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Caribbean must not be stalking horse against Venezuela

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Next Monday, June 19, the Organization of American States begins an important three-day General Assembly in the Mexican resort city of Cancun.It will be far different from a holiday frolic for delegates though, as an important political battle is expected to be fought there concerning the future of Venezuela and its Bolivarian Revolution.

The situation in Venezuela, where Government and Opposition are locked in a political struggle, is very much in the news these days. Every day, the international news agencies report on clashes between protesters, organized by the Opposition, and police and the National Guard. These have caused grave concern throughout the world and in the neighbouring Caribbean in particular. Some governments, led by the United States of America and some Latin American nations, have sided with the call of the Opposition for a removal of the current elected government and have been using the OAS as a means for intervention in Venezuela to “restore democracy”.

There is no doubt that the situation in Venezuela is very serious indeed. According to reports, more than 80 people have died since the Opposition launched its series of protests and demonstrations. These have increasingly turned violent, as vivid television footage reveals. The pity is that much of what we see and hear reflects the viewpoint of those who oppose the Government and gives the impression that all who died were killed by police and the National Guard.

The reality is that many of these demonstrations are not as innocent as some may have us believe there have been violent attacks on law enforcement officers, who have also been among the victims. That is why in the ever-escalating situation, what is needed is not hegemony of one side over another, not outside interference either on behalf of the Government or Opposition, but serious national dialogue, aimed at finding a solution in the interests of the Venezuelan people.

But there are powerful forces both inside and externally, which have other objectives. One must never lose sight of the enormous mineral resources of Venezuela, nor the fact that the Venezuelan Government, since the time of the late President Chavez, continued under President Maduro, has brought these under national ownership and control. Nor can we ignore that the exercise of sovereignty by the Venezuelan Government and its outreach and assistance to its Caribbean and Latin American neighbours have made them far more independent in determining national policy.

So, Venezuela has become a prime target, as was Chile in the 70s and countless others in the hemisphere, including Cuba up to today. Indeed, Cuba, which gets generous assistance from Venezuela, is also indirectly involved, since if the Bolivarian Revolution is halted, then that support for Cuba will be put to an end. The Petro Caribe initiative, so beneficial to many countries in the region, is also in the sights of those who wish to intervene.

The plan is to try and use Caribbean countries, taking advantage of the concern of us all for peace and stability, to join in the call for outside interference, supposedly “to restore democracy”. But an attempt at a meeting of the Permanent Council of the OAS at the end of May, to pass a resolution paving the way for such action, was stalled by CARICOM nations. Their Foreign Ministers had met earlier in Barbados and issued a statement, insisting that the solution to the Venezuela crisis “had to be sought internally, supported by a mediated process”, and called for a softening of entrenched positions, “so that trust could be built on both sides in order to facilitate dialogue”.

This was the basis of the Caribbean holding a unified position in the OAS and scuppering plans to pass the interference resolution. But the stakes are so high that the plotters have not given up. In preparation for next week’s OAS meeting, they are pressuring some Caribbean countries, trying to break regional unity. Guyana, which has a border dispute with Venezuela, is especially targeted. One must remember that US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is a former head of the oil giant Exxon-Mobil, and that this company has been granted rights to explore and drill for oil in Guyana. It is reported that the US is planning to cut oil imports from Venezuela. Promising this market to Guyana is one carrot. There are also other Caribbean countries which are wavering. But fortunately Antigua and Barbuda and SVG are insisting on regional unity and solidarity and refusing to go along with those who wish to use “democracy” as their excuse for foreign intervention.

We, the citizens of the Caribbean, must support this insistence on regional unity and non-interference. It is in our interests to call on both sides in Venezuela to engage in serious dialogue to resolve the crisis, to end the violence, provide the Venezuelan people with food and other basic needs and to find a peaceful lasting solution to the crisis.

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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