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Kamina Johnson Smith urges OAS to stand with Venezuela

Published:Monday | June 20, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Senator Kamina Johnson Smith (seated), minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, is surrounded by the Jamaican delegation to the 46th Organization of American States (OAS) before her presentation at the general assembly. With the minister are (from left) Julia Hyatt, interim representative, Jamaica’s mission to the OAS, Washington; Angella Comfort, director, Caribbean and Americas Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; and T. Allan Marley, chargé d’affaires at the Jamaican mission to the Dominican Republic.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith has called for continued support from the Organization of American States (OAS) for Venezuela as the South American nation unravels under a deepening social, economic and political crisis.

Speaking at the 46th Regular Session of the General Assembly of the OAS in the Dominican Republic on Thursday, Johnson Smith stressed the importance of the organisation in promoting dialogue so as to ensure a peaceful resolution to the ensuing situation in the oil-rich nation.

"I wish to (join previous speakers) in underlining the importance of the OAS standing with the people of Venezuela during these challenging times, in promoting dialogue among all concerned parties, towards a peaceful resolution of the situation," said Johnson Smith.

"This should be guided at all times by the abiding principles of democracy, mutual respect, respect for the rule of law, and maintaining, as a primary focus, the well-being of the Venezuelan people," she said.

Her plea comes days after OAS head Luis Almagro, a former Uruguayan foreign minister, threatened to suspend Venezuela from the regional group for what he said was that country's violation of basic democratic principles.

In May, Almargo said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was close to becoming a "petty dictator", a statement which Johnson Smith said was unfortunate, while urging member states to adopt a greater role in order not to exacerbate the situation.


"Let us rely on the process of mediation already underway," she said, "and seek to play a constructive role going forward.

"If we are here speaking about institutional strengthening, then we must believe in our institutions and allow them to work, insisting on transparency and consultation in all relevant processes," she added.

According to Johnson Smith, Jamaica values the OAS as an important institution for the promotion of dialogue and cooperation within the four main pillars of human rights, democracy, governance, integral development, and multidimensional security.

Jamaica, she said, stands ready to participate in the implementation of the objectives as are demanded within the framework of the OAS, but pointed out that it cannot be business as usual as member states go about attaining the goals set out for sustainable development.

Venezuela is the region's largest producer of oil and a key partner in the commodity for Jamaica, through the PetroCaribe Agreement since 2005, which allows some Caribbean nations to purchase oil at market value and only pay a percentage of the cost up front, with the balance being paid over 25 years at one per cent interest.