada-EXIM battle

The Taiwan government says it cannot intervene in the matter between the island of Grenada and its state-owned Export Import bank of the Republic of China.

The Taipei Times on Thursday reported that the Director-General of the Department of Central and South American Affairs Wu Chin-mu said the Ministry was “in no position to intervene in the matter” because the loan in question was “commercial.”   Continue reading