THE Caribbean Community (CARICOM), on the 27th of last month issued a statement on the escalation of tensions in Venezuela saying that the people of Venezuela must be allowed to decide their own future in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter – non-intervention, non-interference, prohibition of the threat or use of force, respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy.
The Community also advocated that for this objective to be attained, there has to be a meaningful and internal dialogue between the contending parties. This dialogue must determine how best the crisis can be resolved within the confines of the constitution and the rule of law, whether by referendum, elections or any other agreed mechanism. Nothing short of this, noted the Community, will lead to the quelling of this crisis or provide the relief that all Venezuelans desire.
Last Friday’s meeting between American President Donald Trump and prime ministers of Saint Lucia, Jamaica and the Bahamas and the presidents of Haiti and the Dominican Republic does not show the Community as speaking with one voice on the Venezuelan issue. For instance, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves said the meeting with the five prime ministers and the president was “troubling”. He said CARICOM was not truly represented at that meeting since Dr Timothy Harris, Prime Minister of Saint Kitts and Nevis and CARICOM’ current chairman was not present. Absent at that meeting as well, as noted by Gonsalves were members of CARICOM’s advisory committee, who includes himself, Mia Mottley Prime Minister of Barbados and Dr. Keith Rowley, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.
Gonsalves said that those persons not in attendance at the meeting with Trump cuts across agreed mechanisms CARICOM has put in place regarding the Venezuelan crisis.
“We in CARICOM have to be very alive to the mischief that some persons may be up to, to seek to divide us in a manner which we ought not to be divided and therefore reduce the extent of our work,” warned Gonsalves.
Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister Gaston Brown called the Caribbean leaders who attended the meeting with Trump as “weak-minded”.
“I feel embarrassed for those weak-minded leaders who allowed themselves to be used by carrying out the agenda of others,” Browne wrote on his Facebook page.
“CARICOM must continue its sustaining position by standing on principle without inducements or fear of reprisals,” Browne stated.
Whether CARICOM will make a big issue of last Friday’s meeting between Trump and the five Caribbean leaders are not known however to the five Caribbean leaders, there is hope for the region in terms of better relations with the USA.
“The message from this meeting was that the United States wants to encourage and promote a stronger relationship with the region,” Jamaica’s,’ Prime Minister Holness said. “We’re very happy with that message. We feel that it’s a message that is long in coming. … We’re satisfied that there will be instrumental action with that message,” he added.
To Saint Lucia’s Allen Chastanet, this is the beginning of a much broader initiative by America to the Caribbean. “This meeting was really about President Trump’s vision to re-initiate dialogue with the Caribbean,” Chastanet said. But if the meeting was to re-initiate dialogue with the Caribbean why weren’t the current Chairman of CARICOM, its advisory committee and other components invited. According to an article in the Miami Herald newspaper published last Friday Trinidad and Tobago should have been at that meeting.
“Given Trinidad’s proximity and historic connection to Venezuela, its acceptance of 40,000 Venezuelan refugees, as well as its cross-border cooperation in oil and gas exploration for regional energy security, its inclusion at such a meeting would seem logical,” noted the paper quoting Anthony Bryan, a Caribbean energy expert. The question being asked now is whether last Friday’s meeting could dismantle regional unity further seeing that some members of CARICOM are not on the same page with some of the actions taken by America to date as it continues to pressure the Maduro government into calling fresh elections.