By J C Suresh
TORONTO (IDN) – With the Venezuelan crisis worsening on its doorsteps, the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has been at pains to prevent the situation in the Bolivarian Republic taking a sharp turn for the worst.
It has censured the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) Luis Leonardo Almagro on his “unilateral” stance in accepting Juan Guaido as interim president of Venezuela, according to a report by the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC).
The OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 states, as well as to the European Union (EU).
In a letter to Almagro, CARICOM Chairman, the Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St Kitts Nevis said the CARICOM Heads of Government had mandated him to express the regional body’s “disapproval and grave concern with regard to the position that you, in your capacity as Secretary General, have adopted, by recognising the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido as interim president of (Venezuela).”
The CARICOM Chairman added: “This action on your part, without the authority of the member states of the organisation, is considered inappropriate.”
In the letter dated January 31, Harris said the decision to send the sternly-worded later was taken at an emergency CARICOM Heads of Government meeting on January 24 that had been convened to discuss the unfolding political crisis in Venezuela.
“The Heads of Government consider it imperative that you publicly clarify that you did not speak on behalf of all member states. We are aware this is not the only occasion on which you have made public utterances in the name of the (OAS) without authority. This type of unilateral action by a head of an international organisation, whose membership comprises sovereign states, is a clear departure from normal practice and cause for great concern,” the CARICOM chairman said.
The stance taken by CARICOM, followed a statement made by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Keith Rowley, who in the wake of a meeting of the CARICOM delegation with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, defended CARICOM’s decision not to seek the intervention of the OAS in the matter.
He accused the OAS Secretary General Almagro of “taking on personally the presidency of Venezuela and … advocating, virtually an overthrow of the Venezuelan government”.
“Trinidad and Tobago as a country under the rule of law and a long standing member of the OAS and knowing the OAS Charter had objected to that because we always knew that if the situation worsened, or even before it worsened that the OAS was our first port of call to have this matter dealt with through dialogue and negotiations,” Rowley said.
“Now that this new parallel government was declared in Venezuela, once again without reference to us here as members of the OAS, the Secretary General went ahead and recognised the new interim president.
“Those developments had the effect of deeming the OAS unsuitable to be an honest broker in a situation where we believe dialogue and negotiation is what is required to bring stability to the Venezuelan situation,” Rowley told reporters.
On January 29, the President of the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly, María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, received CARICOM leaders including Prime Minister Harris of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Prime Minister Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Labour, Peter David, and the Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Irwin LaRocque.
According to a read-out, the CARICOM leaders briefed the UNGA President about the situation in Venezuela and its implications for the region. They reiterated their full support for a peaceful solution based on political dialogue and reaffirmed their commitment to the United Nations Charter, emphasizing “the need to preserve Latin-American and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace”.
The President of the General Assembly commended CARICOM for their key role in the promotion of peace in the region and also reiterated her call for urgent political dialogue focused on the need for peace and stability. She acknowledged the mediation-offers by different countries to encourage meaningful national dialogue involving all relevant stakeholders in Venezuela as the most effective way to restore the calm as well as the cooperation needed for the country to work for its people.
“A peaceful solution in a manner that is consistent with Venezuela’s Constitution and international law is the only way to ensure the well-being of all Venezuelans,” Espinosa said.
The CARICOM delegation also met with the Permanent Representatives to the United Nations of Nicaragua, Australia, Uruguay, Brazil and South Africa, the non-permanent Security Council member for 2019-2020.
In a statement, the Caribbean Community Prime Ministers expressed their “strong disquiet” over the escalation of the situation in Venezuela and the adverse implications for the people of Venezuela and for the immediate region. The delegation reaffirmed the guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention. They called on states to refrain from the threat or the use of force, and for respect for sovereignty and adherence to the rule of law.
According to the statement, “The Prime Ministers also underlined that it is never too late for dialogue and posited that there was clearly an urgent need for the contending parties in Venezuela to come together to find a peaceful solution. The Caribbean Community restated its willingness to provide its good offices and to work with like-minded countries to this end. In this regard it welcomed the initiative of Mexico and Uruguay seeking to facilitate a dialogue among the parties.”
Further: “The delegation was satisfied that the mission had attained its objectives. The United Nations Secretary-General had expressed his willingness to offer his good offices, circumstances permitting. It had also sensitised its interlocutors on the concerns and views of the Community to which there were positive responses.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 11 February 2019]
Photo: Caribbean Leaders with the UNGA President María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés (centre). Credit: Twitter @UN_PGA
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