Sat | Jul 20, 2019

CARICOM urges patience, dialogue in Venezuela crisis

Published:Monday | July 8, 2019 | 12:10 AM
People watch a military parade marking Independence Day in Caracas, Venezuela, last Friday. The South American country is marking 208 years of their declaration of independence from Spain.
People watch a military parade marking Independence Day in Caracas, Venezuela, last Friday. The South American country is marking 208 years of their declaration of independence from Spain.

CASTRIES, St Lucia (CMC):

Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have reiterated their position of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.

Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) last Thursday that Venezuela “remains a major issue for CARICOM”.

He said that the CARICOM Heads of Government summit had been particularly useful “because our engagement has taken us to talking with the Norwegians, who are providing facilitation to the Venezuelans, which is well within our own understanding that this issue is one for the Venezuelans to work out”.

Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg attended the two-day summit in St Lucia, and Rowley said the “Norwegians have agreed to our approach that there has to be dialogue and encouraging that dialogue is where we are at.

“Most importantly, the secretary general of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, came here [and] spent some good time with us. He is engaged in the issue because again, like CARICOM, the United Nations acknowledges the existing government in Venezuela as the government of Venezuela, and we have to deal with them,” Rowley added.

“But by the same token, everybody wants to see some resolution to the internal political challenges of the Venezuelans. The secretary general has made his comments known to the world here at this meeting. He has called on the Venezuelans to act in a certain way, but at the end of the day, patience and dialogue will get us there,” Rowley said.

The crisis in the South American country has been exacerbated by the decision of Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaido to declare himself interim president. Guaido has received the support and backing of the United States and several other Western countries, while President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term earlier this year, has the backing of China, Russia, and Cuba, among others.

St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr Timothy Harris, who is leading a three-member CARICOM prime ministerial team, said CARICOM must remain an honest broker in the South American country.

“Our engagement in the attempts at resolving the situation in Venezuela has clearly demonstrated that there is a role for us to play.

“It also is now quite clear that our principled stance enunciated from the outset and our approach are now being accepted by other parties,” he told his regional colleagues last week.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the summit last Friday, CARICOM leaders reiterated the importance of resolving the crisis peacefully through dialogue between the parties. They agreed that mediation-related activities would be continued to be pursued by the prime ministers (St Kitts and Nevis, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago) designated by the conference at its 30th Inter-sessional Meeting in February 2019.