Wed | Feb 26, 2020

Gov’t under fire for shuttering Venezuela embassy

Published:Thursday | March 21, 2019 | 12:24 AMPaul Clarke/Gleaner Writer
Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna.

The Jamaican Government’s decision to temporarily close its embassy in Caracas has drawn the ire of the Opposition, with its spokesperson, Lisa Hanna, accusing the Government of “seeking to break diplomatic relations with Venezuela”.

The embassy closure will take effect on April 1.

Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said yesterday that her ministry had been monitoring circumstances related to the operations of the embassy, both in the wider context of our diplomatic representation review, as well as in the particular circumstances of the mission in Caracas.

She said that the embassy had been experiencing significant challenges in the operations for some time, and temporary closure was now the practical solution.

“Over the past two years, the ministry has been reviewing its resident diplomatic presence overseas due to the ever-changing global environment and the emergence of new patterns of trade and investment as well as technical and economic cooperation,” Johnson Smith said.

“Later this year, there will be further announcements regarding Jamaica’s diplomatic representation overseas, including openings where we believe our presence could be mutually beneficial to us and our host country,” she added.

She further advised that during the period of closure of the embassy in Caracas, the management of Jamaica’s relations with Venezuela would be undertaken from the ministry’s headquarters in Kingston.

Hanna described the Government’s buy-back of Venezuela’s 49 per cent stake in Petrojam as expropriation and labelled the Holness administration’s posture as undiplomatic and hostile.

“The Opposition notes the minister’s statement and we are watching how these events will unfold, especially as it relates to the coming meeting that the prime minister will have with United States President Donald Trump and the other countries who voted for the resolution not to recognise the Nicolás Maduro administration.

Hanna said that her checks revealed that Jamaica was the only Caribbean nation that shuttered its embassy in Caracas, notwithstanding the minister’s reason given for the closure.

“This strikes me as a little odd, and it is going to make our negotiations difficult going forward, because one of the things that was made clear by the minister previously is that they are negotiating with Venezuela, even though they had laid legislation in Parliament to expropriate the shares. So what we are getting from this Government is a very unfortunate approach in how they are managing some of our diplomatic relations with countries and we are unclear about our foreign policy,” Hanna said.