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Crisis in Venezuela: what next?


The crisis in Venezuela should be of great concern to us, especially after the spraying of Ambassador Wickham’s home with graffiti. There is, of course, obvious concern about the future of Petrocaribe, which has been of tremendous assistance to our governments. But this should not cause us to bury our heads in the sand. The situation is a serious one. Certainly not fake news! The statement of the US Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, sincere though it might appear, must be seen alongside America’s long history of involvement in Latin America and the Caribbean that had resulted in the overthrow of regimes and the propping up of leaders willing to toe the America line. The role played by the Director General of the OAS in a recent meeting did not help the situation and the condemnation by CARICOM was justified. The OAS’s role in isolating Cuba from the hemispheric body and the role played in the early 1970s by the large Caribbean countries in defying the efforts at isolating Cuba must never be forgotten.

But then what next? The OAS is stalemated. A recent meeting in Cancun, Mexico, failed to get the required majority to pass its resolution. There were abstentions by Venezuela and seven other countries, which I suspect might be largely CARICOM countries. Carl Greenidge, Guyana’s Foreign Minister, told Reuters that some CARICOM states were not prepared to sign a statement that there are political problems in Venezuela.  So, CARICOM itself is divided even in terms of the nature of the crisis.  Antigua’s Gaston Browne sees it, it appears, as a domestic quarrel. President Maduro’s focus is on external forces seeking to destabilize the country. Even if there are such forces, the crisis is undoubtedly much more complex. 

The Vatican had attempted dialogue. There is now talk of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mediating a yet to be named contact group. President Maduro, it appears, is not open to this. The complexity of the problem should not be underestimated, for there are many forces at play, one of which is, of course, ideological. Let us not forget ALBA, which is seen as an alternative to the US sponsored Free Trade Agreement of the Americas and opposed to the neo-liberal policies that dominate the region. Six CARICOM countries, mainly from the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States are members. Our PM, leading the charge for those in the OECS, is critical of those in the OAS “who seek only a fig leaf quasi-judicial endorsement at the OAS for thinly disguised Imperial hegemonic or narrow self-serving purpose.”

While differences arise among Latin American and Caribbean countries about an appropriate response, the crisis in Venezuela continues to deteriorate. There is a shortage of basic items and medical supplies. There has been, as of the date of writing, 70 deaths and injuries to another 1,300. There are far too many heart-rending stories of the toll the crisis is taking on the lives of Venezuelans. A domestic quarrel you call this! But eventually, it is up to the Venezuelans to decide. For me, the best method of doing this is through an election, but how do you get to that stage? Bear in mind that what broadened the crisis was the hand-picked Supreme Court’s attempt to strip the Legislative Branch of its powers. This was later reversed, but the crisis had so deepened that there was no turning back. In this context, I am not sure what ‘non-interference and non-intervention’ really mean. But something must be done soon before the situation reaches the point of no return, if it is not already there. 

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian