A diplomatic tiff appears to be brewing between Barbados and Venezuela, which has been under increasing pressure in recent weeks both at home and at the Organization of American States (OAS) to hold overdue elections.
Venezuela’s top diplomat here Wednesday warned Bridgetown against tolerating any acts of violence towards the Spanish-speaking country’s mission, and to honour its obligations under the Vienna Convention to “properly protect” the embassy.
Francisco Manuel Perez Santana Wednesday complained that the embassy in Hastings, Christ Church was under siege for two hours last Thursday, seemingly by Venezuelans opposed to the Nicolas Maduro government, yet the level of security was inadequate to prevent the troubling incident.
“Diplomatic missions must be properly protected under the Vienna Convention. We have acted in accordance with international standards and above all, we want to maintain good relations that have always existed between Barbados and Venezuela for more than 40 years. We would not like to see excessive permissiveness [by Barbados] and the violation of the Vienna Convention,” Perez told the media at a press conference Wednesday morning.
The head of mission explained that a group of 28 Venezuelans living in Barbados and in other countries breached the embassy’s secure zone and threatened and cursed the diplomats and staff trapped inside, and leaving behind a littered compound.
Perez added that worryingly, the protesters threatened to return, raising concerns about the security and well-being of the staff.
“We have been threatened with more sieges, with more insults. We will not allow that and we ask the Government of Barbados to also act to prevent this from continuing.
“Once the demonstrators withdrew from the security zone, the chief of the diplomatic mission and local workers proceeded to clean up the garbage they had left and deposited at the entrance to the embassy. At approximately 8:10 p.m. embassy workers were approached by five opposition Venezuelan women in Barbados, who with a violent attitude proceeded to pronounce offensive and threatening words and speeches against the head of the mission and Venezuelan workers,” he said.
The top diplomat said the matter was brought to the attention of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Attempts to reach Minister of Foreign Affairs Maxine McClean were unsuccessful up to the time of publication.
Venezuela has been hit by a series of deadly protests over the past several weeks as the opposition continues to demand elections.
At the same time, OAS general secretary Luis Almagro has been pushing for Caracas’ suspension from the hemisphere’s oldest regional alliance, and has described Maduro as a “dictator” guilty of widespread human rights violations.
He has the support of the organization’s largest members, including the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and Colombia.
Almagro’s efforts have split the 14 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries that are members of the OAS, leading Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines to write his counterparts last week, warning them of the dangers of allowing “a handful of powerful countries with an agenda of naked self interest” to dilute CARICOM’s collective strength by dividing the regional states in a bid to overthrow the Venezuela government.
The split was evident when Barbados and four other CARICOM countries joined the bigger nations within the OAS permanent council on April 26 in summoning an emergency meeting of ministers of foreign affairs to discuss the worsening situation in Venezuela.
Perez said the violence at home was nowhere near as bad as the international media was making it out to be, and those behind the demonstrations were trying to overthrow the Maduro administration.
But it was the potential for violence against the embassy here the worried him most, although he insisted last week’s protest would not deter staff from fulfilling their responsibility to Venezuelan citizens here.
“We condemn all violent actions. Our diplomatic mission will continue to carry out the activities and tasks that correspond to us and that are contemplated in the Vienna Convention. Today more than ever, we continue to advance and contribute to the constituent process of our president, Nicolas Maduro.
“The diplomats faced with these threats responded with dignity, with respect and with the guarantee that the responsibility of the Venezuelan diplomatic mission abroad is to guarantee the rights of all Venezuelans living in the country. We represent not just a government, we represent the entire nation,” he said.