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Jamaican mission to Venezuela managing crisis adequately- Johnson Smith

Published:Wednesday | June 1, 2016 | 12:00 AMAndre Poyser
Johnson Smith

Even as the political and economic crisis plaguing Venezuela continues to escalate, Minister of Foreign Affairs Kamina Johnson Smith has been guarded in indicating whether or not Jamaica will pull its diplomatic mission from the Latin American country should the crisis deepen.

"Like the rest of the international community, the Government of Jamaica

maintains the hope that effective solutions will be found to the current situation in Venezuela," she said in a response to questions from The Gleaner.

While Prime Minister Andrew Holness has signalled the intention of the Government to stand in solidarity with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, concerns about the effective and safe operation of the Jamaican Embassy in Caracas have been raised.

 

Concerns

 

Responding to these concerns, Johnson Smith affirmed that the mission has continued to perform its diplomatic functions even in the difficult environment. She did not provide details on how the embassy has been affected by the crisis.

"The embassy is managing the circumstances adequately," she said in her response.

The work of other embassies in Venezuela have been severely affected by the food shortages and constant electricity blackouts which have characterised this period of economic and political turmoil facing the country. The US embassy in Caracas suspended the issuing of visas earlier this month.

German airline Lufthansa over the weekend announced that it was suspending flights to the socialist country, citing problems of not being able to convert local currency to US dollars and a slump in demand for flights as air fares become out of reach for citizens. Other airlines are expected to suspend service to Caracas.

Media reports have chronicled a gradual shutdown of essential government services and the extreme rationing of food, water and electricity. Mass protests by citizens have also resulted in violent incidences.

During his visit to Jamaica last week, Maduro and Prime Minister Holness conducted talks on agreements to explore mechanisms to increase trade, utilising where possible the mechanisms available under PetroCaribe.

According to Johnson Smith, those talks did not consider direct financial assistance from Jamaica to Venezuela.

"We anticipate that members of the international community, including beneficiaries of PetroCaribe arrangements will all respond differently. The governments of Jamaica and Venezuela are exploring trade mechanisms and other paths of cooperation," she said.

andre.poyser@gleanerjm.com