Co-ordination of foreign policy is one of the laudable aims of CARICOM, and in many aspects there has been some success in this regard. Unfortunately when the region faces crucial issues and pressure is applied by external forces with the power to punish and the means to promise reward, CARICOM cohesion is often torn apart.
The case of Venezuela is one such area. It is widely know that governments in the CARICOM region share differing views on governance in that South American republic, and each country has its right so to do. It is also true that Venezuela has been a bastion of support for many Caribbean countries, at a time when those most opposed to the Venezuelan government seem insensitive to the plight of small developing countries such as those in the Caribbean.
But while the citizens of our countries are grateful for Venezuela’s assistance, it does not mean that we do not have concerns about developments within Venezuela itself. How those concerns are expressed is another matter entirely and it must be stressed that internal interference in the affairs of any country, especially in the context of threats of military invasion, must never be sanctioned. There are basic principles in international relations which must be respected.
It is well known that the government of the United States is implacably opposed to the self-styled Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, much as it continues to be in the case of Cuba, and it was during the 1979-1983 Revolution in Grenada. Ominously, military intervention was embarked upon in those cases, successfully in tiny Grenada, but with an ignominious rebuff in Cuba.
Equally well known is Venezuela’s fabulous oil wealth, much coveted by the oil barons of the north and which undoubtedly is a factor in US-Venezuela relations. Those relations have deteriorated to the point where the US President and his advisers openly speak of military intervention in Venezuela to “restore democracy”. This must be a point of departure for small countries like ours and on which a line must be drawn. Increasingly though, some CARICOM nations appear to be bucking under external pressures.
In Wednesday’s vote in the 48th General Assembly of the Organisation of American States, CARICOM was split wide open on a resolution for the suspension of Venezuela from that body. Four CARICOM governments, Guyana, Jamaica, the Bahamas and Barbados, supported the US-sponsored resolution, ensuring its passage. Seven others – St Kitts/Nevis, Antigua/Barbuda, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Belize, Suriname and Haiti abstained, while Dominica and St Vincent and the Grenadines defied external pressures to vote against.
The cracks in CARICOM run the risk of becoming chasms which extra-regional forces can further exploit to undermine the unity of the region. It is a sad development, for while we feel confident that no Caribbean nation would approve of military intervention in the region, their actions may well act to help to prise open that door. CARICOM needs urgently to weigh up the situation in the interest of peace and stability and seek to find common ground on such issues.