Caricom optimistic about peaceful solution to Venezuelan crisis

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NEW YORK, United States (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders yesterday ended a meeting here with United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressing optimism that the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela.

Caricom chairman and St Kitts-Nevis Prime Minister, Dr Timothy Harris led a delegation which included his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart Dr Keith Rowley and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley to the talks on the possibility of the UN intervening in the ongoing political situation in the South American country.

According to a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister in Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Rowley expressed hope that in the not-too-distant future there will be significant improvement and a diminishing of tensions in Venezuela.

“We believe in the coming days there will be work towards dialogue, so that the internal difficulties in Venezuela can be approached without intervention and interference from those who may have a different approach,” Rowley said in the statement.

The statement noted that “coming out of the meeting the Caricom delegation is satisfied that if the conditions for such can be met, the UN will assist in establishing the road map towards peace and security for Venezuela and the region”.

The meeting with the UN secretary general followed an emergency meeting of Caricom leaders last Thursday, where it was decided that the regional body should engage the global organisation.

Following the discussions here, the Caricom delegation held a meeting with the Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, Marc-Andre Blanchard, and is also expected to meet with officials from Russia, China and Venezuela.

Last Wednesday, Venezuela’s Opposition Leader Juan Guaid declared himself the interim leader of the South American country and was promptly recognised by several countries, including the United States, Canada and some Latin American states.

But Russia, China and Cuba are among countries that are supporting President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn into office earlier this month for a second consecutive term as president.

Washington and its allies have accused Maduro of suppressing democratic rights in the country and have called for his removal.

The 15-member Caricom grouping has remained divided on the issue and earlier this month Jamaica, Haiti, The Bahamas, Guyana, and St Lucia supported a resolution at the Organization of American States in not recognising the second five-year term of Maduro, while Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Suriname voted against the measure.

St Kitts-Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and Belize abstained during the vote, while Grenada was not present.

In the statement that followed Thursday’s conference, the regional leaders nonetheless “reaffirmed their guiding principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the affairs of states, respect for sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy.

“Heads of Government reiterated that the long-standing political crisis, which has been exacerbated by recent events, can only be resolved peacefully through meaningful dialogue and diplomacy,” the statement said, noting that they have “offered their good offices to facilitate dialogue among all parties to resolve the deepening crisis”.

They said that in reaffirming their commitment to the tenets of Article 2 (4) of the United Nations Charter which calls for member states “to refrain from the threat or the use of force”, and Article 21 of the Charter of the Organization of American States which refers to territorial inviolability, the regional leaders emphasised the importance of the Caribbean remaining a zone of peace”.

Last weekend, a senior UN official told the UN Security Council that all actors must exercise maximum restraint and avoid any further escalation.

“The protracted conflict in [Venezuela] has had a grave impact on the population, with high levels of political polarisation, growing humanitarian needs, and serious human rights concerns,” said Rosemary DiCarlo, under-secretary-general for political and peace building affairs.

She urged all parties to respect human rights and the rule of law, warning that the situation could spiral out of control.

Diplomats from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Dominica, and Antigua and Barbuda also addressed the UN Security Council meeting.

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