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CARICOM foreign ministers hail meeting with Venezuela's Guaido as a significant step to peaceful resolution to crisis

Published:Sunday | March 24, 2019 | 12:00 AM
Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith (centre) among CARICOM counterparts who met with Venezuela's Opposition Leader Juan Guaido yesterday.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC –Caribbean Community (CARICOM) foreign ministers say a meeting yesterday with Venezuelan Opposition Leader Juan Guaidó is a significant step to facilitating a “peaceful resolution” to the political and economic crisis in the South American country.

A brief statement issued by the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat today, noted that Guaidó had joined the discussions “via video conference” and that regional foreign ministers had met with his delegation in Bridgetown.

“In accordance with the decision of CARICOM Heads of Government to provide good offices in facilitating a peaceful resolution to the Venezuela crisis through a meaningful internal process, a delegation of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers met with Mr. Guaido and a delegation of his representatives in Bridgetown, Barbados, on 23 March 2019. Mr. Guaidó joined the discussion via video conference,” the statement noted.

CARICOM leaders at their inter-sessional summit in St Kitts-Nevis last month had reiterated their position of non-interference in the internal affairs of Venezuela and said they were prepared to mediate in the process to bring about a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

Guaidó, who is backed by the United States, Canada and some other Western countries, is seeking to unseat President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office for a second consecutive term in January.

Maduro has the backing of Russia, China and Cuba among other countries.

The statement said that CARICOM foreign ministers “acknowledged the meeting as a significant initial step in a series of potential engagements that should unfold by agreed mechanisms, within the framework of the Constitution of Venezuela and the rule of law".

The statement further said: “The meeting provided a greater understanding of Mr. Guaido’s views and perspectives on how to move forward in the search for peaceful solutions, as well as his willingness to take part in meaningful discussions. The participants accepted the benefit of further engagement.”

Guaidó later said on his Twitter page that the talks were mainly an opportunity for him “to express his views on the situation in Venezuela and to discuss the way forward”.

He also reiterated the “very strong relationship” between Caracas and the 15-member CARICOM group.

The statement by CARICOM today noted that the “participants expressed deep appreciation to Canada for facilitating the convening of the meeting”.

Canadian High Commissioner to Barbados, Marie Legault, who has a long career in international diplomacy, was present at the talks amid reports that she did so as a member of the Lima Group that has opposed President Maduro’s second term as president and voted on a resolution at the Organisation of American States (OAS) to that effect in January.

At least four Caribbean countries, St Lucia, Bahamas, Jamaica and Haiti sided with the Lima Group and last Friday, met with United States President Donald Trump, to further discuss the Venezuelan situation at his private residence.

Jamaica’s Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister Kamina Johnson Smith, her Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Dennis Moses, as well as the CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, and St Kitts-Nevis Foreign Affairs Minister Mark Brantley, attended the talks.

St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister Dr. Timothy Harris is the current chairman of the 15-member regional integration grouping.

Informed sources told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that a similar meeting is being planned with Maduro and his delegation and that the talks could take place as early as this week. No venue has yet been given for that round of discussions.

The statement today by CARICOM made no mention of any planned meeting with Maduro’s delegation.