Letters & Opinion

Venezuela: Still Overlooked and Underappreciated in CARICOM!

By Earl Bousquet

The Venezuelan Caribbean reality is often overlooked and under-appreciated by Caribbean historians and scholars documenting the real story of an advanced civilized region interwoven and interlinked by history, only divided after the arrival of Christopher Columbus and the subsequent native genocide and colonial conquest that followed.

All of 530 years after the Europeans arrived, citizens and students in new nations colonized by Britain, France and Holland (Netherlands) for centuries, now gathered within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), still see and treat Venezuela as a ‘Latin American’ country, if only because of the Spanish language and the fact that the link between Venezuela and its Eastern Caribbean neighbors has never been taught in Caribbean or Latin American history books.

Caribbean citizens still largely don’t know the history of the roles played by countless Antillean fighters who braved the Caribbean Sea, leaving the islands that now form the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) through to Trinidad & Tobago and from there across the Gulf of Paria to neighboring Venezuela to partake in the fight for its independence led by Simon Bolivar.

And Saint Lucians still largely don’t know that among the fighters for Venezuela’s independence on July 5, 1811 was Saint Lucian shipwright and navigator Jean Baptiste Bideau, who captained one of Bolivar’s ships and is recorded as having saved the wounded leader’s life on a beach by helping him escape approaching Spanish soldiers with blood in their eyes.

After independence was won, Bideau became the Governor of Eastern Venezuela and his remains were removed from the grave at ‘Casa Fuerte’ in Barcelona, to the National Heroes’ circle, 200 years after he and others died defending the independence they fought so bravely for, against all odds.

Bideau has national-hero statue status in Venezuela and although a statue of him stands next to one of Bolivar in ‘Bideau Park’ in Castries and despite being born in Desruisseaux, Micoud, nothing’s ever been taught in the island’s schools or history books about this great Saint Lucian, Caribbean and Venezuelan hero.

Same with Bolivar’s connections with liberation struggles in Cuba and Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the interconnections between the leadership provided to Caribbean struggles back then by Bolivar and Cuba’s Jose Marti and the way those historical connections have never been broken — only iced by overlapping subsequent developments, but never buried.

Those firm Venezuela-Eastern Caribbean ties would again be firmly re-established after Hugo Chavez’s arrival and his leadership of the Bolivarian Socialist Revolution that saw establishment of entities like the PetroCaribe Initiative that helped lower fuel and energy costs for 12 of 14 CARICOM nations.

Also given life while Chavez and Castro lived was the ALBA-TCP entity, involving several Latin American and Caribbean nations across ideological lines, opening the way for a Caribbean Economic Zone no longer largely dependent on the US for its fuel and energy needs.

Since Chavez, Venezuela has come to the emergency assistance of every CARICOM nation affected by annual hurricanes and other natural disasters, joining Cuba to provide flights and supplies, nurses and doctors without exception.

Between Venezuela and Cuba, under the leadership of Chavez and Castro, the ‘Operation Milagro’ eye care program cared for millions of Caribbean and Latin American citizens at home and in Havana.

The two countries and leaders also played key roles in giving birth to TeleSUR, the reliable regional news agency that’s for the past 15 years painfully but fearlessly reflected the true and unvarnished realities of Latin America and the Caribbean from a continental perspective and with a genuine hemispheric narrative.

Since Chavez’s death, President Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) have not only continued to win democratic nations elections (23 out of 25 in the last 20 years) but also continued to assist its Caribbean neighbors as much as possible, until US sanctions and other forms of external intervention resulted in almost crippling the PetroCaribe, ALBA-TCP and other bilateral and multilateral arrangements and agreements that helped meet the energy and economic needs of CARICOM.

The Trump Administration’s hundreds of punishing sanctions against Venezuela and Cuba have been maintained by Biden — but not surprisingly, since, as Vice President to Barack Obama, Biden failed to convince CARICOM leaders, summoned to Washington) to jettison the PetroCaribe Agreement in exchange for promises for better deals from American companies for natural gas.

From February 3 to 5 (starting today) Venezuelan and Caribbean intellectuals and artistes, journalists, cultural and social activists will join historians from across the wider Caribbean and South America to look back and ahead, reflect and project, regarding the Chavez legacy in the context of the Bolivarian experience in changed and changing times.

It’s the first such exchange since COVID and the small and developing nations’ representatives will discuss from the standpoint of what can be done to improve the cooperation and knowledge-sharing about each other’s common struggles in a region that was Always One before the Europeans arrived.

The Caracas meeting will also assist in coming to grips with the continuing onslaughts against Venezuela by the mainstream American and international media with propaganda that cannot erase truth.

While Cuba and Venezuela use the Abdala vaccine to treat millions, BIG Pharma and governments in the world’s richest countries collude to prevent the Cuban vaccines from being shared globally, since Havana is not in the global rat-race of producing Vaccines for Profit.

But what we hear, see and read are only negative news items about the hardships created by sanctions against the two nations, without acknowledging they’re caused by the punitive American and European sanctions.

It’s all part and parcel of the ongoing cyclical circle of the resistance of the Caribbean and Latin America to imposition of a northern neighbor that sees the region as being ion the exclusive preserve of ‘America’s Backyard’.

The thing is: Washington never really lets-up on or embraces regimes that promote change it does not endorse in ‘America’s Backyard’ – and That’s the Bottom Line!

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