Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Editorial | Tell more about the Venezuela vote

Published:Friday | June 8, 2018 | 12:00 AM

Jamaica's foreign policy is becoming increasingly obfuscated in formulation and execution. There is no longer certitude of where Jamaica stands, or for what it stands. Our Government, it seems, is becoming skilled in the art of the wiggle - doing one thing and seeking to explain it as something else.

There was the case, for instance, of our abstention on the United Nations General Assembly vote critical of Donald Trump's decision to move America's embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Prime Minister Andrew Holness sought to explain the US move as a domestic decision, of little consequence to Jamaica. In that sense, he invoked the principle of non-interference in another country's internal affairs.

"Jamaica did not need to take a position on another country's position on where they would want to see as a capital in the world," Mr Holness said during a February visit to the island by the then US secretary of state, Rex Tillerson.

What Mr Holness didn't say is that Jerusalem is a disputed city, claimed by both Israel and Palestine as its capital, and whose status, the Security Council has held, should be resolved as part of broader negotiations for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By moving its embassy to Jerusalem, the Americans essentially foreclosed on negotiations about the city, and on their role as an honest broker in the conflict. Jamaica, by joining a handful of countries that abstained, not only gave succour to Mr Trump, but retreated from a long-standing and principled position on the conflict and made it harder for the parties to reach a settlement.




Then there was Jamaica's vote at the Organization of American States (OAS) last week, which could pave the way for Venezuela to be kicked out of the group, but which, clawing to a technicality, the junior foreign minister, Pearnel Charles Jr, said wasn't a vote against Venezuela.

Venezuela has profound political, economic and social problems, which are exacerbated by its poor and deteriorating relationship with the United States, while some other OAS members accuse the government of Nicol·s Maduro of human-rights violations. America has been leading a charge to suspend Venezuela from the organisation, from which Caracas has already served notice of withdrawal.

At last week's general assembly, Jamaica joined CARICOM partners, The Bahamas, Barbados and Guyana, among 19 countries - 11 abstained and four were against - in voting for a resolution that condemned last month's presidential election in which Mr Maduro retained power, and, among other things, urged member states to take measures they deemed appropriate at the political, economic and financial level to help to restore "democratic order" in Venezuela. Critically, too, it paved the way for future action when a two-thirds majority would be required to suspend Caracas.

Politically, this resolution places Venezuela at the brink, although Jamaica makes much of its declared position "that any move to suspend Venezuela would at this stage be premature" and its urging of renewed dialogue with Caracas.

Potentially, the resolution lays the basis for action beyond anything contemplated by Jamaica, especially given the quixotic leadership in the hemisphere's most powerful country. The call for restoration of democratic order may well be interpreted by some as an invitation to regime change.

If our Government believes that it has taken the right action, it should say so boldly and explain, with clarity, the full implications of its action.