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The Trump Card in Venezuela Crisis | Sir Ronald Sanders

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By Sir Ronald Sanders

WASHINGTON, United States, Wednesday
February 12, 2020
– When
is a failed policy recognized as a failure and is abandoned for a new
approach?   That was the question that
Barack Obama and his administration had to confront after more than 50 years of
a policy of trade embargoes, sanctions and, at one point, invasion that failed
to dislodge the Castro government in Cuba. 
It is a question that the present Donald Trump administration should be
considering in relation to Venezuela and the Nicolas Maduro government.

Over the
last four years, the U.S. government has imposed an array of sanctions against
individuals and state enterprises in Venezuela. While the former may have hurt
the individuals concerned, the latter has hurt the poorest and most vulnerable,
exacerbating the flow of people from the country into neighbouring states. But,
even the continuous sanctions have not created conditions in Venezuela where
the people or the military have risen-up to bring about the regime change being
sought by the U.S., Canada and a few countries in South and Central America.

Maduro’s
government has remained in place by virtue of several circumstances, including
strong support from a significant number of the population; the division among
the opposition parties and the unattractiveness of their leaders, despite
assertions to the contrary; and the financial backing of Russia and China which
continue to buy Venezuelan oil.

The U.S.
government, Canada and a few countries in Europe have recognized Juan Guaidó as
the President of Venezuela and have supported his efforts to organize protests
and demonstrations, although even these have diminished in recent months. Keeping
large crowds on the streets arises either out of deep commitment to a cause or
considerable financial support. Protests and marches don’t pay bills unless the
protestors and marchers are compensated. 
Money – and donors – seem to have dwindled considerably.

This latter
policy of support has encouraged Guaidó not to seek genuine national solutions
in the several brokered attempts at dialogue that have occurred. No party to a
negotiation, assured of external backing, would make concessions that would not
put it in an advantageous position. 
Convinced that the U.S., Canada, a few European and Latin American
governments would back his hard-line positions, Guaidó didn’t bargain, he
postured.

This is not
to say that the Maduro government did not also take unyielding positions. They
clearly did; also encouraged by external forces, especially Russia and China,
and by the fact that the majority of countries in the world still recognize it
as the government of Venezuela. In the global support game, the score is Guaidó
fifty or so; Maduro well over a hundred.

In all this,
there have been no winners, only losers. And the biggest losers are the people
of Venezuela whose quality of life, except for the higher echelons of the
society, has dramatically deteriorated. Other losers are the neighbouring
states into which Venezuelan refugees have poured.  Each of them has been impacted by the inward
migration. Costs of dealing with the influx of migrants has been high and has
diverted funds that should be used to deliver the goods and services their own
people expect. There will come a time when these same neighbouring countries
will have to evaluate the damage to them of increasing and stringent sanctions
on Venezuela that escalate migration. When their own circumstances compel them
to do so, they will object to further sanctions and call for a reversal of many
of them.

Recognizing
that sanctions have not produced the desired collapse of the Maduro government
and that he has failed to mobilize enough internal dissent, particularly from
the military, to topple the Government, Guaidó has been calling for U.S.
military intervention. 

A member of
Guaidó’s group, Iván Simonovis, personally delivered a letter to President
Donald Trump, requesting that the United States go “on the
offensive”. In a tweet, Simonovis also declared, “now we are asking to
accelerate the process and cut the oxygen line, to finally end Maduro’s
time”.   He has repeatedly stated that
the solution for Venezuela is a “military coalition”. In part, this is why
the U.S. and 9 countries from the Lima Group (including Guaidó’s
representative), pushed through a resolution on September 11, 2019 at the Organization
of American States (OAS) to invoke the terms of the Rio Treaty, an
anachronistic 1947 compact. 

As I have
written before, the objective of the resolution, set out in an accompanying
notice, was to “adopt measures” to intervene in Venezuela which, it claimed
“pose a threat to peace in the Americas”.

Guaidó was a
guest at President Trump’s ‘State of the Union’ address on 4 February, and he
was received by the President at the White House for a half-hour meeting. After
the meeting, Guaidó reported that “concrete measures” against Maduro would be
announced in the coming days.

Much as
Guaidó might want it, President Trump’s “measures” are most unlikely to include
a military intervention in Venezuela.  This President has shown a marked reluctance
to commit the lives of American soldiers and the resources of the U.S. Treasury
to fighting someone else’s war, particularly as not only would it put the U.S.
in an unnecessary confrontation with Russia and China, there would not be much
benefit to come from it for America. As President Trump pointed out just the
day before he received Guaidó, the U.S. is entirely self-sufficient in oil and
gas, and whatever top-up it needs it can get quicker and cheaper from Canada.

There is clearly a stand-off now in the Venezuelan situation. It cries out for a fresh approach.  President Trump might himself be the trump card in the resolution of this situation, if he decides to use his personal authority and bargaining skills for a direct discussion with Nicolas Maduro, centred on the welfare of the Venezuelan people.

