Grenada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Peter David has said that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) wants to see “a negotiated approach” to bring about a peaceful resolution to the political crisis now being faced in Venezuela.
David was speaking to reporters in St. George’s last Friday, one day after returning home from a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Venezuela’s situation.
Embattled President Nicolas Maduro is facing pressure from major Western countries like the United States to step down from power in favour of Opposition Leader Juan Guaido who has declared himself as Interim President.
On Monday, Britain, France, Germany and several European countries recognized the Opposition Leader as the person now in charge of Caracas.
Russia, China, Greece, Syria and a few other countries in Latin America have backed Maduro who won controversial elections in which opposition leaders boycotted the poll or were jailed by the current regime in the oil-rich south American country.
Minister David told reporters that CARICOM has a major stake in the Venezuela crisis and as such they believe that their voices needed to be heard on the matter.
He said the countries in the region believe that non-interference is what is most needed to combat the issues affecting Venezuela in which thousands of people have fled the country because of massive food shortages, poor health conditions and rising inflation.
According to Minister David, the CARICOM delegation that flew into New York was headed by Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley of Trinidad & Tobago and included Prime Minister Timothy Harris of St. Kiits/Nevis and Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados and was accompanied by the Foreign Ministers of Grenada, and Trinidad and Barbados.
He said the Caricom team held meetings with the President of the U.N General Assembly, the Secretary General and representatives of several other countries including Uruguay and Mexico.
He stated that the discussions focused mainly on indicating to the world that CARICOM has a stake in what happens in Venezuela.
Minister David said: “Many times people far away in Europe don’t even recognise how close CARICOM countries are (to Venezuela) in particular Trinidad, Grenada and other Eastern Caribbean Countries … so we were going to make it known that listen, you guys need to know that we have a stake in this and our voice should be heard and secondly when our voices were heard, we told them that we would like as CARICOM to be on the table to urge a negotiated settlement in Venezuela”.
The Grenada Foreign Minister stressed that several countries in the Caribbean have recognised the current Maduro-led government in Venezuela and CARICOM is asking countries giving ultimatums to Venezuela to “pull back”.
“We do not want to see happen in the Caribbean, what would happen in places like Libya where you intervene, you overthrow and then a mess is made, as happened in Libya with ISIS and all of that literally taking over the country of Libya.
This is an apparent rebuke to demands made by several countries in Europe to recognise Guaido as Interim President if Maduro did not meet their last Sunday deadline to announce new elections in Venezuela.
Maduro rejected the proposal for new Presidential elections on the grounds that he would not accept “ultimatums” and denounced the move against him as “a coup”.
Minister David said the regional states will push for a “negotiated outcome” in Venezuela and held the view whatever problems exist in Caracas “we believe in non-interference, non-intervention, democracy, rule of law – all of those principles we as Caribbean countries subscribe to – therefore, we urged all of the countries to pull back”.
“…We have been urging the Government of Venezuela to negotiate and we have heard President Maduro said that he is prepared to negotiate, we are saying to the opposition, they should be prepared to negotiate, we have not heard from them”, he added.
The Foreign Minister noted that Grenada’s own Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell has said on several occasions that “we in Grenada are willing to offer our good services to be on the table to find some kind of peaceful resolution (as) invasion would benefit nobody”.
“Our countries depend on tourism, our countries depend on the area being a zone of peace and therefore, we believe that it should be maintained as a zone of peace – that there should be negotiations that lead to peaceful resolution. Whatever that resolution is because we can’t predetermine whatever the outcome is, once the parties get on the table we are sure that some resolution will be found”, he said.
Minister David was asked whether Grenada was concerned about an influx of fleeing Venezuelans into the Spice Isle as the crisis intensifies among opposition and government forces in Caracas.
He said as it stands now, the island needs not worry about Venezuelans seeking refuge status in the country.
“We have had no crisis with Venezuelans coming to our shores, so that has not been a consideration for us. We believe that once the issues are settled in Venezuela, the outflows would cease. So, we believe that the single most important outcome of this should be a discussion on the table about a peaceful resolution. That matter (of refugees) we will deal with when we get there.
“We have no resolution on this because we are not confronted with that issue. If it occurs then the Ministry of National Security led by the Prime Minister will make a determination as to that.
David is known to be a major supporter of Maduro and the Venezuelan regime which is suspected of providing him with substantial finance for his political work in Grenada.