Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says Barbados stands ready to be of assistance to struggling Venezuela.
The oil-rich South American country has been rocked by an economic crisis highlighted by a shortage of food and medical supplies and electricity blackouts — the effects of a sharp decline in oil prices.
During debate in the House of Assembly on amendments to the Immigration Act, Opposition Member of Parliament for St James Central Kerrie Symmonds called on Stuart to lend support to Caracas.
“We have to see, Mr Speaker, as part of this country’s foreign policy, a way forward in which we would be able to collaborate in order to identify as CARICOM [Caribbean Community] countries, areas where we can offer concrete assistance to Caracas whether it be offered in the area of security and the economy, public sector reform or development,” said Symmonds, pointing to Barbados’ strengths in education and health care.
He also urged the Prime Minister, the immediate past chairman of CARICOM, not to abandon Haiti in light of the ongoing deportation of its nationals from the neighbouring Dominican Republic, as part of new immigration policy introduced last year.
Symmonds said he wanted to know how much pressure CARICOM was prepared to apply on the Dominican Republic in that regard, adding that it should be of concern to Barbados and the rest of the region.
“It has serious consequences to us because we in Barbados . . . are part of fundamental regional institutions which are expected to have their voice heard on these matters of regional governance and it would be a useful thing to work out exactly where CARICOM stands on this matter,” said Symmonds.
Describing Venezuela as a very troubled country at this time, Stuart said: “We just have to wish our neighbour well and as the Honourable Member of St James Central quite rightly said, any respect in which we can be of any assistance to Venezuela, we have to stand ready to do so.”
In the case of Haiti, Stuart disclosed that in past discussions, CARICOM was more eager than Haiti to “move ahead” on the issue.
He explained that “all along Haiti was administering certain cautions to CARICOM not to push too hard because of the complex relationship between the Dominican Republic and CARICOM. And therefore we could not rush ahead of Haiti.
“So the problem remained a very large one and we continue to work our way through the very difficult challenges posed by that problem,” said Stuart.