The silence of the Barbados Government is deafening.
The muteness of CARICOM resounds even louder.
Where are the voices of the social foundations and fringe movements in Barbados and the wider Caribbean?
While thousands are dying on the streets of Syria as a despot utilises all means to remain the undemocratically chosen leader of this middle-eastern nation, we are experiencing in the Caribbean what can only be deemed the silence of the lambs.
And this in the face of staggering figures out of Syria. Activist groups put the death toll in August alone at 5,000. The United Nations Children’s Fund indicated that the death toll for last week was approximately 1,600. The Britain-based activist group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 5,440 people, including 4,114 civilians, were killed in August.
Statisticians close to what is now a civil war put the overall death toll at between 23,000 and 26,000 since the conflict started about 18 months ago.
With an increasingly desperate President Bashar al-Assad turning last month to air power to destroy opposing forces, experts predict the death toll will rise even more.
Diplomacy has been attempted and has failed, even driving respected former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to walk away from the effort in frustration.
Both the United Nations and the Arab League have failed to negotiate an end to the violence. Britain and France have suggested a military-enforced no-fly zone to protect a safe area for civilians but this could lead to direct confrontation with the Syrian army and is unlikely to happen. Last month US President Barack Obama repeated a call for al-Assad to step down and threatened that Syria could face American military intervention if there were signs that its arsenal of unconventional weapons was being moved or prepared for use.
The past months have been a hotbed of activity but from the silence among our regional leadership one wonders if they have ever heard of Syria. It is true that regional condemnation will do little to solve the horror story that has become Syria, but each regional member of CARICOM has a foreign policy and a voice among the family of nations. Regional people have an opinion on what is going on in Syria and our leaders are mandated to speak on our behalf on the atrocities played out every day in the international and domestic media for all to see.
So why the silence? Is it that CARICOM has no position or could it be that there is division among CARICOM member states because of selected affiliation with other regional entities?
We note with interest the mutterings of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) founded by Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. ALBA is on record as previously praising President Bashar al-Assad’s government and has expressed concern that the same “interference” which foreign nations applied in Libya was not repeated in Syria.
As if oblivious to the murder and mayhem in Syria, ALBA went further by stating that it valued al-Assad’s efforts in attending to the legitimate demands of peaceful protestors and the programme of reforms being carried out, as well as his government’s willingness to implement Annan’s peace plan.
It should be noted that some members of CARICOM are also members of ALBA, notably Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Of course, CARICOM member, Guyana, has benefited from Chavez’ petro-Caribe oil deal. Indeed, while Chavez openly continues to ship diesel to Syria, CARICOM remains cosy with him. Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador are also members of ALBA. They too have lost their tongue.
Some might suggest that the economic reality is that Chavez and ALBA have more to offer individual CARICOM members than the CARICOM collective, and to denounce the Syrian government would be to fly in the face of Chavez’ baby. We do not know.
Perhaps, CARICOM leaders can break their silence on Syria and end the conjecture.