A group of Venezuelan women living here attempted to crash the meeting of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) foreign ministers Thursday, to highlight their opposition to the embattled president, Nicolas Maduro.
Members of the Civil Society of Venezuelans in Barbados gathered outside the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre at about noon Thursday, the opening day of the 20th meeting of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations, to protest against the economic situation in their homeland and Maduro’s refusal to hold overdue elections.
However, the demonstration was short-lived as they were quickly ushered off the compound by police and security personnel because they did not have a permit to protest.
The group’s president Mirna Hughes told Barbados TODAY the women were aware that Venezuela’s head of mission here Francisco Manuel Perez Santana would be attending the meeting, and they wanted to have an audience with him and with the CARICOM foreign ministers in a bid to get the regional ministers’ support for their cause.
She said she was aware that many of the regional states had benefited from arrangements with Caracas, including the PetroCaribe oil deal, and she feared the foreign ministers would “listen only to the embassy”.
“We want to tell our side of the story,” said an emotional Hughes, as she held back tears.
“We want CARICOM members to listen to us too. I have been asking for that for years, but they always listen to the embassy, they always listen to the regime,” she said.
Perhaps what was most upsetting for the protesting women, who were dressed mostly in black in honour of those killed during deadly protests at home over the past six weeks, were comments made by Perez yesterday.
The Venezuelan head of mission had complained that the embassy in Hastings, Christ Church had been under siege for two hours last Thursday, and that the protestors had threatened and cursed the diplomats and staff trapped inside.
He also said they had left behind a littered compound, and had threatened to return, raising concern about the security and wellbeing of the staff.
However, Hughes told Barbados TODAY that was all a lie, adding that all they wanted was to be heard.
“How can he go and lie so openly when we have the photos and everything? We went there with three priests. There were two plain-clothes policemen the whole time. We didn’t even know he [Perez] was there. It is not the first time we did that; we did that in 2014,” she said, adding that the group had nothing to hide.
She said the vigil at the embassy formed part of a global move by Venezuelans seeking “a few points of the regime” including respect for the national assembly and the holding of election.
She threw out a challenge for the Venezuelan diplomats here to meet publicly with the group to discuss their concerns.
“They can have police, the press and we wait for him to tell me time, place and date and we all will come and meet with him, our representative here, because he is here for us. He is not here to lie, or here for the regime, he is here for us and he should be catering to us. So I want him to come and meet with us in front of all the press, with all the police that they want to, with all his staff and to prove to us how are we are lying. I challenge him publicly and I hope he takes the challenge,” Hughes said.
Hughes added that it was sad that the close to 200 Venezuelans living here could no longer go to their homeland as freely as they pleased.
Venezuela has been mired in political unrest since early April.