Letters & Opinion

Maduro waves election victory, leaving ‘Lima Group’ with nothing to show!

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Chronicles Of A Chronic Caribbean Chronicler By Earl Bousquet

Saint Lucia, Guyana and Haiti on Monday joined the Dominican Republic as the only Caribbean members of the anti-Venezuela ‘Lima Group’ at the Organization of American States (OAS) — the USA and Canada, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay and Peru — to reject the results of Sunday’s Venezuela National Assembly elections.

No plausible reasons were offered, other than the usual outright collective rejection of President Nicolas Maduro and his ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) – nothing new, as Washington and Toronto had, long before Election Day, joined London to condemn the poll.

What’s somewhat strange is that that this failed hostile US policy that has taken tens of thousands of lives and affected tens of millions, continues to be supported by some CARICOM member-states — even during the current Washington transition, despite outgoing President Trump having lost the election — and before the incoming Biden-Harris administration even outlines it’s Venezuela or Caribbean policy.

As if to give the departing US president a parting gift of fulsome praise while mourning the loss of his failed policy, the four Caribbean nations joined Washington and Toronto to again spit on the latest Venezuela election results.

But could they have been spitting in the sky?

Only Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, St. Vincent & The Grenadines and Surinam have dared to publicly oppose Washington’s naked external interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela at the OAS, while Barbados, Bahamas, Belize, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Kitts & Nevis and Trinidad & Tobago maintained throughout 2020 the usual conga-line approach of engaging in safe social and verbal distancing from Venezuela votes at the Washington institution, by absence or abstention.

With four against, four for and six neither for nor against, CARICOM remains divided down-the-middle in what’s become a regional political 4X4 relay on Venezuela, but with nothing to show for dumping a fellow Caribbean nation that has been nothing but good to them all – bar none, especially Haiti.

Venezuela’s Petro Caribe initiative saw Caracas provide hundreds of millions of American dollars’ worth of fuel and petroleum products on profitable long-term, low-interest rates, to reduce their energy bills; the ALBA-TCP Alliance doled out tens of millions more in direct social and economic assistance to CARICOM states in identified areas of need; and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) proved to be a formidable bastion of regional multinational economic, political and social thought and action.

Venezuela has been nothing but good to Saint Lucia since 2000, especially vis-à-vis the USA, when it comes to practical delivery of benefits that directly touch people.

The Caribbean island that gave birth to Venezuela’s National Independence Hero and former Governor of Eastern Venezuela, Jean Baptiste Bideau — also a naval captain and confidante of Simon Bolivar who once saved Bolivar’s life and died fighting in defense of Venezuela’s sovereignty against Spanish invaders — benefitted greatly from Venezuela under both Presidents Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro between 2000 and 2016.

More than US $10 Million was directly donated to Saint Lucia through the ALBA Bank for funding social programs between 2011 and 2016, with thousands of free laptop computers for students and teachers and dozens of scholarships for local students as the island started the transition to computerization of education.

Venezuela also donated and constructed three brand new bridges (in Dennery and Vieux Fort) and enlarged the major Sans Souci Bridge in Castries, while also assuring constant support for the Saint Lucia School of Music – and much more…

All was well between Castries and Caracas until regime change visited Castries and Washington, respectively, in 2016 — and especially after President Trump entered the White House in January 2017.

Saint Lucia has since 2016 incrementally increased its isolation of and political distancing from Venezuela, not accepting the credentials of the new ambassador, literally hand-cuffing its Embassy’s ability to operate here and eventually causing Caracas to close shop in Saint Lucia under the collective local effects of the host government’s unwillingness to dance and the deadly US sanctions.

Then, earlier this year, Saint Lucia quietly pulled-out of the ALBA group.

Monday’s statement is the most direct spit-in-the-face for Venezuela from the Caribbean member-states involved that benefitted greatly from Caracas’ regional largesse when times were better.

They have decided to stick to President Trump’s line of march, even in the face of this being his last stand as US Commander-in-Chief.

But Washington’s political allies in Venezuela having boycotted the poll long before a date was even set, Sunday’s election turned out to be much more participatory than the US presidential poll on November 3: more than14,000 candidates registered to run for 277 contested seats, representing 107 political parties – 98 opposing and only nine supporting Maduro.

With 83% counted electronically shortly after polls closed on Sunday night, the PSUV-led Grand Patriotic Alliance had officially won 67% — enough to guarantee a sizeable majority in the National Assembly.

The US has tried unsuccessfully to use the refugee crisis that its sanctions manufactured to drive a wedge between Venezuela and its neighboring CARICOM friends, especially Trinidad & Tobago.

The Trump White House, in less than three years,  imposed over 150 sanctions to force Venezuela into political submission through everything from starvation to denial of medical supplies – and long before COVID-19 — while at the same time dividing CARICOM through selective invitations to private presidential summits and parleys, in exchange for security and investment promises that have yet again failed to bear anything but bitter lemons.

With President Trump still in office until January 20, Venezuela cannot say, even think, that its election victory has pulled it out of the woods.

But while still under the US radar, Maduro has Sunday’s impressive widely-observed election results to wave (which cannot be erased by mere expected condemnation), while the CARICOM nations that condemned it still have absolutely nothing to show.

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