POLITICAL Leader of the Lucian People’s Movement (LPM), Therold Prudent, has some words of advice for the government as it relates to their diplomatic posture with sister Caribbean states, Venezuela and Cuba. In short, Saint Lucia needs to tread lightly, he said, and not antagonize the United States in the process.
Speaking to The VOICE this week, Prudent said he was happy that the United States and Cuba have moved to normalize their relationship, ending a decades-long stalemate that created enmity and division.
“This is something that we need in our region because we need peace, tranquility and to know that the past wars of the Cold War era no longer exist here,” Prudent said.
Prudent said the LPM supports Venezuela in principle, adding that his was the only opposition grouping here to state that emphatically. He also renewed his political party’s caution to the Saint Lucia government.
“(They need) to take this approach to Venezuela in a measured way, to not be one-sided in its support for the Venezuelan government,” Prudent urged. “You have to make it clear that you’re supporting the people of Venezuela and not particularly a regime, which is what the Saint Lucia government seems to be doing at the moment. We must remember that Venezuelans are evenly split following the narrow margins after the last general elections.”
Following the death of President Hugo Chavez on March 5, 2013, Nicolas Maduro, who subsequently assumed the role of president, won the presidential elections held on April 14 that year. Maduro won 50.6% of the popular vote compared to his opponent and Governor of Miranda, Henrique CaprilesRadonski’s 49.1%. The slim 0.5% margin is now the closest presidential elections in the country since 1968.
During his presidential campaign, Radonski indicated that should he become president, ALBA and Petrocaribe would be scrapped and the money used instead to focus on the needs of the Venezuelan people. Prudent believes the Saint Lucia government needs to tread lightly in the diplomatic relations with Venezuela.
“So to discount the opposition in that country and the millions of people who are in opposition to the current administration, (it means) you are not doing justice because at the end of the day you will have a very difficult time dealing with Venezuela in the future should there be a change of regime over there,” Prudent told The VOICE.
Prudent accused the Saint Lucia government of having a “misguided approach” to its relationship with Venezuela in light of Petrocaribe and ALBA. He said that since Saint Lucia “brings nothing to the table” as an ALBA member, local authorities need to proceed with caution.
“The only government or party that is really making ALBA work for the moment is Venezuela,” Prudent said. “So we all are recipients of whatever goodies that the Venezuelan government is giving us at the moment. But what do we do tomorrow morning if there is a change in regime in Venezuela?”
Prudent also cautioned government against appearing antagonistic to the United States in relation to that nation’s not-too-friendly-at-times ties with Venezuela and Cuba. He said the steps taken by the United States against those countries – as well as Grenada — in the past were justified in protecting U.S. and other interests in the region.
In an article published last Saturday, Saint Lucia’s non-resident Ambassador to ALBA and Petrocaribe, Hippolyte E. Vitalis, said former American president Bill Clinton did not seem too interested in lifting the economic embargo that had been placed on Cuba over three decades before Clinton assumed office. Prudent said that since the former Soviet Union – a close ally of Cuba — did not officially dissolve until 1991, there would have been a transitory period that followed to iron out Cold War differences, of which Clinton played a role.
“There were lots of discussions going on with (Russian president) Boris Yeltsin as to how to safeguard all these nuclear weapons that were spread out throughout Europe,” Prudent explained. “So this was the priority, of course, for the American government. One has to understand, too, that during that period Bill Clinton and other politicians were concerned about their own elections and political interests back home.”
Prudent said the American debate regarding the tensions between the United States and Cuba would have matured over the years, culminating in President Barack Obama seizing on the right moment to extend the olive branch to Cuba. He said that while the United States has its own issues to deal with concerning the abridging of human rights, Venezuela and Cuba are also at fault.