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CARICOM must offer mediation support to Venezuela

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As CARICOM Heads of State and Government engage in their three-day deliberations at the 38th Summit in Grenada, one item, not on the draft agenda, but so pressing that it will force itself on it, must be the situation in neighbouring Venezuela.

CARICOM has been credited, and vilified in some quarters, for preventing the Organization of American States (OAS) from passing a resolution which could be taken as a fig-leaf for foreign military intervention in that strife-torn country. Yet, there is no denial that the situation there has reached dire proportions and the daily confrontations have resulted not only in a death-toll approaching 100, but a deep political and social crisis. The likelihood of a further deterioration in this situation must be of grave concern to the entire hemisphere.

Having made its presence felt at the OAS, CARICOM now finds itself where there is division as to how to proceed on the Venezuelan question, with governments split on their views of the crisis. But the last thing needed at this moment is division and paralysis. CARICOM, having raised the noble principle of non-intervention, thwarting those whose historical record speaks for itself where military intervention in the hemisphere is concerned, cannot now just allow the situation in Venezuela to deteriorate further without an attempt to assist.

In fact, St Lucian Prime Minister Allan Chastanet, not considered close to the Venezuelan government, on the eve of the Summit, made the telling point that the upholding of the principle of non-intervention does not mean turning “a blind-eye” to developments in Venezuela. There is the danger that such an approach, by allowing the situation in Venezuela to reach virtual open warfare, can itself provide the excuse for foreign military intervention, ostensibly to “restore order and democracy”.

CARICOM must now take the initiative to offer assistance in mediation, refrain from taking sides in the internal conflict, and use its long historical experience of resolving conflicts, to try and achieve a solution in the best interests of the people of Venezuela, and by extension, peace and democracy in the region. The critical need to ease the hardships inflicted on the Venezuelan people, in terms of provision of food and scarce supplies must be part of that initiative. CARICOM and we all have a sacred responsibility to do so.

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