COMMENTARY: CARICOM’S Finest Hour

David Comissiong

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) deserves full marks for the position it has adopted and the actions it has undertaken in response to the regional and international crisis that was precipitated on Wednesday 23 January 2019 when the Venezuelan parliamentarian who is currently holding the rotating Presidency of the National Assembly, Juan Guaido, declared himself President of Venezuela and had his claim to the Presidency recognized by the government of the United States of America and several other powerful Western governments. 

The CARICOM response was as follows:- 

(1)          The CARICOM Heads of Government staged an emergency Conference on Thursday 24 January 2019 and agreed upon a collective Statement that confirmed that they would be guided by the fundamental International Law principles of non-interference and non-intervention in the internal affairs of another state, respect for national sovereignty, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights and democracy, and that – within those legal parameters – they were offering their good offices to facilitate dialogue among all parties in order to peacefully resolve the crisis.  The CARICOM Statement also insisted that the Caribbean region is and must remain a Zone of Peace, and called on all parties, whether inside or outside of Venezuela, to “step back from the brink” of violent conflict. 

(2)          On Saturday 26 January 2019 Ambassadors from the CARICOM nations of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Suriname and St. Vincent and the Grenadines presented and spoke in support of the CARICOM Statement at a meeting of the United Nations Security Council. 

(3)          On Monday 28 January 2019 a CARICOM team comprising Secretary General Irwin LaRocque and Prime Ministers Timothy Harris, Keith Rowley and Mia Amor Mottley made their way to United Nations headquarters in New York, where they met with the Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. António Guterres, and requested the United Nations’ participation and assistance in CARICOM’s effort to create a space for dialogue and for the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Venezuela. 

(4)          On Tuesday 27 January 2019  the CARICOM delegation continued its “diplomacy of dialogue and peace” by meeting with the President of the United Nations General Assembly, the Foreign Minister of Mexico, and with the Permanent Representatives of such countries as Canada, Australia, Romania (representing the European Union), Brazil, Uruguay, South Africa and Benin (representing the African Union). 

(5)          These meetings resulted in the public announcement of the staging of a joint Uruguay/Mexico meeting (with CARICOM attendance and support) in Montevideo, Uruguay on 7 February 2019 for the purpose of creating a mechanism for dialogue and peaceful resolution of the Venezuela crisis. 

(6)          On Friday 1 February 2019 the CARICOM Heads of Government staged a second emergency Conference on the Venezuela crisis and determined that the avoidance of armed conflict in Venezuela and the maintenance of peace throughout the entire Caribbean region was of such critical importance that the three Prime Ministers who had represented CARICOM at the United Nations – Prime Ministers Harris, Rowley and Mottley – would undertake the duty of attending and participating in the Montevideo meeting. 

(7)          The CARICOM Heads of Government also determined to issue a letter to the Secretary General of theOrganization of American States (OAS), Mr. Luis Almagro, expressing their “disapproval and grave concern” at the fact that Almagro had purported to recognize Juan Guaido as President of Venezuela, and calling upon Almagro to withdraw his statement of recognition. 

(8)          On Wednesday 6 February 2019, the CARICOM team of Prime Ministers joined with representatives of the governments of Mexico, Bolivia and Uruguay in Montevideo and devised the “Montevideo Mechanism” – a four stage process of dialogue, negotiation, commitments and implementation – as a suitable stratagem for resolving the Venezuela crisis peacefully. 

(9)          And even while offering the “Montevideo Mechanism” to President Maduro and Opposition Leader Guaido as an appropriate procedure for resolving the crisis, on 7 February 2019 the CARICOM Prime Ministers also met with representatives of the European Union in Montevideo and explained to them why the “Montevideo Mechanism” was a more appropriate procedure for resolving the Venezuela crisis than the European Union’s peremptory demand for Presidential elections to be held in Venezuela “as soon as possible”. 

This – my Caribbean compatriots – is enlightened international diplomacy at its very best!  This constitutes the emergence of a collective approach to diplomacy centred around the concept of a Zone of Peace – a concept that is clearly applicable to the Caribbean region, but one that can also be applied to other areas of the world. 

It is important that we fully understand that the CARICOM leadership had found themselves dealing with an extremely dangerous situation in which – on the one hand – over six million Venezuelans (including members of the Armed Forces) had voted for Nicolás Maduro in May 2018 to be their president and therefore considered him to be the legitimate President of Venezuela, and  – on the other hand – a Parliamentarian (currently holding the rotating Presidency of the National Assembly)who had not contested the Presidential election had made a determination that the Presidential Election was illegitimate and had declared himself interim President of Venezuela and was purporting to take over the functions of President. 

This was and is a situation that could easily descend into a bloody civil war, particularly in light of the fact that the section of the Constitution of Venezuela that deals with the process for the removal of a President – Section 233 – states as follows:- 

          “The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote”. 

Clearly the only clause of Section 233 that could have any relevance to the situation that obtains in Venezuela is the final clause – “recall by popular vote”. 

Unlike other governments that facilitated actions that would create a potentially deadly state of affairs in which an already existing governmental Administration in Venezuela would be facing off against another hostile, foreign supported, parallel“alternative” Administration, CARICOM has decided to hold itself above the fray and to try to facilitate a process of dialogue andof a search for a peaceful solution within the confines of the Constitution of Venezuela and the fundamental principles of International Law. 

Thus, in everything that it has done so far on this issue, CARICOM has appeared to be “the adult in the room” and the moral and intellectual leader of the international community! 

Surely, this is CARICOM’s finest hour, and all citizens of our Community should feel extremely proud of how well our leaders have acquitted themselves. 

Let us hope that their efforts go on to bear fruit in the form of an externally facilitated, but internally negotiated, agreed upon, and implemented peaceful and lawful solution to the crisis. 

