PRIME Minister, Allen Chastanet says he is “extremely concerned” about the situation in Venezuela and its security implications for Saint Lucia.
The PM spoke to the local press yesterday, against the background of continuing reports that Trinidad and Tobago has for some time now been having to cope with an influx of Venezuelan nationals seeking refugee status.
“Trinidad, Colombia, the rest of Latin America, have for the past couple of years been feeling the impact – thousands of people, if not millions of people — are migrating from Venezuela as the situation continues to worsen.
“This becomes even a greater threat to the region and I am very concerned as to the impact here in Saint Lucia,” the prime minister stated.
Chastanet told reporters that from the time he became prime minister, he had indicated that security was the number-one issue pertaining to Venezuela.
“We are only six hours away by a fast boat from Venezuela, so we’re very vulnerable,” he explained.
PM Chastanet said he was concerned about the deteriorating economic situation and the volatile political situation in Venezuela.
He explained that “criminals appear to be doing what they want” and “people are using Venezuela as a transshipment point for drugs from Colombia into Venezuela and the Caribbean.”
“We have seen a huge influx of drugs and arms associated with Venezuela,” the prime minister said.
He added that security can undermine the hemisphere if the situation in Venezuela continues “unabated”.
Chastanet also lamented that “human rights is being politicized.”
He asserted that “to live in denial and pretend it is propaganda to suggest that there is a problem in Venezuela, is to ignore evidence to the contrary.”
The PM added, “People would not just be leaving that country if in fact it was just propaganda – there is a problem and we are hoping that the government in Venezuela would recognize that there is a problem; and part of that problem is when you go against your own rule of law and your own constitution.”
The prime minister however noted that Venezuela has been a long-time friend of Saint Lucia and the Caribbean and that issue was not in question.
“Their goodwill to us is not what is in question. What is in question is what they are currently doing – the impact it is having on their country and the security risk that they are creating for the rest of us,” he stated.
As the Prime Minister addressed the press on the Venezuela issue yesterday, the Venezuelan Embassy was at the very same time paying tribute to Saint Lucian Jean Baptiste Bideau – who fought for Venezuela’s independence — 201 years after his death.