BASSETERRE - In a short statement given at the end of the 30th inter-sessional meeting of CARICOM heads of government, the CARICOM Secretariat spoke on the ongoing political tensions in Venezuela and are maintaining their initial position of “non-interference” and “non-intervention” on the issue.
“The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is deeply concerned by the recent further escalation of tensions in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and the ensuing increase in hardship and suffering of the population exacerbated by the imposition of sanctions.
“The people of Venezuela must be allowed to decide their own future in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter – non-intervention, non-interference, prohibition of the threat or use of force, respect for the rule of law, human rights and democracy. As CARICOM has ceaselessly advocated, for this objective to be attained, there has to be a meaningful and internal dialogue between the contending parties. This dialogue must determine how best the crisis can be resolved within the confines of the constitution and the rule of law, whether by referendum, elections or any other agreed mechanism. Nothing short of this will lead to the quelling of this crisis or provide the relief that all Venezuelans desire.
“Pending this, there must be a commitment to the delivery of humanitarian aid in a manner that is not politicised but which uses United Nations mechanisms that have been used over the years for the impartial and effective delivery of humanitarian relief.”
Venezuela has been undergoing intense social, political and economic turmoil since 2010, which intensified in 2014 with the ascension of Nicholas Maduro to the office of president of Venezuela after the April, 2013 presidential elections, culminating in widespread protests in the summer of 2014 that led to government crack downs on opposition forces and the suppression of the media in Venezuela, the public services have been rendered more or less castrated in the face of the unrest as judicial, economic, police and other administrative services have not been able to respond to even routine governmental matters as a result of the fracturing of the state.
The political and economic turmoil has been made worse by the precipitous fall in the price of oil, with oil being a major pillar of the Venezuelan economy and being the country with the largest proven oil reserves in the world. Oil revenues have fallen and with a country economic model dependent on oil reserves, the social programs and other cash transfers of the Bolivarian state have taken a hit, leading to hyper-inflation, worthless currencies, a lack of foreign reserves and lower investment into the country all of which leads to other pressures being placed on the oil and natural gas sector.
As a result of the massive economic and political turmoil, with the latter increasing the incidences of government and armed services crackdowns on the citizenry, refugees leaving Venezuela have increased significantly, with the United Nations estimating some 3.4 million people having left Venezuela for other countries over the last five years and with over 390,000 Venezuelans applying for asylum in other countries since 2014 with some 232,000 of that amount making application in 2018 alone — of which Caribbean neighbours to Venezuela like Curaçao, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago have suffered under the weight of the migration.
This has caused the National Assembly in Venezuela to respond by endorsing and encouraging the self-appointed interim president, Juan Guiado, who is also the president of the Venezuelan National Assembly and has urged the international community to reject the presidency of Nicholas Maduro after his May 2018 election, which they have called fraudulent, rigged and illegal in favour of Maduro, further exacerbating the political tensions and confusions in Venezuela.
With no end in sight, and along with the formal statement by CARICOM, the world is taking sides on the Maduro/Guaido political lines in Venezuela — with Russia, China, Cuba, Iran and Turkey taking sides with Maduro and The United States, United Kingdom and much of Western Europe and several South-American countries, which call themselves collectively as the “Lima Group” (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay and Peru), who are predominantly net-recipients of Venezuelan migrants escaping the bleak conditions in Venezuela, siding with Guiado and regime change in Venezuela.
Inside Venezuela, the humanitarian crisis brought on by these recent political and economic issues, have caused members of the international community to call for aid relief to be gathered and sent to Venezuela. However, Maduro has blocked these aid-packages and called them laden with equipment to support only opposition members and not at all medicinal aid for the people of Venezuela and has summarily denied these aid packages and medicines from entering into Venezuela from neighbouring countries like Colombia and Curaçao and Brazil by closing the borders between Venezuela and those countries.
As it stands now proclaimed interim-President Guiado has to go to border cities in an attempt to have these aid packages released to him and often has to go in and out of Venezuelan territory increasing the risk for him and his entourage of incident between him and the Maduro controlled military.
While new election dates have been asked for by opposition forces including Guaido, inclusive of members of the international community, there has been no negotiations towards a new date between Maduro and Guaido forces — even though a tentative date of no less than eight weeks after Guaido proclaimed himself as interim-president on January 23, 2019 has been floated, but with no firm commitment to it or any other date.