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10 Comments

  1. Ibo France
    February 14, 2019

    CARICOM should be commended for making the efforts to try to avoid a man made disaster in the region. The US has a record of causing upheaval in South and Central America. They flaunt their military might and impose suffocating economic sanctions on these struggling countries. They also control the news coming out of these countries, egg on internal chaos and install a puppet who will cater to the unbridled greed of American corporate conglomerates.

  2. Country Man
    February 13, 2019

    While I agree with the zone of peace position there is a lot of hypocrisy on both sides. We know what the US and the imperialist are after – OIL. The real issue I have with Caricom is why can’t we come together and solve our problems. Why does it have to come to this volatile stage with millions of Venezuelans fleeing there homeland and millions at home struggling to make ends meet for basic human needs? Why is Caricom not addressing the elephant in the room (Maduro and his Cronies mismanagement of the country) and help the Venezuelan people? You see the LOVE of money is root of all evil. Most of the Caricom members got bought out by Venenzuela’s oil money and PetroCaraibe deals and don’t have the moral courage to confront Maduro. We are witnessing how money is valued more than human life in our own backyard while we project Caricom’s finest hour. Only Jah knows!!

  3. Sense out of nonsense
    February 13, 2019

    Caricom’s finest hour is trying their best to stall the process of change in a country in crisis? Did the crisis start on the 23rd? Or has this been a developing situation since 2013 (or even before that). Thankfully history will not remember a few small insignificant islands who tried to stonewall a move to end the suffering of millions of people.

    But then again this guy (David Comissiong) is a closet socialist masquerading as a pro-black affairs activist so I can see why he would get all excited over this nothing burger.

    BTW barely anybody paid attention to Caricom’s involvement. Also Uruguay which was previously a member of this delegation later dropped out and acknowledged Guaido.

  4. Ras
    February 13, 2019

    The haste with which the US, Canada and the OAS Secretary General recognized an opposition parliamentarian as interim prime minister while the elected prime minister was still in place “in the interest of democracy “ somehow appears to be a contradiction. The imposition of sanctions by the US on Venezuelan’s oil export is certainly only adding fuel to the explosive situation and that may very well be calculated to bring the crisis to the flash point- to serve the interest of the US which has never hidden its dislike of the Socialist policies of Chavez and Maduro and the nationalization of the country’s oil resources.
    The position of the US and its allies exposes their hypocrisy. They continue to support countries which have unquestionably dismal human rights records – too numerous to mention here. Where is their interest in promoting democracy?
    Well done CARICOM, teach those hypocrites a lesson in diplomacy

    • Sense out of Nonsense
      February 14, 2019

      You know what is too numerous to mention? The number of countries that recognize Guaido. The majority of the European Union, Majority of south and central america, the US , Canada, Israel, Australia.

      Countries who back Maduro – Russia (questionable), China (pseudo communist), Cuba (full communist), Turkey (dictatorship in the making) and a few south american and caribbean countries who almost all of them have benefited from the Petro Caribe agreement.

      Hypocrisy is talking about democracy while ignoring the will of the vast majority of Venezuelans with the backing and support of the majority of international players in favor of a few countries who almost all of them have a motive to support Maduro.

      But then again socialist supporters don’t think they just regurgitate nonsense.

  5. ??
    February 13, 2019

    This is brilliant! CARICOM has finally grown up. I think it’s time Mr. Luis Almagro be called out and put in check because if he is allowed to unilaterally make those statements there is no telling what’s next for us in the Caribbean. His behavior is reprehensible and he should be called out on it.

  6. Truth Be Told
    February 13, 2019

    So why are you and CARICOM so silent on the Venezuelans dying for lack of food, medical supplies and other basic resources? What do you have to say to the millions of Venezuelans forced to flee to Colombia and Brazil? What about the people? What is CARICOM’s position by the people? Where does CARICOM solidarity lie, with a President or with the people?

    • Ras
      February 13, 2019

      Truth Be Told, the truth is that many poor and marginalized Venezuelans were left to die for lack of medical attention and food, and had little opportunity to get even a primary school education, at a time when the Venezuelan economy was booming when oil prices were sky high – until Hugo Chavez stepped in to address the needs of the millions who had been neglected by previous regimes. Unfortunately Maduro had the misfortune of having to manage an economy hard hit by plummeting oil prices and sanctions by the US.
      Why don’t you go and read the history of Venezuela!

      • Sense out of Nonsense
        February 14, 2019

        The “misfortune” was created by Chavez himself. Expropriating over a 1000 businesses nearly crippling the private sector, removing many international companies that were creating capital flow in and out of the country, causing inflation with ridiculous authoritarian nonsense like price regulations, currency restrictions and again seizing of people’s property (which is robbery).

        Also which of those sanctions actually affected the economy of Venezuela? The sanctions started in 2014, Maduro took office in 2013 by 2012 there were already widespread problems with scarcity in Venezuela and high inflation.

        Those sanctions were against members of the Maduro regime. You mean to tell me that they have to buy food and raw materials for Venezuela from their own offshore bank accounts that they have in the states? What kind of thing that?

        BTW why did anti-imperialist socialists have offshore bank accounts in the first place? hmmm

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
      • Truth Be Told
        February 15, 2019

        I believe you make a good point Ras and I agree with you. I am no supporter of American, European or any other form of imperialism. However, my question still remains. What about the people? Because millions of Venezuelans were badly off even when their economy was booming, before Hugo Chavez, and he did lift millions out of dire poverty, are you telling me that we should now forget the new millions of Venezuelans suffering in this present crisis? Where do we stand by the people? Have you seen the hundreds of babies dying in Venezuela hospitals?

        Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

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