Gonsalves: Regime change in Venezuela not good for region

Barbados Today:-Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines Dr Ralph Gonsalves has warned Caribbean Community (CARICOM) governments that regime change in Venezuela could have a negative impact on their countries.

His warning came ahead of the Organization of American States’ (OAS) three-day General Assembly in Cancun, Mexico where member countries Monday failed to reach agreement on a resolution criticizing the Nicolas Maduro administration which is under pressure to call elections.

In a June 16, 2017 letter, Gonsalves said “an activist quest for regime change” in Caracas was bound to destabilize CARICOM member states, particularly in the southern and eastern Caribbean.

“Venezuela has a population of 27 million possessed of abundant small arms, legal and illegal. A further exacerbation of the deepening political tensions by external intervention, in whatever guise, is likely to cause a flood of migrants, legal and illegal, onto our lands and seas,” he warned.

“Unwittingly, we may turn our peaceful geographic spaces into makeshift refugee settlements. Experience in today’s world teaches that this is not an alarmist scenario.”

In his correspondence, the Vincentian leader renewed his warning of “nefarious plans to sow deeds of division” among CARICOM countries, in light of what he said was a move by some to get adjustments made to the Declaration of Heads of State and Governments of CARICOM issued at the conclusion of their meeting on May 29.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has been pushing for Caracas to be suspended from the hemispheric body if it does not swiftly hold general elections amid the economic and political crisis in the South American nation.

But in his letter, Gonsalves, a staunch Maduro supporter, said CARICOM had ensured that the minority member states of the OAS who were “itching for intervention in Venezuela, in pursuance of ignoble objectives under the tattered cloak of a contrived nobility, were kept at bay” when the declaration was passed.

The outspoken prime minister said the language in the declaration reflected the “collective wisdom of the highest decision-making body” of the CARICOM, having taken into account all the relevant facts, law and opinions.

He said “there are those who argue that the language of our declaration ought to be refined here and there”, but contended said Venezuelans must be allowed to resolve their intense political conflicts or challenges without “unwarranted meddling”.

“We in CARICOM must stand resolutely and unequivocally behind our declaration,” Gonsalves urged in his three-page letter, as he called for CARICOM to remain united.

“It is inconceivable to me as a matter of good governance, for Ambassadors, for whatever reason, to seek an unpicking of our declaration so as to accommodate those who seek only a fig leaf quasi-juridical endorsement at the OAS for thinly disguised imperial, hegemonic or narrow self-serving purposes.

“As far as St Vincent and the Grenadines is concerned, only the Heads of State and Governments of CARICOM possess the authority to amend [or] rescind an authoritative decision of the Heads. Any usurpation of such authority would render CARICOM a laughing stock and make its Heads’ decisions subject to a wholly unacceptable ambassadorial reconstruction. St Vincent and the Grenadines sees no need to change our Declaration one iota,” insisted Gonsalves, adding that the circumstances in Venezuela now are the same as they were on May 29, 2017 when the CARICOM leaders met.

Barbados had joined 18 other countries, including The Bahamas, Jamaica, Guyana and St Lucia, in approving a meeting of foreign ministers to discuss the deteriorating political and economic situation in Venezuela.

Former prime minister of Jamaica, Bruce Golding, in Monday’s edition of the Jamaica Gleaner, chided Gonsalves and his Antigua and Barbuda counterpart Gaston Browne for their “foolish” argument about non-interference in the Venezuela situation.

“I say it’s foolishness because the same argument could have been advanced for apartheid South Africa – ‘Why are you interfering in our domestic affairs?’ And, we (Jamaica) jolly well had to interfere,” he told the newspaper.

“It can’t be support for Venezuela absolutely because they’ve been good to us. Venezuela has been good to us, but the government of Venezuela has proceeded in a direction that we cannot condone.”