Letters & Opinion

Why PM Chastanet Is Right about Venezuela

By George Joseph
Image of Prime Minister Allen Chastanet

Castries South MP, Dr. Ernest Hilaire, was speaking out of both sides of his mouth at Tuesday’s House Sitting, as he lambasted the Government for opening the border to Chinese citizens while placing further immigration restrictions upon Venezuelans.

He asked the question: “What is motivating our foreign policy stance in relation to Venezuela?” as if completely oblivious to the geopolitical and economic situation in that country and failing to realise why any rational country would take a similar stance to the one our government has taken.

The most recent news coming out of Venezuela is President Maduro’s announcement that he is going to slash three zeroes from the Bolívar currency in an attempt to stabilise/revive his country’s failing/failed economy.

On Wednesday, just a day after our House Sitting, Maduro said that “The monetary reconversion will start on Aug. 20,” as reported by Reuters, which went on to describe Maduro in his televised broadcast as “showing new bills that are to be released [in Venezuela] next month.”

The conservative American news site, the Daily Caller, reported, just a day before our House Sitting, that “The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projected a dire economic outlook for Venezuela in a report Monday, which also stated the country’s real gross domestic product (GDP) will fall 18 percent in 2018, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit declines in real GDP.”

Also reported by the Daily Caller is Venezuela’s current minimum wage, which sits at $1 US Dollar a month, as the price of coffee there according to a Bloomberg report, has risen to 2 million Bolivars.

“Just days after the International Monetary Fund issued an eye-catching forecast — inflation of 1,000,000 percent in Venezuela this year . . . the price of a cup of coffee measured in Bloomberg’s Cafe Con Leche Index soared to 2,000,000 bolivars this week from 1,400,000 bolivars the week before.” [Bloomberg]

Yes, you read it right. No, I’m not referring to the 2, 000, 000 Bolivar price of coffee; but to the IMF’s 1, 000, 000 percent inflation forecast for Venezuela this year.

Even in the face of all of these facts, the question was asked, why would Saint Lucia take a strong Immigration stance against Venezuela, given that they have always been our friends.

Of course, based on Dr. Hilaire’s little anecdote, we now know that Venezuela’s President at the time did provide us with our first state vehicle:

“I read somewhere in the archives that the first state car given to St. Lucia to our then Premier John Compton was actually a used car given by the Venezuelan President to St. Lucia.” Hilaire said; and what was his justification for advising the Government to commit economic and geopolitical suicide? That Venezuela gave us a used car over 40 years ago.

Of course, the Daily Caller is a conservative news site and this could in fact be some American right wing conspiracy. Let’s see what the more liberal rags have to say about Venezuela’s economic plight.

This New York Times headline reads: Venezuela Inflation Could Reach One Million Percent by Year’s End. The Washington Post, another left leaning American rag, had similar headlines this week. This one simply reads: Facing Venezuela’s 1,000,000 percent inflation, Maduro pushes a quack remedy.

The “quack remedy” the headline references, is the same one reported by Reuters; that is, Maduro’s plan to slash three zeroes from the Bolivar.

However, Socialist and Communist fan boys, are still insistent that this whole economic crisis in Venezuela, was concocted by the U.S. government and spies from within Maduro’s Republic; a conclusion which ignores the entire history of Communism, which is mired in economic failure, from the famines in Stalin’s USSR, to the present situation we see today with Venezuela.

Unfortunately, Dr. Hilaire’s tune in the House on Tuesday, didn’t sound so different from those Communist fan boys referenced above, as he stated that we have heard “a lot in the last few months about Venezuela: we’ve heard a lot [from] the United States and other countries about Venezuela”; a clear hint that he doubts the validity of the reports coming out of practically every news source about Venezuela.

But for anyone who may be oblivious to just how dire the situation has gotten in that country, and just how dangerous it would be for a tiny country like ours to allow their nationals (in spite of our friendship) to come in without VISA’s, these reports may help shed some light on that front.

This Daily Mail report in February of this year, chronicled how thousands of starving Venezuelans have been fleeing the country and the subsequent response of their South American neighbours.

When “Thousands of desperate Venezuelans [were] trying to enter Colombia in a bid to escape the hunger and soaring crime rate caused by the spiralling economic crisis”; Columbia responded “along with its neighbour Brazil”, by sending “extra soldiers to patrol their porous border with the country after officially taking in more than half a million migrants over the last six months of 2017.”

So, Colombia and Brazil, two countries from the same region as Venezuela; two countries far larger and far more capable of dealing with an immigration crisis out of Venezuela, ultimately chose to deal with it, not by simply requiring VISA’s from immigrants, but by sending “extra soldiers” to patrol their borders.

I suppose, due to our own “historical friendship” with Venezuela, as was so succinctly put in the House on Tuesday, we ought to step up in Colombia’s place (horrible friends of Venezuela that they are) and take in “more than half a million migrants” over the next six months.

St. Lucia’s total population of course isn’t even half of half a million and we have enough of our own problems with poverty and unemployment and crime to deal with, without superimposing those of Venezuela onto them.

I don’t think anyone isn’t empathetic or sympathetic of Venezuela’s plight, but the risk of being overwhelmed by immigrants out of that country, both on an economic and legal scale is too great for our country to chance. Anyone who is rational would understand the Government’s position on Venezuela.

Dr. Hilaire’s double speak on Tuesday was clear for all to see. On one side of his mouth he preached border security when it came to the Chinese, but ignored all of the concerns he brought up about them when it came to the Venezuelans, who truth be told, are a much greater risk to our national security.

With that in mind, is it any wonder that Guy facetiously asked whether there was some kind of vested interest in Venezuelan arms coming in? Can we deny that the protection of our borders has been poor over the past several years?

Let’s face it the blind support of the St Lucia Labour Party for the Socialist republic at the expense of our own security is mind boggling.

Ultimately, the Prime Minister was right when he said that “We have seen a growing situation in which Venezuelans have been migrating from Venezuela and many of those Venezuelans who have been leaving Venezuela have been either going and getting drugs or arms in order to bring with them when they leave, because they have no cash” and that “St Lucia does not have the resources, in order to deal with that situation, once they arrive in St. Lucia.”

We cannot afford not to have VISA restrictions on Venezuelans, when even their own neighbours are sending in the army to restrict migration from there. Dr. Hilaire may live in a fantasy world where Communist policies work and are absent of any dire consequences, but those of us, with our feet firmly planted on the ground of reality, know that to allow Venezuelans access to this country without VISA requirements, would be the equivalent of committing suicide on a national scale.

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