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Sir Ronald Sanders is Antigua and Barbuda’s Ambassador to the US and the OAS.  He is also a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at the University of London and at Massey College in the University of Toronto. The views expressed are entirely his own.

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Rihanna Calls for Unity and for Friends of People of Colour to “Pull Up”, After Winning NAACP Award

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Rihanna after accepting her President’s Award at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday.

CALIFORNIA, United States, Monday February 24, 2020 – Barbadian superstar Rihanna made a call for unity in a powerful
speech on Saturday, after accepting the prestigious President’s Award at the 51st
NAACP Image Awards for her philanthropic efforts.

In a three-minute speech that earned
her thunderous applause at Pasadena the Civic Centre Auditorium in California, the
singer/ business mogul/actress/philanthropist – who, in
2012, founded the Clara Lionel Foundation, a non-profit organization named
after her grandparents that funds ground-breaking education and emergency
preparedness and response programmes worldwide – insisted that people needed to
be united to fix the world’s problems.

Rihanna spoke of the importance of
unifying communities and encouraged people of colour to tell friends of
different races to “pull up”.

“If there’s anything I’ve learned,
it’s that we can only fix this world together. We can’t do it divided. I cannot
emphasize that enough. We can’t let the de-sensitivity seep in. The ‘if it’s your
problem, then it’s not mine’; ‘it’s a woman’s problem’; ‘it’s a black people
problem’; ‘it’s a poor people problem’,” she said.

Posing a question and asking for a show of hands
from the audience, the 32-year-old global music and fashion icon continued: “How
many of us in this room have colleagues and partners and friends from other
races, sexes, religions? They want to break bread with you, right? They like
you? Well then, this is their problem too.”

“So when we’re marching and protesting and posting about the Michael Brown Jrs and the Atatiana Jeffersons of the world, tell your friends to pull up,” she added, referring to an unarmed 18-year-old man who was fatally shot by a white policeman and a 28-year-old woman who was shot to death in her mother’s Dallas home by a police officer.

Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, the
US’ oldest and largest nonpartisan civil rights organization, said in a
statement that Rihanna had received the award for not only her “ground-breaking
career as an artist and musician”, but also for being a “stellar
public servant”.

“From her business achievements through Fenty,
to her tremendous record as an activist and philanthropist, Rihanna epitomizes
the type of character, grace, and devotion to justice that we seek to highlight
in our President’s Award,” said Johnson who presented Rihanna with the award at
a live show aired on BET.

Alongside her musical achievements which include nine Grammy awards, Rihanna has added more credits to her burgeoning resume: executive producer, fashion designer, actress, business entrepreneur and philanthropist.

In becoming a recipient of the President’s Award, she has joined the join the ranks of other distinguished recipients, including American rapper, songwriter, producer, entrepreneur, and record executive Jay-Z; American politician and retired four-star general in the US Army Colin Powell who was the first African American to be appointed Secretary of State; and the late Muhammad Ali, the greatest boxer of all time, activist, and philanthropist.

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Haiti’s Carnival Called Off as Cops and Soldiers Square off in Gun Battle

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti, Monday February 24, 2020 – Haiti’s annual Carnival, scheduled to be staged from yesterday until Wednesday, has been called off following violent clashes between the country’s soldiers and police.

On what was to be day one of the celebration at the Champ de Mars, members of President Jovenel Moise’s reconstituted Armed Forces of Haiti and off-duty members of the Haiti National Police and their supporters exchanged gunfire a short distance from the presidential palace.

Hours after the afternoon battle, government announced that the festival would be cancelled “in order to avoid the planned bloodshed”.

Reports indicated that at least one
person was fatally shot in the head and more than a dozen other people were
wounded.

The deadly clash came during a protest that was organized by police officers demanding better pay and working conditions and demanding that authorities accept their effort to unionize.

During the unrest, a stand that was built for the festivities was destroyed by the protesters.

While the government says it cannot increase the officers’ salaries, President Moise announced several other measures, including: doubling a monthly police debit card from $51 to $102 for 15,000 members of the police force; and the construction of a new police housing village with two-bedroom apartments that would be sold with a 25 to 30-year mortgage at 7.5 percent interest.

Haiti’s Carnival was also cancelled last year due to unrest.

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CARICOM Development Fund To Be Restructured

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CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley says the issue of the CDF and its management was one that had “bedevilled the Community for some time”.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 24, 2020 – So serious are the issues facing the region that its leaders have
decided to restructure the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF) to enable it to raise
additional monies from individuals, companies, institutions, regional countries
and extra regional countries.

CARICOM Chairman, Barbados’ Prime
Minister Mia Mottley, said the issue of the CDF and its management was one that
had “bedevilled the Community for some time”, noting that it was created as a
way to assist disadvantaged countries, sectors, and regions.

“Member states have committed to capitalizing this Fund, but this will never be enough to do what needs to be done, particularly with all of the challenges that the region faces at this point in time…. I outlined a number of them and we keep seeing new challenges as we did with the COVID-19, and to that extent, therefore, we feel strongly that we need to revisit the structure of the CARICOM Development Fund,” she said on the heels of the 31st Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government which her country hosted.

