Letters & Opinion

After the January 2020 US-Caribbean Pegasus Parley… Will CARICOM Unity Survive Jamaica?

Part 3: ‘Intervention by Invitation’

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

THE third question in my first article in this series was: What will be the positions of the seven nations that attended the talks with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jamaica last week – and others in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — should Washington request Caribbean support for military intervention in Venezuela?

That half of CARICOM’s 14 member-states were willing to engage in secret talks with the most hawkish US Secretary of State in recent times ought to have surprised no one, each representative arguing the meeting was too important an opportunity to pass.

Like after the Mar-a-Lago summit between President Donald Trump and five Caribbean leaders in March 2019, nobody said anything after Jamaica 2020 about what was discussed regarding Venezuela.

Pompeo’s prime dual objectives were to secure support for re-election of Luis Almagro as Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) and to assure listening Caribbean nations that they would have much to gain by supporting the US all the way on Venezuela.

Each minister who spoke after the meeting joined Pompeo to throw cold water on the claim they may have been helping divide CARICOM.

But while all spoke in glorious terms about the historicity of US-Caribbean ties, none even mentioned the joint July 2019 CARICOM statement opposing military intervention in Venezuela.

No US President is normally expected, in an election year, to risk having American bodies returning home in flag-draped coffins as a result of any direct US military intervention abroad. But with the impeachment pressure right up his spine, no one can bet that this US President won’t take that bet.

Some Pentagon hawks are suggesting Washington should back a mercenary invasion of Venezuela, which would significantly reduce possibilities of US casualties, while others are bent on using the controversial OAS Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) – resurrected by Almagro last year – to mechanize a formula for ‘intervention by invitation’.

Almagro’s re-election with CARICOM support would be key for the US at the OAS, where Caribbean votes number enough to worry Washington, especially as two CARICOM states (Antigua & Barbuda and St. Vincent & The Grenadines) have nominated a prominent Ecuadorean woman diplomat to oppose Almagro.

On the table at the Pegasus in Kingston would have been the genuine desires of the seven small island states and Washington’s ultimate big desires in Venezuela, with Pompeo holding the trump cards close to his chest, only smilingly reassuring the smaller players that whatever their requests, promises will be delivered before the November US presidential poll.

CARICOM jointly opposes external military intervention, but the 14 nations are divided on Venezuela at the OAS, with only three (Dominica, St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Surinam) voting last year to defend its sovereign right to choose its own destiny.

That division obvious from voting patterns, the US sprang its joint Caribbean plan into action to win votes for Almagro and support for intervention in Venezuela immediately after the Caribbean Group at the OAS voted en-masse to reject Almagro’s effort to impose an OAS electoral observer team on Dominica ahead of its December 6, 2019 elections.

Washington’s Plan B went into further action after the Caribbean Group later also successfully proposed a resolution condemning the tyranny of the minority against the indigenous majority in Bolivia following the US-backed coup d’etat inspired by OAS annulment of the October 2019 elections won by ousted and exiled President Evo Morales.

Washington’s pro-Almagro, anti-Venezuela onslaught on CARICOM nations will be overtly and covertly multi-pronged, keeping on board those that might have already given assurances, while targeting those that continue hedging their bets when and where their votes for Venezuela’s rights to be respected matter most.

Washington is quite aware of the pressure points hurting each CARICOM nation.

In Saint Lucia’s case, with one year approaching since Mar-a-Lago and general elections due next year, Prime Minister Allen Chastanet’s biggest related humbug is the US embargo the island faces under the Healy Act that’s outlawed American military assistance to countries accused of engaging in extrajudicial killings.

As a result of these sanctions, the largely US-trained and equipped Royal Saint Lucia Police Force (RSLPF) has for several years been excluded from US-funded training programs, arms and ammunition supplies have stopped and the force’s Marine Unit can no longer get American equipment support.

After Mar-a-Lago’s secret talks there were soft whispers that private sector interests in Florida might be able to provide the needed security help to Saint Lucia, but such hopes quickly faded under loud warnings of the dangers of facilitating breaking of a US federal embargo.

Besides, similar sanctions are also in place against US-ally Colombia and facilitating Saint Lucia would open-up a real dirty can of worms that Washington would also wish to avoid before the November poll.

The seven CARICOM nations’ representatives in Jamaica all had bees in their bonnets about US assistance to the Caribbean, very much like when their predecessors were promised economic and financial support for supporting the US invasion of Grenada in 1983.

Will they – and others still biting fingernails on the sidelines – risk opposing America over Venezuela if Washington decides to do another Grenada on Venezuela, this time with Latin American and Caribbean support?

CARICOM will have one more chance before the March OAS election for Secretary General – when they meet next month at Summit level — to again collectively voice opposition to military intervention of any kind in Venezuela.

But with Haiti now joining Saint Lucia in the Lima Group that essentially promotes and executes Washington’s policy objectives in the OAS and the US now able to count on at least half of CARICOM to support its Venezuela positions after Jamaica, there continues to be much hope that those with high hopes of support for Venezuela or opposition to military intervention are not now hoping against hope.

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