Mottley added that the restructuring
would be long-term, explaining that the CDF would ultimately drive the development
of regional institutions that had been taken over by technological developments
which made them obsolete or incapable of being competitive.

As a result, she said a transition
period was needed since a middle developed country that was affected by a
climatic or other event would require an injection of capital in order to
stabilize it.

The CARICOM chairman noted that going
forward, once the restructuring was done correctly, the Fund would be one of
the key pillars of the integration movement, allowing leaders to deal with the
disparities that exist as far as size and capacity were concerned, and carrying
all nations from the very large to the very smallest ones on the integration
journey.

She opined that in any Single Market
and Single Economy there would be winners and losers, pointing out that this
decision by heads of government would “make a significant difference” to the
region’s development.

At the end of the two-day summit, a number of agreements were also signed. Dominica signed the Protocol on the Public Procurement and an agreement on the Return or Sharing of Recovered Assets; the British Virgin Islands signed an agreement for the establishment of the Caribbean Accreditation Authority for the Education in Medicine and other Health Professions; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines signed the Protocol on Public Procurement and Declaration of Intent to Provisionally Apply the Protocol on Public Procurement.

CARICOM Heads of Government will meet in St Vincent and the Grenadines for their Regular summit from July 2 to 3, but they have promised to confer before that date by teleconference.

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PAHO Calls for Action to Improve Childhood Cancer Survival in the Caribbean

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, Monday February 24, 2020 – Paediatric cancer experts and health authorities convened by the Pan
American Health Organization (PAHO), together with the Hospital for Sick
Children (SickKids) and St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, are calling for
stepped-up action to improve the survival rate for children suffering from
cancer in the Caribbean.

In the Caribbean and globally, cancer
is among the leading causes of death in children under age 15.

In high-income countries, more than 8
in 10 children with cancer are able to survive the illness, thanks to early
diagnosis and effective treatment. But in several Caribbean countries, two-year
overall survival is only about 55 per cent. Higher toxicity of cancer
treatments and patients’ abandoning their treatment are the main barriers to
successful outcomes, and experts say that strengthening health systems is the
best way to address these challenges.

“Childhood cancer treatment is very
cost-effective, and many more children’s lives can be saved by ensuring that
the health system is well equipped to diagnose and treat children with cancer
and provide support to their families,’’ said Silvana Luciani, head of PAHO’s non-communicable
diseases unit.

The experts convened by PAHO include paediatricians,
paediatric oncologists, and non-communicable disease programme managers from
nine Caribbean countries and territories, along with representatives of
ministries of health and other collaborating organizations. The group met in
Port of Spain Trinidad recently to map out ways to increase support and
action—at both the country and international levels—to reduce deaths in
children and adolescents with cancer in the Caribbean through strengthened
health systems, focusing on improving diagnosis, treatment, training, and
family support.

The meeting identified priority areas
of action as: earlier detection and diagnosis of childhood cancer in primary
care, with timely referral for specialized treatment; increased access to
essential medicines for childhood cancer; training and continuing
multi-disciplinary medical education for specialists and primary care
providers; improved continuity of care, including for children who live far
from treatment centres to prevent abandonment of treatment; and the production
and sharing of evidence for public health use and to mobilize political and
financial support.

The actions proposed by the experts
in Trinidad build on earlier efforts by the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative
(SCI), established in 2013 to build sustainable local capacity to diagnose,
treat and manage paediatric cancers and blood disorders in six participating
countries – The Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the
Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago –, and a regional working group for Latin
America and the Caribbean set up by PAHO in 2017 to develop strategies and
recommendations for health system strengthening for childhood cancer.

The current efforts are also part of the broader Global Initiative for Childhood Cancer launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 to improve survival rates by addressing barriers to access and quality of care for children with cancer.

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Barbados Government Exploring Possibility of Ferry System for Local and Regional Transportation

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday February 24, 2020 – Government is presently exploring possibilities for investment to
establish a ferry system to move people and cargo from coast to coast and
throughout the island chain.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the
Blue Economy Kirk Humphrey recently shared his vision to move cargo from
Oistins in Christ Church all the way to the north of the island, as he also spoke
about his desire to see service expand even further.

“We have now an expression of
interest out to encourage those who have the wherewithal to help us build out
those jetties from the north all the way to the south and move cargo along the
coastline, and also think bigger, and move between the islands,” he said.

He added that Government had
determined that there was need for a “nicely built and stabilized” ferry that
could move great containers and people.

Humphrey noted that lessons learnt
from the aftermath of past disasters indicated that getting food into the
island chain was almost impossible.

“The Caribbean should not be in a
position where it is waiting on someone to come and save us.  That is why it is necessary to have the
ferries,” he said, making reference to the difficulties experienced in getting
planes into Dominica after the passage of Hurricane Maria.

Minister Humphrey also pointed out that investing in ferries would also benefit the country, as the costs could be “recouped” in shipping, and assist with reducing export costs.

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